Chapter 7: Of the Three Metamorphoses
The ego is something that deprives you of your dignity, that deprives you of your pride, because the ego has to depend on others, on the opinion of others, on what people say. The ego is very fragile. The opinion of people can change and the ego will disappear into the air.
I am reminded of a great thinker, Voltaire. In the days of Voltaire, in France, it was customary - a long, long tradition - that if you can get anything from a genius, just a piece of cloth, it will help you to find your own talents, if not to make you a genius yourself.
Voltaire was so much honored and respected as a great thinker and philosopher that he needed police protection even for his morning walk. Or if he was going to the railway station police protection was needed. The police protection was needed because people will crowd around and start tearing his clothes. There were times he reached home almost naked, with scratches on his body, blood oozing, and he was very much disturbed by the fame and the great name.
He wrote in his diary, “I used to think to be famous is something great. Now, I know it is a curse. And somehow I want again to be ordinary, anonymous; that nobody recognizes me, that I can pass by and nobody will take any note of me. I am tired of being famous, of being a celebrity. I have become a prisoner in my house. I cannot even go for a walk when the sky is so colorful and the sunset is so beautiful. I am afraid of the crowd.”
The same crowd has made him a great man.
After ten years, in his diary he notes with great depression and sadness: “I was not aware that my prayers would be heard.” Fashions change, people’s opinions change. Somebody is famous today, tomorrow nobody remembers him. Somebody is not known today and tomorrow, suddenly rises to the heights of fame.
And it happened in the case of Voltaire. Slowly, slowly, new thinkers, new philosophers arrived on the horizon; particularly, Rousseau took the place where Voltaire used to be once; and people forgot about Voltaire. People’s memories are not very reliable.
Opinions change just like fashions. Once he was fashionable, now somebody else has become fashionable. Rousseau was against every idea of Voltaire; his fame destroyed Voltaire completely. Voltaire’s prayer was fulfilled: he became anonymous. Now, no police protection was needed. Now, nobody even bothered to say, “Hello” to him. People had completely forgotten. Only then he realized that to be a prisoner was better. “Now I am free to move anywhere but it hurts. The wound goes on becoming bigger and bigger - I am alive and it seems people have thought that Voltaire is dead.”
When he died, only three and a half people followed him to the graveyard. You will be surprised, why three and a half? Because three were people and his dog can be counted only as half. The dog was leading the procession.