A Virtual Colloquy - What are YOU reading?!

Tag: stoics

The Old Man and The Sea

Am I too far from the sea to read this?

I usually have several quotes to share about a book I’m reading: things that struck me, bits I want to remember or that brings me to some idea I want to expand on, possibly not even related to the book itself but to a bigger thought…but not this time.

This time it was more about the story. There wasn’t much to pull out of it in pieces. It was more of a feeling. Reading it, I could feel myself swept away to sea, pulled by the story instead of a fish. Like the old man, I have nothing to sell at the end of the adventure, but I do have scars to show.

What happens to him next? Does he end up dying? Going out again? Why did he follow such a big fish and what could he have done differently?

I do have one piece to pull out of the story to save for later.

“Luck is a thing that comes in many forms and who can recognize her?”

Sometimes we see something and think…that was lucky…only to find later that it was not. Other times we pray for our luck to change when, in the long run, what’s happening is the luck we were looking for. It reminds me to take what comes and see what happens instead of wishing for a change.

What Can I Do?

My evening meditation and reading always ends up being attended by my followers, Chili and Abe.

I read another chapter of “A Guide to the Good Life – {the ancient art of stoic joy}” by William B. Irvine. As I read, I took a few notes, asked myself a couple questions, and had an “ah-ha” (not the band) moment, only to find that the end of the chapter confirmed my thought process.

I love it when that happens.

The chapter was on The Dichotomy of Control. The Stoics say there things you can and things you can’t control. Mr. Irvine expands on that a bit, adding that there are things you have some control over as well. That made me think about my current situation.

How much influence to change the world do I have? Here on my blog? Very little. On social media? I don’t suppose much at all. I’ve learned first hand lately, that my personal posts are enjoyed by and encouraging to people that already share my values. I make people smile with my cat pictures. I make people laugh with my jokes. But do I influence anyone to think or change their minds? No, not really.

That’s where the Stoic philosophy came in. Why bother doing something that has so little effect? Why not simply keep my posts to neutral subjects? Because I feel as though I’m leaving part of myself hidden away, a part that I’m proud of and want to share.

So what can I do? Create an internalized goal. My goal isn’t to change my readers’ minds or educate my friends as to my point of view so that they will come to their senses and adopt it. I have no control over how anyone perceives what I post or what they do with it.

My goal in posting here and on social media is to share a slice of my life with others and to clarify my point of view to the best of my ability. I have control over that and I can meet that goal every day.

This goes right along with participating in government and community. I do the best that I can to keep up with what’s happening, educate myself, and vote for what I think is best. The outcome is irrelevant to my goals.

Sunday Thought

Something I’m working on.

You’re Making It So Hard

I’m struggling today. I’m not sure if it’s the crushing feeling of (virtual) bullshit all around me or that I’m simply not feeling well. My head hurts and I feel a little dizzy. I just want to eat something tasty.

I’ve decided to rest today and not go through my regular housework routine. Maybe I’ll read more, take a nap, and write something. At the moment all I can think to write is that I disagree. With what? Just about everyone it seems.

Wandering through the house, from the livingroom where my son is studying, to the bedroom office where my husband is working, I stopped in front of my TBR shelf. Maybe I’ll start a new book. I pick one up and thumb through the pages only to have my eyes stop on and read:

“Suppose we find that despite our attempts to prevent anger, the behavior of other people succeeds in angering us. It will help us to overcome our anger, says Seneca, if we remind ourselves that our behavior also angers other people: ‘We are bad men living among bad men, and only one thing can calm us – we must agree to go easy on one another.’”

Some would say God left that message, the universe intervened, or the spirits moved to direct my hands. But me? Coincidence. I buy books I know will help my thinking. I reached for the Stoics because I needed peace. I wanted grounding and looked to my thinkers for help.

I’m trying to be patient. I’m trying to understand and have compassion. But everyone is making it so hard.

Yes, We’re ALL Going to Die…Eventually, And Some Sooner Than Others

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“Memento Mori – Remember death,” the Stoics say, “for tomorrow is promised to no one.”

