When it comes to our dealings with the world, expectations are reckless enemies of serenity. Pessimism is the royal route to calm.
“Nothing ought to be unexpected by us. Our minds should be sent forward in advance to meet all the problems, and we should consider, not what is wont to happen, but what can happen.”
What drives us to fury are affronts to our expectations. There are plenty of things that don’t turn out as we’d like but don’t make us livid either. When a problem has been factored into our expectations, calm is never endangered.
Because we are agitated most by what we do not expect, we must teach ourselves to expect everything. Our frustrations are tempered by what we understand we can expect from the world, by our experience of what it is normal to hope for. We aren’t overwhelmed by anger whenever we are denied something we desire, only when we believe ourselves entitled to obtain it…anger is always the result of certain rationally-held ideas; if we can only change the ideas, we will change our propensity to anger. Our greatest furies spring from events which violate our sense of the ground-rules of existence.
A Senecan Praemeditatio:
[The wise] will start each day with the thought… Fortune gives us nothing which we can really own. Nothing, whether public or private, is stable; the destinies of men, no less than those of cities, are in a whirl. Whatever structure has been reared by a long sequence of years, at the cost of great toil and through the great kindness of the gods, is scattered and dispersed in a single day. No, he who has said ‘a day’ has granted too long a postponement to swift misfortune; an hour, an instant of time, suffices for the overthrow of empires.
How often have cities in Asia, how often in Achaia, been laid low by a single shock of earthquake. How many towns in Syria, how many in Macedonia, have been swallowed up. How often has this kind of devastation laid Cyprus in ruins. We live in the middle of things which have all been destined to die. Mortal have you been born, to mortals have you given birth. Reckon on everything, expect everything.
– Make up your own Praemeditatio. What are some of the things you should prepare for?
CONTENTS: Key Calming Ideas
– The Importance of Pessimism
– Pessimistic Resilience
– Itemising Anxieties
– Budgeting for ‘small’ problems
– Accepting the limits of Free Will
– Nature and Calm
– History and Calm
– Other People are different
– Intentionality and Agitation
– Others as Children
– Acceptance and Anxiety
Abridged Article published by School of Life