Last week the Wall Street Journal called for the death of the Tech Superhero, citing the missteps of demigod entrepreneurs such as Elizabeth Holms, Travis Kalanick, Evan Spiegle and Elon Musk. Wish as they may, there will always be an “up and comer” in every field or faith that will quickly be elevated to celebrity status.
People want heroes.
The sin is not in the honoring of modern creatives, it is the absence of proven superheroes of the past. Those from the past help us understand our present and our future.
Heroes are not bound to their age if their thoughts continue to influence our own time. Surprisingly, modern times are molded from ancient ideas, and modern results are predictable from venerable writings.
I recently read “On the Shortness of Life” by Seneca written in 49 AD. Seneca reaches out from the past and from his own time begs us to read the greats that came before us.
“Nature allows us to enter into fellowship with every age, why should we not turn from this paltry and fleeting span of time and surrender ourselves with all our soul to the past, which is boundless, which is eternal, which we share with our better.” (On the Shortness of Life, Seneca, 49 AD, GLH Publishing, Pg. 28)
In Seneca’s day there was new technology changing the face of the Roman Empire. The Aeoliplie, a simple steam engine, automatic doors, glass blowing, reverse overshot water-wheel for mining, and the watermill.
There were tech heroes of the first century including, “Hero of Alexandria” and before his time, Philo of Byzantium and Aeneas Tacticus,
If we are to be engaged in our own time, friendships from the past are the greatest resource.
“But we may fairly say that they alone are engaged in the true duties of life who shall wish to have Zeno, Pythagoras, Democritus, and all the high priests of liberal studies, and Aristotle, and Theophrastus as their most intimate friends every day.” (On the Shortness of Life, Seneca, 49 AD, GLH Publishing, Pg. 29)
Considering our engagement with those that came before, Seneca provides an understanding of the past, present and future.
The stoic view of the past states we must view it as certain, embrace recollection and never forgot it. In our pursuit of progress, we fail to spend any time with the ancients. They have more to teach us than the latest guru and their advice lives as proven.
Of the present we must remember it is short, it must be used wisely and not neglected. For the stoic, sloth is the greatest danger to your present.
“It is not the we have a short space of time, but that we waste so much of it.” (On the Shortness of Life, Seneca, 49 AD, GLH Publishing Reprint, pg.2)
The stoic view of the future is key to balanced living. The future is always doubtful for us as an individual, nonetheless, we must anticipate, built on what is learned from the past and in our actions of the present. Above all, the stoic asks us to do this without fear.
“Of all men they alone are at leisure who take time for philosophy, they alone really live: for they are not content to be good guardians of their own lifetime only. They annex every age to their own; all the years that have gone before them are an addition to their store.” (On the Shortness of Life, Seneca, 49 A.D., GLH Publishing Reprint, pg.28)