Death is always lurking nearby, no matter your health or situation. It matters not where or when you live. We all die.

Death does not discriminate. It comes but once for all of us and it’s distinct for each individual, like the proverbial fingerprint or snowflake. Each of us perceives the experience in our own way, and all of us face it alone.

Your feelings about death, your own and of others, are no more valid than anyone else’s, regardless of risk.

It sounds so gloomy, but is it?

“Remember Death” means to remember life.

Go and live today. Love as much as possible. Fully experience this life and share that experience with others; the ups and the downs, the boring and the exciting. Let others experience your version of this world.

For tomorrow we die and all that will be left is the memory of our existence.

Make it a good one.

You Really Are the Master of Your Own Universe

You know how some toys are kind of boring if you just buy one part and so you keep buying accessories? The car, the clothes, the house, the spouse, the kids, the career. It just goes on and on.

There are video games like that too. Sure, you can download it and play for free, but you only get two levels and then you have to pay to upgrade. You play more but now you see that you have to buy a couple extras, charms that help you rack up the points and levels faster.

Humans aren’t like that at all. We’re a whole, functioning human being right from birth. All our accessories are built-in. Sure, we need a bit of extra care at first, but we learn and grow quickly with good support and before you know it, we’re out in the world on our own, doing our thing whatever that is.

But lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of people that look like they are searching for their missing piece. They wander from job to job, adventure to adventure, and relationship to relationship, never really getting anything from the experience and lamenting that the whole thing even happened while they transition to the next. They proclaim loudly that they won’t give up, they’ll find that career, place, or person that will complete them and make their lives better. That job wasn’t right for me. This place doesn’t have what I need. This person didn’t give me their all and left, so they suck.

What if I told you (lol) that you don’t need any of that to be complete? What if you have the power to stand on your own two feet, to control your own destiny?

You do.

Every time we start a new job, try out a new location or enter into a new relationship, we could be learning more about ourselves and the world around us. We could be using that information to make our lives more interesting and more comfortable for ourselves and those around us. It doesn’t matter what the job is or how long the relationship lasts. It doesn’t matter what kind of relationship you have: long or short term, purely sexual or platonic. It doesn’t matter if you buy a house and live there for ten years or rent out a basement and live there for three months. It doesn’t matter if you go to college right out of high school, wait until you’re 45, or ever go at all.

What does matter? It matters that we learn something about ourselves and that we connect with other humans in as many ways as possible, that we live every day no matter what’s going on.

The Stoics have a decent idea, “Memento Mori” Remember, we die. We don’t live forever and (as far as we know) we only have one life. We need to stop wasting time.

Nothing is a waste of time if you learn something from the experience. That one night stand you had with that hot babe you met? Not a waste of time if you enjoyed it and look back on the moment fondly. That two years you spent at an expensive university, only to drop out and work at an amusement park? Not a waste of time or money. You gained experience, you met people, and you had fun in ways you never knew existed. And money? You can always make more. Money was created to spend. And what about that “failed” marriage? Did it “fail” or did it just serve its purpose and now you’re both moving on to something else? That job you spent five years at and then switched careers gave you fresh insight about your abilities and a set of skills that you can use anywhere.

What exactly do we think we’re working toward? What are we stockpiling for the future? What will we do with all of this shit we’ve accumulated? We’ll die. That’s it. And all your stuff will be redistributed.

So why not stop working toward anything and just enjoy what you have? If you don’t like the job you are in, find another one. If you don’t like the area you live in, move. If you don’t like the relationship you’re in, move on. Stop collecting things and start experiencing things. If you have no friends or family to experience it with, do it alone! Maybe you’d find it more fun or fulfilling if you had someone to share it with? Then blog about it and post pictures on Instagram! Or start dating…anyone, right off OKCupid! Or join a club online or in person!

You are a complete package all by yourself. You don’t need anything to start living and experiencing the world around you. Just live, damn it! Why not?

We all walk around acting as if we are pawns in someone else’s game but we’re absolutely not. It’s your life. Do what you want with it.

