Let’s imagine something. Let’s suppose that you are in love with The Lord of the rings and The Lord of the rings IV is coming up this week (hypothetically speaking). You have been waiting for an entire year for the movie to come out and finally, you are going to watch it on Thursday, amazing.
You grab your jacket, grab your keys, start the engine and head to the theater. When you arrive, you buy your favorite chocolate bar, popcorn, and a drink, god everything’s perfect for the night.
The movie begins and suddenly you feel a popcorn banging in your head, you look back and you see nothing. The movie goes for about 10 min and you feel another popcorn banging in your head. You turn back and see a bunch of kids laughing, ok, now you know what’s going on but you’ve been waiting for such a long time to see this movie that you just let it go and hope the kids will choose another target.
Bang! three popcorns and a nut, ouch! the nut actually hurt. The kids are laughing uncontrollably and you have lost a whole scene thinking about those annoying kids throwing popcorn at you.
Bang! Ok, that’s enough, you get up head to the offices and call the cinema personnel, the kids are thrown out of the theater and you watch the remainder of the movie, annoyed, you get home angry and go to sleep cursing those little rats.
Let’s continue imagining.
Now, Imagine Marcus Aurelius sitting in his desk, at the front of the Marcomannic wars in what is today modern Serbia, writing his meditations (he wrote most of them during this period), and going through his usual affairs.
Suddenly, a general calls to the door, Marcus could tell the distress on his voice, he calls him in and notices and can almost smell the pestilence of panic in the general’s face, something is wrong, something’s really, really wrong.
The general tells him that they suffered a terrible defeat, lost thousands of men and the barbarians are crossing the Alps to invade Italy for the first time in centuries. They got ambushed. Marcus takes a big breath, grabs the book he had in his hand just a second ago and reads:
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
There is a plague of motivational quotes everywhere. In the office, hanging on our houses or being used as marketing to sell you something on Pinterest. There are so much, that they get forgotten 10 seconds after we read them.
It’s quite easy to read one and feel motivated, feeling a short dose of good feelings and motivation. This is a wrong use of them.
The exercises recommended in stoic quotes, to give an example, are all but easy.
Take the quote above, for example. If you read it in the morning, before the chaos and the stress of work and life hits you, it’s quite nice. But the quote demands of you to act and to apply its wisdom in the harshest of situations, and that is the moment when you must remember it and actually practice it.
The kids at the theater are just one tiny example of how easy it is to lose your cool and focus on what is under your control. It is precisely in those moments when you are able and must practice stoic wisdom.
Such an innocent example as well. But don’t be naive, life is very creative when it comes to testing your will. Be prepared, always.
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