Sunday’s theme was resilience.
“Be like the headland, on which the waves break constantly, which still stands firm, while the foaming waters are put to rest around it. ‘It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’ On the contrary, say, ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without getting upset, neither crushed by the present nor afraid of the future.’ This kind of event could have happened to anyone, but not everyone would have borne it without getting upset.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.49
This is one of my all-time favourite quotes from Marcus.
Be like the headland, on which the waves break constantly. What more do you need if you can be that? How to say it more beatifully?
Practice: Preparation for Adversity
Premeditatio Malorum is a practice where you rehearse possible future misfortunes in advance.
Here are the benefits:
1) As you think about losing some nice things you have now, that makes you appreciate the them more.
2) It helps to take the edge off from the nasty situation you are about to enter; you have seen it before, in you imagination, over and over again so it is not anymore brand new. That reduces the shock a bit.
3) Going through the situation in advance may help you accept your feelings about it, that in turn may make those feelings calm down.
4) Going through the situation in advance may help you come up with some new solutions to the problem itself.
Doing the Premeditation of Adversity taught me some new things about myself, and clarified some things I knew already. Losing some of my close people seems to be by far my biggest fear. My own mortality seems to bother me much less.
Anything that has anything to do with money or property doesn’t matter too much; material loss seems pretty recoverable and endurable, at least in this society where I live in.
Also, distressing situations involving my ego getting bruised hurts me more than I’d like to admit. There’s something to work on.
After meditating on some distressing event, I find it very helpful to continue by thinking about what about it is in my control and what is not, what kind of constructive things I could do to make the situation better or limit the harm caused by it.
The evening contemplation
The evening contemplation had another great quote, this one from Seneca. It presents and idea that you should see every new day as getting a “bonus”.
“Glad and cheerful, let us say, as we go to our rest: ‘I have finished living; I have run the course that fortune set for me’. If God gives us another day, let us receive it with joy. The happiest person, who owns himself more fully, is the one who waits for the next day without anxiety. Anyone who can say, ‘I have had my life’ rises with a bonus, receiving one more day.”
– Seneca, Letters, 12.9.
So every morning as you wake up relatively healthy, sick of nothing else but the general human condition, you might consider yourself lucky.
You are winner!
If you wake up also in a wealthy, peaceful country, it’s a double win!
If you, as you open you eyes, also find yourself having a loving spouse, kids, a job, a car, a house to live in and some selection of modern consumer-electronics, you have to just stop to wonder how much winning can there be for one guy/gal!
Stoic Week material: