Back to Basics: Control, Fate, Impermanence


I sure am full of a lot of advice.  If you read here on the site enough, you might wonder if I have any organization to my thoughts, or am I just like Jack Handy with a few deep thoughts now and again?  The answer to these questions is “yes” and “no.”  I do have random ideas pop into my head, but it is always through the filter of my philosophy.  In the interest of maintaining a simple template for the Heroic Stoic philosophy (at least as a beginning), I think I have been very clear that there are 3 tenets to always remember: control, fate, and impermanence.  With these three you can distill the baloney out of everything you face.  Of course, that is the bumper sticker–control, fate, and impermanence—but these concepts go deep and they require reflection, especially when you start to meditate on them with an Eastern view.  In my case, it is a Buddhist one, but I am diverging here just a bit.  Here is a rehash of the “bumper sticker”:

Control – Control is about what you can and cannot change.  It is also about how you should focus.  Should you focus on the external world to be happy or on the internal?  As a reader here, you know what my answer is of course…internal.  Your impression of your world is the only thing you CAN control.  Moreover, to control these impressions internally is not an easy task (see “simple and easy”).  So I should stop focusing on the external world over which I have no control, and start focusing on my own attitude, my own virtue which is in my control, but still requires great effort.  Happiness is found within.

All good things come in 3's

All good things come in 3’s

Fate – The future is largely out of your control.  You may have dreams of being a rock star or maybe a famous writer, but a lot of this dream you have is affected by those things external.  You might be grunge, while the current trend is “big hair.”  Heck, you might be hit by a bus tonight, and then it’s all over…no famous writer for you!  Simply put, understanding fate helps us focus on the now.   Since future is largely out of our control, then being in the present moment is that much more important.

Back to Basics

Back to Basics

Impermanence – As I have mentioned over and over again, nothing lasts forever.   You could argue that there is something that lasts forever…possibly the universe, God, matter, etc.…we won’t live long enough to settle the issue anyway.  In any case, YOU will not last forever (at least not in your current state).  Everything you own, possess, love will be gone within the space of about 100 years.  From the Stoic perspective, this means that your possessions don’t matter either.  They are “indifferents” when it comes to your happiness, and for all intents and purposes they are on loan to you.  You must give them all back.  For this reason, your possessions and for that matter your legacy, will only bring you transient happiness.  Deep meaningful happiness has nothing to do with what you have.  Impermanence also has something to tell us about our thoughts on those we love and think we “possess.”  They also are on loan to you.  Your relationship with your neighbor is very important, but your view of possessing anyone is a faulty one.  Enjoy your loved ones now, serve them, but never think that they are yours.

So anyway, there I go again repeating myself.  It’s good to repeat yourself from time to time when the concepts are important.  It’s always good to return “home” to your foundations.  All these distractions can take us away from the core of existence and the virtuous life.  In any case, every time I come back to these I always seem to have a different spin.

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