Saturday, November 7, 2015

Stoic Week #6

Saturday, November 7, 2015
Every habit and faculty is formed or strengthened by the corresponding act - walking makes you walk better, running makes you a better runner. If you want to be literate, read, if you want to be a painter, paint. Go a month without reading, occupied with something else, and you'll see what the result is. And if you're laid up a mere ten days, when you get up and try to talk any distance, you'll find your legs barely able to support you. So if you like doing something, do it regularly; if you don't like doing something, make a habit of doing something different. The same goes for the affairs of the mind...So if you don't want to be hot-tempered, don't feed your temper, or multiply incidents of anger. Suppress the first impulse to be angry, then begin to count the days on which you don't get angry. 'I used to be angry every day, then only every other day, then every third....' If you resist it a whole month, offer God a sacrifice, because the vice begins to weaken from day one, until it is wiped out altogether. 'I didn't lose my temper this day, or the next, and not for two, then three months in succession.' If you can say that, you are now in excellent health, believe me. (Epictetus, Discourses 2.18)

I’ve found this week that it’s easy to be philosophical when I feel energetic or at least rested. Controlling my responses and accepting the world as it is were easier with a good night’s sleep or balance between working hours and hours and living the rest of life (reading the paper and watching TV – yippy!).

Fatigue trumps stoicism. For the last couple of days, I been even worse in traffic, calling people names under my breath and gripping the wheel so I won’t give them the finger. And this is just traffic. I wonder how I will handle a real crisis.

On the other hand, I’ve been practicing talking to people a lot more than I used to. This social side is rather unexpected. I think part of comes from feeling more free, not minding what other people think all the time.

To address today’s quotation, Epictetus is saying practice, man, practice. Especially I have to practice acceptance. Recalling Marcus’ advice about going to the noisy, disagreeable bath house where your clothes get stolen, I should just accept that other drivers will drive like, well, like I do sometimes. I am not a moron, but something I drive like one. Why should other people be different from me? Why should I be different from other people.

Another point is that I’ve been better at forgiving myself for stumbling. I don’t dwell on the failure. I just move on. No ruminating, no self-downing. “Don’t feed your temper.”


Since earlier this week, I‘ve been more discriminating about where I lend my attention. I’ve listened to talk radio of all sorts much less and feel the better for it. 

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