“Life is fair. We all get the same nine-month shake in the box, and then the dice roll. Some people get a run of sevens. Some people, unfortunately, get snake-eyes. Its just how the world is.”
– Stephen King
I was angry for a week. Kind of a diffuse, all over general hate everything sort of anger. I was mad at health insurance companies, mad at the state of the world, mad at the economy ( Personal and National ), I was even mad at my mustache! (Seriously, I was. That’s how dumb I can be.)
But, then I found out Hildegunn had died.
She was a Norwegian exchange student that my folks hosted in the early 80’s. She had a kind heart that drew people. She was just fun.
So, Hildegunn had passed on and I was spending my days upset about Medica and the fact that my mustache won’t properly curl. I’m an idiot.
Then, a different thing happened that REALLY made me upset. (details unimportant) The kind of thing that isn’t right or fair but happened to me anyway. I was spitting nails. I might have said a few potty-mouth words.
But…what a waste of time. Fair or not, the thing was done.
Forget fair. There is nothing fair. There is only what happens.
It’s not fair that my friend died in Norway. It’s not fair that this thing happened. It’s not fair that my mustache won’t behave.
NOTHING is fair.
And, I suppose, that’s fair.
The stoics had a way of looking at things that did away with the whole concept of fair. Here is Epictetus’ take: “Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.”
― Epictetus, The Discourses
Because, fair or not, what is going to happen is going to happen. We prepare as best we can and things still go wrong.
If we are continually hung up on the fairness of things, we are in for a rough life. All the foot stamping and fury in the universe won’t make it fair. The world really doesn’t care about fair.
I have to admit, I have a hard time with that. I want to scream at the world as much as anybody. Which accomplishes…zero. What ever went wrong is still wrong. Wrong things don’t get right just because we yell. (I know because I’ve tried.)
The answer, according to our stoic friends, is not only to accept the unfairness with good grace, but expect and even welcome trouble. And not only welcome it, but love it.
“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary—but love it” – Nietzsche
(Nietzsche is like that: He’ll use fifty words when five will do. He had a painfully huge ego and also went mad…but he did have a great mustache.)
So, how do we love our misfortune? Love it when our luck goes south and winds blow hard and that really really unfair thing happens?
“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.” — Marcus Aurelius
Easy for him to say. He was the Emperor of Rome. But Marcus’ point, that pain is a matter of perception, is right on the money. In other words, despite whathappens, we can always control how we react to it.
As a veteran of overreacting, I know this is true. We have way more power than we think. And, you know, most of the things we spend the majority of our time upset about are pretty meaningless anyway. I also know a couple of quotes and a blog post from your friendly chiropractor won’t make your problems seem any more lovable.
But remember your power. You really have a lot! And always remember that we get to decide how we feel. And that’s a powerful feeling!
*A book I really like about stoicism – The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday *
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Have a powerful week!