Representational Man-essay ©
It is said no man is a hero to his valet and those whom we look up as extraordinary betray their ordinariness when caught off guard. It is a truism not even a Caesar could escape from. Julius Caesar may have to all and sundry seemed ‘like a Colossus who bestrode the narrow world’ but to Cassius he really was ‘ a man as I myself.’ Caesar is a Representational Man despite of it.
A Representational Man is one who by his life holds key to our own nature. Some made their mark in the history of mankind by fire and sword. The names of Alexander or Napoleon come to mind. Some chose less violent methods to impress upon many or change lives. Their fame as printed in newspapers must have been limited to the finance, entertainment or art section yet no matter. They represent us to the extent their drive, – in ambition no less focused than Alexander, and their fame allowed them to reach a higher level than we. Representational Men hold a key, a symbol to us. It is not without merit the name Waterloo is still in usage: ‘the little corporal’ became too big for his boots so hubris had to cut him to size. In short anyone who has met his Waterloo has Napoleon for a symbol.
A Representational Man is one who by his life has set a standard for others to take measure from. Diogenes stripped his life of all superfluities so he could live in a tub. On the other hand Andrew Carnegie amassed great wealth in order to give it all away. Alcibiades cut the tail off his spaniel just to spite the Athenian folks who made much of the animal. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the dramatist went in the adjoining pub and could calmly drink a glass of wine by the smoldering ruins of his Drury Lane. Despite the great financial loss he chose the occasion to make a joke of it. He observed in his characteristic humor, ‘A man may surely take a glass of wine by his own fireside’.
The representational man holds a mirror to our nature: he has his uses whether alive or dead. He serves as a guide and key to understand mankind.
Granted that man find it easier to analyze his own nature because another representing him did great things. Does that speak much? After all success is not to be reckoned to one because he had a far greater canvas to work with but how he added to the whole with the piece that was no bigger than a postage- stamp size.. Even an unseemly speck of defect could spoil the overall effect of the whole. Besides in judging mankind with a scale that has an inherent flaw will only multiply when used to judge the whole species.
It is in our nature to point out with pride our rich relations than those who are poor. Of course the Greats are also key for us. Alexander of Macedonia found the kingdom he inherited too small for his over-sized ego. So he set out to conquer a large part of the globe. Lives of you and I are no less real on account we stayed on our familiar ground. A woman who runs her hearth is as great as Catherine the Great. Her world may be considerably reduced that only speaks of her circumstances. Even so the Empress of Russia is a representation of Everywoman.
A Representational Man is one who has had control over circumstances far more than you and me. We spend our lives to unravel the skeins of our limited resources; Credit is hard to come by because the times are bad. So what we do? We tighten our belts and hope to go with the flow. When faced with the Gordian knot Alexander cut it as if it were the most natural thing to do. We work within our circumstances not daring to cut the knot of our times. Alexander was a genius in that he opened up possibilities after his own fashion. Vasco da Gama who opened a sea route to the East was another. We are armchair seafarers while he braved the stinging spry of sea and untested dangers to set foot on a fabled land of unlimited opportunities. The Portuguese mariner is a representational man for the reason he made it possible for many to follow him.
A Representational Man is a genius in that he can purposefully give in to many defeats in order to win one victory that he counts as his due.
“The centipede said to the snake, ‘with all my legs I do not move as you with none. How is that?’ ‘One’s natural mechanism,’ replied the snake, ‘is not a thing to be changed. What need have I for legs?’
The snake said to the wind, ‘I wriggle about by moving my spine, as if I had legs. Now you seem to be without form, and yet you come blustering down from the North Seas to bluster away to the South Sea. How do you do that?’
‘’Tis true,’ replied the wind, ‘that I bluster as you say. But anyone who sticks his finger or foot into me excels me; on the other hand I can tear away huge trees and destroy large buildings. This power is only given to me: out of many minor defeats I win the big victory; and to win big victory is given only to the sages’”. (Chuangtse -tr: Lin Yutang)
There is a kind of success that you have the whole world breathing down your neck and when you see their fawning manners you think, ‘O boy, is success this cheap to make their rank breath fall on me?’ Whereas success for some is that they can hear their own thoughts and do as they please and are not called to account at the end of the day. Only that we need to decide well ahead what success means to us.