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Everyday Stoicism or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy the Show

Everyday Stoicism

Contrary to what you might think, based on the focus of most of the posts on this site, we don’t necessarily believe there’s always a technological solution to every problem. In fact, for many areas in life, I’ve often found the right life hack for my particular need may be discovered at perhaps the opposite end of the spectrum: philosophy.

In particular, the Ancients really knew how to live well and started hacking great ways to deal with the effects of technology from the moment Prometheus gave us fire. For example, I don’t make it to the theater as much as I’d like anymore, but whenever I do, I take a page from Epictetus:

When you are going about any action, remind yourself what nature the action is. If you are going to bathe, picture to yourself the things which usually happen in the bath: some people splash the water, some push, some use abusive language, and others steal. Thus you will more safely go about this action if you say to yourself, “I will now go bathe, and keep my own mind in a state conformable to nature.” And in the same manner with regard to every other action. For thus, if any hindrance arises in bathing, you will have it ready to say, “It was not only to bathe that I desired, but to keep my mind in a state conformable to nature; and I will not keep it if I am bothered at things that happen.”

Okay, so we don’t have public baths anymore, but this technique works well in movie theaters, lines at amusement parks, restaurants, or pretty much anywhere you intend to enjoy yourself around other people. Seriously, I consider this passage with many deep breaths at almost every movie I attend. It works.

16 thoughts on “Everyday Stoicism or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy the Show

  1. Nope. In fact I’ve never been to Japan and I’ll be the first to admit that my perspective is limited to my own experience. That said, that comment was certainly not meant to offend. Perhaps I should have said something like, “In my own experience, I don’t go to baths, so that part doesn’t pertain to me,” but I don’t trouble myself to be so precise in everything I say. I just sort of assume that people understand I’m speaking subjectively and will give me the benefit of the doubt unless I clearly say something intended to insult, demean, or belittle.

    Shame, though, that the whole point of the post was lost for such a snarky comment as this.

  2. If you are going to post, picture to yourself the things which usually happen when you post: some people make snarky comments, some troll, some use abusive language, and others plagiarize. Thus you will more safely go about this action if you say to yourself, “I will now write a post, and keep my own mind in a state conformable to nature.” And in the same manner with regard to every other action. For thus, if any hindrance arises in posting, you will have it ready to say, “It was not only to post that I desired, but to keep my mind in a state conformable to nature; and I will not keep it if I am bothered at things that happen.”

    Wow, it’s working already!

  3. My friend Dewitt Jones told me his yoga-instructor/girlfriend told him the secret of life. She said anyone can know, and it’s always present every moment of the day. She told him it’s this: The One Breath Meditation…take it all in (breathe in) and let it all out (breathe out). Simple, almost Yoda-like.

  4. @monopole: that was a lame comment, since the public baths in Japan are so orderly and the people so polite as to not warrant mention when discussing methods to calm oneself in difficult public situations. “We” don’t have public baths anymore, since I’m fairly sure Brian was speaking to people within his cultural and language group. You know, I’ve never been to a movie theater in Japan where people aren’t scrupulously polite and quiet, either; that doesn’t negate the value of Brian’s post when dealing with the much less polite Western World’s movie theaters.

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