The Arena

Be alright, and walk your truth.” – Poodieville (Be Alright And Walk Your Truth)

I can assure you that this post might be the longest thing you’ll read today.

And so if you are not a creative or a patient person, you might want to stop reading this right now. But for lack of nothing else to do, continue at your own risk.

Just remember, I warned you.

These first few weeks in January have been nothing short of a gladiatorial experience. Toughest days I’ve seen in a long time.

In ancient Rome, there was nothing as worse being thrown into the arena. Whether as a gladiator pitted against other gladiators, or as Christians been thrown to lions or packs of wild dogs.

The discipline -physical and mental – and the conditioning required to survive as a gladiator can’t even be summarized. Mad stuff!

Even the understanding that anytime you walked through those gates out on the sand in the arena could be your last was hella sobering. A gladiator died every day.

Not just from the physical hardship of training – the sheer mental and physical exhaustion – or the sharp point of an opponent’s weapon. Sometimes, they died from public opinion.

Last year, in a discussion with someone who I deeply respect, we talked about how no other civilizations like the Greek and Roman affected the world like they both did.

You see it in languages, art, architecture, building construction, government, culture, books and studying.

Every nation on Earth has been deeply influenced by those two, in ways we can’t even imagine.

Some of the greatest men to walk this Earth did under Roman or Greek colours; Alexander the Great, Caesar, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Cicero, Ovid etc. Christ was born during the Roman annexation of Israel. He paid taxes to Caesar even.

Both nations understood the conquering power of words and swords.

The power of agreement and strategic alliances. Greece had Sparta and Athens. Ferociousness and Deep thinking.

But whatever Rome lacked in ferociousness, they made up for it in organized efficiency and effectiveness.

Rome laid down most of the guiding principles for militaries all over the world. Watching a Roman Legion drill was a sight to behold. The books and movies say so.😁

There was room for deep thinking too.

And so these empires expanded. Conquering and swallowing other cities, countries and empires within its reach. But somewhere along the line, it all fell down.

Everything washed away. Greece first. Then Rome.

The fall of Rome might be attributed to the moral decadence that had soaked up the entire empire.

Seeping from the top down to its lowest reaches. 

Or it could be put down to the constant struggle between the aristocracy over power and money. Civil war and financial insolvency. Time and resources spent in expanding and swallowing other city states. 

Maybe Rome stretched itself too much. Past elastic limit. Past yield point, and boooom!!!

But the truth is, Rome succumbed to the crowd it hard tried so had and went so far to please. 

Which begs the question, how long can you keep up appearances?

History says there was nothing as insatiable as the Roman mob.

They wanted anything and everything. So much energy and they got bored easily. They loved you today and tomorrow demanded your head.

Politicians and wealthy aristocrats courted them. Gladiators and slaves. Whatever you could be was dependent on their whim.

But it fell down. It all washed away.

These past few weeks I’ve been in some really enlightening discussions about the importance of public opinion, especially in reference to the arts and artistic expression.

The hardest part of being an artist is being a starving one.

On one hand, we should create what we love, on the other hand, we have to create what the public craves or in certain situations when the public has no idea what it wants, we have to find a way to win them over to our side.

You want to be deep, you also want to be engaging without losing your audience.

I now know where my hatred for poetry comes from. 😂😂

You create with one eye on artistic expression and the other on financial responsibility. As much as you don’t care if you are paid or not to do what you love, you don’t want to die hungry while chasing artistic excellence. 😂

And so, you create with one eye on the purity and essence of your expression and the other eye on the commercial viability of what you are offering.

You want to give of your soul, but you hope what you give puts some change in your pocket too. You are tempted to water it down to cash out.

This artistic life is hard.

There’s one eye on a body of art, there’s the other eye on your budget. 

They tell you to follow your heart, sometimes they don’t tell you to bring your head along.

One of my motivations for personal financial success is so my kids can choose to comfortably be artists without recourse to the financial implications of following their hearts.  And hopefully we get there. Amen.

Because half of us in professions did so because of financial security. That’s why there are so many angry and discontented people everywhere.

And then some artists don’t get celebrated in their lifetimes.

There’s a long list of poets, writers, painters, sculptors, musicians who died broke and penniless. Not from financial mismanagement, but from public acceptance of their works. No one or very few people thought their creations made sense.


Those same creations are regarded as masterpieces or command crazy sums of money. Cue Van Gogh, Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a long list.

Some artists even commit suicide in a bid to draw public attention to their work. After all, who else does the artist create for? Himself, or an adoring public?

I have no answer to the above.

But artistic pursuits aside, how would you gauge your level of competence without people’s opinions? 

Are you really a good child if your parents, teachers, relatives or older folks don’t say it or show you how proud they are of you? 

How much of a good worker are you if you don’t get praised by your boss? That is if he’s not someone who gladly withholds appraisals.

As a business owner, people would gladly buy from you if they like you or trust you.

How much do we pine for those special words from that special someone?  

So, is it really damnation to people’s opinions?

As human beings, there’s a deep and overarching need for love and acceptance. Of ourselves. Of our creations, efforts and offerings.

We thrive on reciprocity. Give and take. And no matter how unconcerned you claim to be or actually are, you crave to be accepted too. By someone. By people.

The first time I made an attempt at writing poetry it was an ode to unrequited love. 😂😂😂

I don’t think I know a lot, I just know that life is an arena.

There are people cheering, for your success, for your downfall.

Some cheer you on from a place of love or a deep sense of adoration, even responsibility.

Some people are cheering you on because they see others do so too. Even those doing for or against you. Some people love you because others do too. Some hate you the same way. 

Soak it all up, and enjoy the moment. It’s yours.

But don’t forget who you are at the core. Why you are here, or what brought you this far.

There’ll always be a crowd. But will they always be a you?

Never lose your head in the process of pleasing the crowd.

People’s opinions will matter, but you decide which, and how it does.

So, dear creative, please create, and just be alright, and speak your truth. E go better. 😁

Uche Okoro

Writer. Sales & Marketing. Business & Investing Afficionado.

  • Sarah Ekaidem

    This is beautiful and inspiring. Help us keep the dream alive!

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