“And this is what we mean when we say the wise man is self-content; he is so in the sense that he can do without friends, not that he desires to do without them When I speak of his being ‘able’ to do this, what I am saying in fact amounts to this: he bears the loss of a friend with equanimity.” — Seneca
I lost all control, and all that gave me was deep regret.
I had a trip with my brother a couple of weeks ago. We took a hike close to the city and had a great day outside. The initial plan was to stay in the little town by the trail, but, we were tired and thought that it would be way better to get back to the apartment without spending more than necessary and having a mighty “Norteña” ( a big ass taco sold in Mexico City). And so we took to the city again.
It was night already. I was driving and discovered I didn’t have any cash. This is an essential part of the story. In Mexico, when you are using its highways, you need to pay, and you need to pay with cash if you want to use the nice ones. You can use the free highways, they just take longer and are generally uglier. I figured I would be able to use the free highway, but the more I drove, the more preoccupied I was getting that we just couldn’t find the deviation out of the tolled highway and into the free one. We couldn’t find any place to take cash either.
I had always wondered what would happen if you arrived at the toll without any cash. These guys don’t take cards, just cash. And well, I found out that day.
When I am tired, as well as anyone else I guess, I get nervous. When I arrived at the long, long, long line for the toll, my reaction to the situation was an embarrassing and weird combination of anger and fear. It was a combination of repressed anger toward my brother because he didn’t think about having cash for the tolls, anger at myself for being such a cheap bastard, and not wanting to take cash out of my debit card. In short, I lost it, in an embarrassing way.
Of course, the situation was solved, messily, but rather smoothly. The toll guy told us we couldn’t pass and that we needed to head back to the closest bank, 1 hour and a half hours away. We had a huge line of cars behind us, all of them yelling at the traffic stop (caused by us). I had to reverse, all the while I was being yelled stupid fuck by multiple people. Awesome experience.
A policeman came to the car and told us that we could transfer him some money with the bank app, and give us the cash to pass, with a small fee. We of course took it, paid the freaking toll, and head back to Mexico City.
Not a big deal, right? Well, it’s not just so when those things are happening at the moment. I still feel quite ashamed by having lost my head so badly with my little bro beside me. The anger at him, rationalized, was that he should take precautions in life and be ready for those types of situations. But I am well aware that that is utter bullshit. The real reason for my anger was that I was scared. I was tired and scared at that moment.
Even though I’ve read a considerable amount of times the great Stoics such as Seneca or Epictetus, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. And I know, deep in my heart, that:
‘Not happy he who thinks himself not so’
I still keep forgetting that it is not fortune that matters, but my being able to deal with it. That’s the lesson I want to transmit to my brother.
To disdain fortune, and gain the world by being content with oneself (with our capacity to deal with the ups and downs). Such a hard fucking lesson. But one that fortune pushes and pushes and throws and throws to you time and time again.
It is not that you do not get angry or fearful when these things happen. It is impossible to disdain emotions. What is possible is to train yourself to find contentment within yourself, in your capacity to deal with and overcome whatever is in front of you. Not needing it to go one way or another, but letting it happen as it needs to happen, Amor Fati.
Easy to say this while I am having a morning coffee, calm. But hey, I will certainly have more opportunities to practice, just like you, my friend.
And bro, if you ever read this, learn from my lack of character, and remember:
‘Any man who does not think that what he has is more than ample, is an unhappy man, even if he is the master of the whole world’ — Stilbo
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