“For if a person shifts their caution to their own reasoned choices and the acts of those choices, they will at the same time gain the will to avoid, but if they shift their caution away from their own reasoned choices to things not under their control, seeking to avoid what is controlled by others, they will then be agitated, fearful and unstable.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 2.1.12
I hate traffic with the heat of a thousdand suns. Just sitting and waiting. Feeling as if you are just wasting seconds of life that could be better spent doing something other than sitting…waiting…agitated. In reality, it is not time being wasted, but rather time not being well spent. Changing my focus on what the opportunity presents I can see this as a time to listen to an audio book, or podcast. It can be spent as a form of meditation, specifically directed and why I am impatient and how this is really a great opportunity to practice patience. I can either focus on the traffic, of which I have no control, or I can focus on things I can do while in traffic.
One solution would be to avoid traffic altogether by not leaving the house. Not putting myself in a situation that might find me in traffic. Today’s meditation focuses on this idea. Finding peace by removing one’s self from the interraction of others. Is avoiding human interaction really the best choice of the Stoic mindset? As the meditation points out, “If you seek to avoid all disruptions to tranquility…you will never be successful.”
Unlike the monk who seeks removal from life to gain serenity, the Stoic is active in the community. Politics. Charities. Education. It is the act of participating in these events where we build relationships that allow us to meet our material and intrinsic goals. Pearl Jam isn’t coming to me. If I want to tailgate with my friends before the show, and then enjoy three hours of amazing music, I’ll need to drive to the venue during rush hour. Even something as simple as a work conference call, where so many voices are trying to be heard, we can find ourselves getting caught up in the words and ideas of other people such that we become frustrated by their positions. We might become angry at what they are trying to push onto us. Maybe we will become fearful of how their work efforts will impact our job security. Getting caught up in such things will only distract us from focusing on what we can do to shine above the fray. And we cannot be successful without incorporating the help of those who may disagree with our “best direction.”
We must not think running from other people is a solution. Rather, we must always see that how we perceive these environmental factors is the only thing that impacts our stability.