In my post “How Should I Go,” I likened our life to a trip to Disney World: regardless of what you may want to do next, eventually the trip must end. Part of what makes a vacation so special is that one gets to experience joyful things that they never have before, and might not experience again…maybe forever, maybe not for a long time. Life can be like that, too. In a vacation world, each day has something to offer us, and every moment has something special in it, but again, it won’t last forever.
However, I am talking about externals here, aren’t I? And, when we talk about externals not all of them are so pleasant. For many, the conditions of life are not like a vacation, but as prison or as a gulag. For many, there are great struggles that face them. For most of us, the reality lies somewhere in between vacation and gulag, but let’s discuss our worst case condition.
Indeed, some of us are experiencing external struggles: hunger, unemployment, sickness or death of loved ones, or poverty. Others are engaged in a great internal personal struggle: depression, grief, personal sickness, injury. Let’s face it, for many of us, life is not Disney World…hardly. Life may be a place we would rather leave as soon as possible. Most who endure these struggles do not leave. For most, the will to survive is innate. Certainly, humankind would not have been around for all of these years if this desire to survive wasn’t built into our code.
Many who endure their struggles can be described as enduring “stoically.” In modern usage, the term “stoic” refers to a person who grits his teeth and endures existence, never complaining about the pain and tribulation that he must endure. Unfortunately, this modern interpretation is only half-right. The Stoic, as referred to by me, is more than just indifferent to the negative pressure around her, but in addition she is also aware that happiness is found internally, through our reason. Through our own deduction of what is true, we live as a Stoic not only to endure but to be at peace.
This peace, this tranquility is found in being aware of the good, by using reason to know what is in my control and what is not. In that there is tranquility. So, even if life has given us an inordinate amount of burden to bear, that goodness is still within. Even if we are not at Disney World, we can find great happiness in our virtue. Moreover, even in prison there can be things to be grateful for. First and foremost is our thought…which no one can and nothing should penetrate.
“Tribunal and prison are distinct places, one high, the other low; but your will, if you choose to keep it the same in both, may be kept the same. So we shall emulate Socrates, but only when we can write songs of triumph in prison.” Epictetus Discourses Book 2 Chapter 6
Simply, put my attitude is where I begin to find my own tranquility. But how do I change my attitude? Well, that requires another post, doesn’t it? Probably several.