You do have the power. You’re using it right now.

Study Doesn’t Make You Fearless

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Photo by Bram. on Unsplash

I’ve uttered it myself.

“There are a lot of smart people that believe…”

“Smarter people than me have studied this and they believe…”

But something occurred to me this morning. Intelligence and study alone do not free anyone from fear.

Humans are naturally fearful. It’s what has kept us alive in the past. We’re born into this world terrified. Screaming and afraid, we are comforted by those that are tasked with caring for us. From the people around us, we slowly and steadily learn that there is some love and safety in this world, hopefully. We learn about friends, puppies, tacos, and Disneyland.

Fear is still our instinct and what we learn about this world helps us navigate it safely. Things do come along to change our minds though. We thought that person was safe but learned otherwise. We thought we could trust that doctor. We thought cookies were a great breakfast. We learn as we go.

The biggest fear is something that happens to every single one of us, death and what comes after. We can speculate, but we cannot know for sure and that generates a metric crap-ton of fear. In response, we grab on to ideas, religions, spiritual guidance, and study the past thinkers as much as we possibly can. Once we get an idea that soothes us, we hold it in a death grip (pun intended).

We can’t abolish fear from our lives, but we can be aware of it and how it affects our thinking. I don’t know what will happen. I can’t know. Instead of holding on to my imaginary life raft, I let it go and live the experience. I talk to others. I love all I can. I accept other people’s points of view as theirs alone.

I personally find comfort in knowing deep down that I’m not alone, there is no one on earth that knows for sure what will happen. Instead of hiding from fear, I acknowledge it.

“There you are fear. How are you doing today? Do you need a cookie? Let’s go for a walk together.”

Survival

“Whenever you suffer pain, keep in mind that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and that it can’t degrade your guiding intelligence, nor keep it from acting rationally and for the common good. And in most cases you should be helped by the saying of Epicurus, that pain is never unbearable or unending, so you can remember these limits and not add to them in your imagination. Remember too that many common annoyances are pain in disguise, such as sleepiness, fever and loss of appetite. When they start to get you down, tell yourself you are giving in to pain.” — Marcus Aurelius

I never understood this idea until this past weekend when I had a chance to practice it. Funny how that works, I read and study constantly and sometimes I wonder why. Most of the time I don’t even have an agenda for my reading. My books, articles, and podcasts seem to come at random. But then, there I am moving through life, and I recognize a situation and think, “This is what they were talking about!”

I was in a situation this past weekend. What that was isn’t important, but let’s just say it was a typical family get-together. Anyway, there I was, sitting amongst some of my relatives in a restaurant when I began to grow uncomfortable. Too many people I didn’t know, too much being nice, uncomfortable clothes, I really didn’t know what it was. I needed a break, so I excused myself and went outside for air. I texted my husband and we went back and forth a few times. In the past I wouldn’t have gone in the first place or, if I did go, I’d have had an exit strategy, but this time I didn’t have my usual escape plans. I took a deep breath and went back inside.

My escape was blocked, and, in the past, my next behavior would have been to get angry or “piss on” whatever was going on, but I realized something as I sat there, I could choose to just “be there” like the Stoics said. This isn’t unbearable, and I could just let it happen and do nothing, not react. So, I tried something new, something I’d learned from the Marcus Aurelius. I just played along and watched. I let it all wash over me and away. I came home and described everything that happened to my husband, complaining as I went, and then went to bed.

The next morning, I realized that I’d learned something. I hadn’t left and made people feel awkward. I hadn’t lashed out and made people feel angry. I had listened and learned instead. I realized it was only me that felt any pain. It was only in my head that a tragedy was occurring. There was no need to make everyone else feel it. They are not bad people doing bad things, they are just different. We only have different tastes, that’s all.

I’ve been rather estranged from my family the past ten or so years. It’s been difficult, but I think things are changing. I think I’m finally growing up. Maybe the next one will be more fun. I’m hoping so. Family is too important to lose over anxiety and differences of opinion.

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