Icebergs, famously, have 90 percent of their mass below water. The largest modern cruise ships almost perfectly reverse that ratio, with 88 percent of their height above the waterline.
Being a public person—someone who is recognized by people who do not actually know us personally—can be a lot like being a cruise ship. We are rewarded for cultivating the parts of our lives that are visible: our talents, our opinions, our appearance. And while the most spectacular cruise ships on the public ocean may be the people we call celebrities, the unique reality of life in the age of social media is that we are almost all public now, publishing a version of our life to gain others’ attention and, we almost always hope, approval.
This kind of life carries with it grave threats to our health, and the safety of those around us. Without spiritual practices to guard against the unique temptations of public life, we will likely drift into narcissism and exploitation. Sooner or later we will hit an iceberg—and the testimony of maritime history is that when a cruise ship meets an iceberg, the iceberg wins.
A few years ago I drew together a list of spiritual practices I’ve personally embraced to try to safeguard my life as a public person. The core premise is that, like an iceberg, the bulk of my life needs to be below the surface.