Vanity is the greatest seducer of reason. Meditations Book VI
Last summer while walking in Lisbon, I witnessed a not unusual but shocking scene: an attractive young woman stepped in the middle of a crowded road, as a street trolley was approaching and snapped a selfie of herself smiling! She was seconds away from a tragic end, but seemed unfazed by the heroic risk of an action selfie!
Apparently the casualties of “Death by Selfie” are on the rise, numerous selfie photographers slipping off mountains, falling off boats and otherwise risking their lives, begging the question: To what extent are we willing to go to satisfy our vanity? How much does the opinion of others really matter? What does posting our experience on social media symbolize to us today? Could it be that the reflection of our lives in the eyes of others has taken the place of real living? Do we need to look at our instagram accounts in order to understand who we truly are? Is our social media desirability a barometer for our personal worth in our own minds? Do we confuse our digital self with our inner self?
How strange it is, that every one loves himself above all others, yet attaches less weight to his own view of himself, than to that of other men. Meditations Book X
In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius repeatedly reminds himself to “honor that which is highest” in the universe and within himself- what he called the divinity within. He warns himself not to be seduced by praise, since he and all those who praise him will eventually pass from this world. He certainly had no inclination that one day his diaries would be discovered and even less so that they would be read by generations upon generations of wisdom seekers.
Care more about what you think of yourself than what others think, he reiterated. And be honest with your assessment of yourself. Don’t be a slave to fame, since it is fickle and does not depend upon you. What then should one value?
What is worth prizing? What then? The clapping of mens hands? No…What is it that remains prizeworthy? …To respect and honor your own understanding alone… Meditations Book VI