I’ve loved many bands in my life. Those I’ve loved and haven’t ceased loving. The great thing about music is how, when it’s the right music, it can be timeless. As of today, The Avett Brothers are my Sherpa. If I am being honest, it’s been that way for years.
“The person is free who lives as they wish, neither compelled, nor hindered, nor limited – whose choices aren’t hampered, whose desires succeed, and who don’t fall into what repels them. Who wished to live in deception – tripped up, mistaken, undisciplined, complaining, in a rut? No one. These are base people who don’t live as they wish; and so, no base person is free.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 4.1.1-3a
Epictetus frames good and bad persons in a very specific context. Not by virtue, but rather based on those who do and do not live freely. Surely you’ve heard the old saying which refers to anger as allowing someone to have control over you. How many of us want to live angrily? When we do this we are, in fact, living by the words and actions of others. Do you recall times in which you’ve actually been angry because someone else isn’t angry at the very situation that angered you?
I’m going to my music well, to one of my favorite bands: The Avett Brothers. From the True Sadness album, this is a lyric from “Ain’t No Man”.
You got to go somewhere, ain’t that true?
Not a whole lotta time for me or you
Got a whole lotta reasons to be mad, let’s not pick one
I live in a room at the top of the stairs
I got my windows wide open and nobody cares
And I got no choice but to get right up when the song comes through
Yes, there are many reasons to be mad, but why pick any? Here lies truth for me. I set out to post observations on these meditations daily, and yet I’ll go from consistent to inconsistent. Why? If I had awareness of why I could correct it. Envoke discipline. Succeed. Be a good person. It’s a simple goal, but the awareness of the simple will lead to habits for the complex.
“Erase the false impressions from your mind by constantly saying to yourself, I have it in my soul to keep out any evil, desire, or any kind of disturbance – instead, seeing the true nature of things, I will give them only their due. Always remember this power that nature gave you.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.29
This past fall we spent a few days in Asheville, NC. While there we attended a Band of Horses concert, enjoyed the sites of Asheville and took a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to consume the beauty of the changing of the leaves. A destination of the drive was Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi.
While atop Mt. Mitchell we hiked the Deep Gap Trail to Mt. Craig. Enjoying the beauty and quite of hike we happened upon three people resting on a rock that allowed for a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape. From what I gathered a couple had been hiking together and met a solo hiker along the way. I only caught part of their conversation, but it was focused on Donald Trump and how the couple, specifically the man, were trying to remain calm in the face of this unappealing candidate. The solo hiker asked a simple question: “What is he doing that directly impacts you?”
The context to this question appreciated that Trump could make decisions that harmed them directly or indirectly, but the gist of the question was about not letting this person control their outlook. We’ve meditated on goals and prizes. We’ve looked at what distracts us. As we close out on the month of January this is a wonderful reminder that we have this power that nature gave us. A mind that has the power keep out disturbances.
Do you have a favorite quote? A favorite song? A favorite story? What can be your mantra? What can you use to remind yourself to focus on that which edifies? That keeps you focused?
One of my favorite lyrics is from The Avett Brothers “Murder in the City”. My daughter created a piece of art with the lyrics. It hangs in the kitchen and reminds me every day what matter. Why I do the things I do.
“Always remember there was nothing worth sharing, like the love that let us share our name.”