Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside their reasoned choice. – “Discourses”, 1.18.21
Two short sentences.
A question and an answer.
So much to digest and ponder over. (In fact, I did a blog post about this subject a year ago…)
First off, is invincibility even truly attainable? Or is it some sort of religious/spiritual/philosophical ideal that should be pursued with full knowledge that it will never be attained? Is it an end goal, or a horizon like Buddhahood or Christlike perfection?
I see it as the latter. Something to desire, to strive for, to put into our daily practice but realizing that we will never be invincible and that we will be upset by things outside of our reasoned choice.
I have two reasons for seeing it this way. First, Epictetus seems to treat invincibility as part of a binary. Either you are invincible or you are
vincible not invincible. But that doesn’t seem to be the case in the real world. Control over your emotions exists on a spectrum, it isn’t “yes, I’m in control” or “no, I’m not in control”, it is “I am more (or less) in control now than in the past”. Controlling our emotions involves practice and building the mental muscles necessary to handle the challenges, and the challenges are infinite.
Second, to see invincibility as attainable is to see the possibility of becoming THE PERFECT STOIC. But perfection in this sense can’t exist. Our minds are a combination of genetics, free will (maybe), and reactions to our environment. We can’t control two of those and free will may not really be a thing. I think this is one of the weaknesses of Stoicism (at least as an attainable ideal), it doesn’t recognize that there is more to our mental processes than just being strong and using our rational mind. Mental health issues are real and they distort these processes, some people can’t just use their rationality to overcome their emotions. Trauma, chemical differences, and a plethora of known and unknown processes shape how we respond to the world around us. We are more than just reason.
But, I still think it is something to shoot for. There is great joy in pursuing something that you’ll never attain, struggling just to struggle, pushing to see how far you can get before this moist meat-suit that we call a body decides to return to the dust from which it came. At least it is to me.
Day 3 Update of “Operation: Shut Off Facebook and Become Who You Want to Become”
Yesterday was my first real weekend and it went really well. I went to the gym, got my 10,000 steps in, read, meditated, did some coding, practiced yoga, and kept my calorie consumption where it should be. I even went out for a friend’s birthday party and stuck to my diet… and I didn’t even drink alcohol! I actually had a really good time, I’m not sure why but I felt more open, personable, and interested than I normally do in social situations where I don’t really know anyone. It certainly helped that Anna was there, that I sat next to our friend, and that two of the people next to us were SUPER talkative and friendly. Sometimes extroverts can be overwhelming to me, but these people were good conversationalists and asked us real questions. We chatted about world travel, the military (he was a vet), and drug use very openly. I think it helped that I didn’t have booze or Facebook to retreat into.
So, it was a good day. I didn’t lose any weight (but that’s not surprising given the 7 lb drop on Friday) but the weekend was productive and off to a good start. I have reasonable goals for today (several of which I’ve already accomplished) and my partner and I are heading down to the Dirty Myrtle tonight to make the most out of a quick work trip I have down there on Monday.
Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions: pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”