De la gloire

“Toute la gloire que je prétends de ma vie, c’est de l’avoir vécue tranquille: tranquille non selon Métrodore, ou Arcésilas, ou Aristippe, mais selon moi. Puisque la philosophie n’a su trouver aucune voie pour la tranquillité qui fût bonne en commun, que chacun la cherche en son particulier!” Montaigne, Essais II, Gallimard 1965, chapitre XVI, p. 375.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 09-09-2008. I unfortunately do not have the time to produce new material (or fortunately, whatever) so we’ll have to settle for old.  I will come back!]

[Amateuristic English translation: “All the glory that I pretend to have from my life, is to have lived it tranquilly: tranquil not following Metrodorus, or Arcesilas, or Aristippus, but following myself. Since philosophy has not been able to find any road to tranquility in common, let everybody find it for his specific situation.”]

Strange self-referring quote. Do I mean I live my life according to Montaigne in trying to live it in my own way? Maybe so.Maybe the lack of Caesar’s or Alexander’s fame – or even Britney Spears’ fame – bothers me to the extent that I need to seek refuge in a coincidental sentence by Montaigne. It is in any case certain that reading about how luck brings some to  a position of fame whilst others have the bad luck to be frustrated in their projects brings an immediate sigh of ‘That’s me!’ & ‘Wasn’t Kant nearly death by the time he got noticed?’

Also to this sin of self-indulgence I plead guilty, but I do not admit that it’is a bad thing. I don’t buy the ‘if you work hard enough, you’ll be successful’-sham.  I’d rather go for the reverse conditional, at least if we’re allowed to redefine success away from the testosterone competition kind.

You have success when you have created reverberation in others, whether that impact is of the media crazy, crowd-sourced kind or not is of small-town and/or high-culture irrelevance. Who cares about who judges success? Success is not a quality, it is most definitely a quantity that can be measured. Sure, it can be measured in lots of different ways but it always is a matter of measurement – not of judgment by jury consisting of ‘qualified assesors’.

[I leave this comment although I can’t even make a lot of sense out of it: Let me risk a bold statement: success is like weight, you can measure it in many different ways but the heaviest – most successful – items will always be measured with the biggest number. But that’s not for here, it’ll need something like a referral rating on publications.]

So the only part of the conditional that remains is that ‘to work hard enough’ doesn’t mean at all that you have worked hard. The stress you put yourself in, or that you have been put in by the occasion, is as irrelevant as the appraisal of the happy few. If you are successful you have worked hard enough in the sense that you ought not have worked any harder than you actually did. Much good would come from thorough, widespread understanding of this qualification.

First, it would finally break the spine of the doctrines that overstress comparing  quantitative output per person. Yes, you have to work. No, you needn’t work hard. You just need to work hard enough. (On this I will only have worked an hour but – if it turns out to be of influence – maybe it’s the only hour I actually worked hard enough – if you are getting my drift.)

[Re-posting comment: I actually quite like this reversal and decomposition of a well-known conditional. At some time I need to re-write it in an understandable and not so indirect way.]

So success can be quantified, the amount of hard enough work can’t. This is the big triumph of creative talent over uninspired reproduction!

Finally (this wasn’t going to be long but Michel is really, really great you know), when you have no success this does not imply you haven’t worked hard enough – you may well have had tough luck and no breaks, only brakes. So Michel is again right: take pride in the road you take, whether or not it complies to classical interpretations of hard work and achievement. If it so happens that you took it to your own personal contentment and fulfillment, it will have ‘struck a note’ in a couple of people on your way and this, by definition, is to have been successful.

[Whilst writing this I listened to Orquesta Del Desierto, Orquesta Del Desierto, 2002, Meteor City. Whilst re-posting this to Pere Ubu, ‘Why i hate women”.]

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