Estimated reading Time : 4 min
The thunderous roar of the cannon signalled the start of the battle. Napoleon had once more decided to take the Belgian countryside by storm, and only Wellington was there to stop him. The British audience cheered as Wellington smugly rode on the field, but the French booed loudly. An audience of fifty thousand people had descended upon Waterloo to mark the 200th anniversary of the famous battle, and see five thousand soldiers in full martial gala take to arms.
It’s well among the oddest of things I’ve done in my life. The whole experience had such a surreal undertone.In normal life, you can rarely even mention the name of Napoleon without hearing something along the lines of “wasn’t he like a really short dictator, or something?” but here we had fifty thousand nerds that could quote you napoleonic minutia at the drop of a bicorn hat. I’ve been to football games before – dragged there more like. Yet, for the first time ever, I understood that feeling that football fans have when being with fellow fans.
It’s a unique thing to feel like you belong to something greater than yourself, if only for a moment. I believe it’s a strong motivator for why we do things. Partially it’s why I write, I enjoy sharing my experience and feeling a sense of comradery with the audience. Yet I think there’s something more at work than just sharing a momentary alliance with a random passerby.
I learned this as I discussed the intricacies of Talleyrand, Napoleon’s treacherous minister, with one of the audience members before the show. For once, I could be myself in this subject, no pretensions, no filter. I think that’s what we’re looking for in life, a skill or environment which allows us to thrive for being whom we enjoy being .
Much too often in life we have to live in disguise. We have to smile and wave, not say what truly crosses our minds, for fear of ridicule. We eventually reach a point where any unique and interesting thought is turned off. to the point where we just shamble along from one moment to the next. Most people go through life in a walking daze. I can’t help but feel that there is a part of ourselves that rebels at this notion, we want to leave such a judgemental environment. Over the years, I’ve grown tired of such a life of wanting and waiting.
It’s the reason I actively took to learning how to socialise, dancing salsa , writing and travel. I want to be myself in the best light possible, with the least amount of artificial barriers. I want to experience life freely – I have decided to be myself in life regardless of circumstance. Such a decision is a bold one, for I’m willingly deciding to alienate myself from most people. I will have niche appeal, not widespread likeability.
I think we ought to be polarising in life. Being palatable to all should never be our goal. By being palatable, you’re letting go of some of your bigger advantages, and you will never be beloved. You can only be loved by people you genuinely connect with, to find them you have to actually show who you truly are underneath the facade. A large percentage of people will not like what you have on offer, and that’s ok, provided you still find the right people.
Admittedly, most people don’t go for this strategy, as they prefer to be tolerated by all, but loved by none; instead of loved by many, yet hated by some. If you are one of the few who wish to genuinely connect with others, then life will initially be somewhat more difficult. You won’t find your tribe on the first go, people won’t readily accept what you bring to the table.
Time will pass, you will start meeting worthwhile people, and you will be able to identify them by the fact that they like you despite you not wearing the regalia of pretension – you simply are who you are – nothing more or less. Ironically, you will notice something quite curious. More people than ever, will actually start becoming very fond of you.
Fact of the matter is that we all live under masks for such long periods, that we appreciate someone who proudly doesn’t wear one. We consider him a hero, and we want him to succeed, because a part of us identifies with that person. Unapologetic passion for life is the greatest aphrodisiac there ever was, or will be. It’s why the penniless artist can still attract people to his circle, if his vision is strong enough.
Having said this, there are others who will look at your unmasked face and sneer. They will hate you with the radiance of a dying sun. Perhaps it was once in the past they tried to live unmasked as well, yet they weren’t able to withstand the initial pressure. Perhaps it is that you represent such an affront to their way of life that it is only logical that they take arms against you, for their own good.
Be that as it may, they shall be your enemies, and no matter how much common ground you try to find, they shall resist it, and hate you all the more for trying to find it. Best thing is to pay no mind to them, and focus on the positive influences in your life. There’s a scene in the novel The Fountainhead where Roark, our stoic protagonist and hero, is confronted by Ellseworth Toohey, a man who cuts the tallest standing flower out of sheer spite. After having ruined every attempt Roark had made, and ruined any potential prospects that he might have in his career, victorious, screaming from the rafters, Ellseworth asks him “Mr. Roark, we’re alone here. Why don’t you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us.”
Roark in turn gave him a passing glance and replied with a brief “but I don’t think of you” before continuing on his merry way. It’s by far one of my favourite scenes in all of literature, nothing grand happens, but the simplicity by which our protagonist brushes off the main villain of the story is astounding. To my recollection, that is the one and only time the two characters directly interact face to face, and it’s such a crushing defeat, that anything more and it would feel tacked on.
The best revenge to your enemies is managing to live a happy life despite their best attempts to the contrary, nothing sours their life more than seeing that their petty attempts fall on deaf ears. Before you, you have your life, and there is a choice that you have to make with it. Which shall it be? Are you going to be the victim, the hero, or the villain? They’re all roles that have to be played, so there’s room for all.
A great person need not be a hero to all, he may well be a villain to some. This is why I admire the legacy of Napoleon, near his death he famously exclaimed “What a novel my life has been!” I agree with him, his powerful story to a great extent created the world we live in nowadays. Heroism often has ripples through time and space unlike anything which we could imagine. His story of humble beginnings also reminds us that the most unlikely circumstances can come about when destiny is being controlled by a capable man.
It’s the reason I booed Wellington at Waterloo, alongside the French, and told him where he could stick it. I admire the myth, man and legend of Napoleon. He represents the greatness we can become if we truly accept ourselves…
It is on this note that I leave you this week. Au revoir, mes amis!
What’s your passion? Let me know in the comments
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