By Lentus Ambulandus, who tries to be indifferent to the many insults directed at him, including those that may be figments of his imagination.
Stoic Week, Day 4.
A few years ago, when I’d already left my job but my wife was still working, someone asked me “And what do you do these days, just sit around and spend all your wife’s money?”
There’s approximately 0.0% probability that the person was joking. They may have thought that I was being smug about not working, and decided to take it upon themselves to knock me down a peg or two. The more likely scenario is that they were reacting defensively to the presence of a philosophy that ran counter to how they lived their life. More on this below.
Whatever the case, the comment bothered me immensely. After all, I did feel guilty at the time for not working, so this came across as a particularly low blow. I fumed for days, becoming a slave to my emotions.
In another example, my wife and I have drifted apart from some people who we thought were quite good friends. Perhaps they don’t feel we have anything in common anymore, because our lifestyles are so distinct. We’ll never know.
We’re probably not the only ones to face a bit of negative backlash for adopting Escapology as our philosophy of life. Perhaps your mother is like mine, forever asking, with the best of intentions, when you’ll get a decent job again. What should we do in such circumstances?
We should turn to the Stoic sages.
The good people over at Stoic Week have provided a handbook that includes, among other things, a list of maxims that the Stoic can lean on in times of duress. If I’d known about Stoicism when the aforementioned insult took place, I may have been able to pull one of these handy Epictetus quotes from my mental drop-down menu:
Some things are under my control and other things are not. [i.e. what people say]
It seemed right to them. [to say what they did]
You are nothing to me.
And once again, I direct your attention to the outstanding “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” by William Irvine. In a chapter dealing with the practicalities of becoming a Stoic (from which I shamelessly borrowed the title for the post), he offers some advice for those adopting a philosophy of life:
Anyone wishing to become a Stoic should do so unobtrusively. This is because those who hear of your “conversion” to Stoicism will likely mock you.
Why do people behave this way? Why do they mock someone for adopting a philosophy of life? In part because by adopting one, whether it be Stoicism or some rival philosophy, a person is demonstrating that he has different values than they do.
Furthermore, by adopting a philosophy of life, he is, in effect, challenging them to do something they are probably reluctant to do: reflect on their life and how they are living it.
Fellow Escapologists, we cannot control what others think of us or say to us. We can only control what we do, and how we react.
So let them mock us, if it seems right to them.
It is nothing to us.