Sometimes I think I’m a terrible stoic. I get caught up in weird little imaginations of things that don’t really matter. My emotions get out of control. I get depressed, I get righteous, I get angry and grumpy. I mope. My ego swells and shrinks again. I imagine that some people are better than others, and even worse I think I can somehow tell. I fail as a stoic.
But then I remember what life was like before I had my satori, and the journey that led me to Cicero. My emotions were tides. Indomitable. They had a power that would pick me up and carry me for weeks or even months before receding, and I was helplessly caught up in them. They controlled my whole life, and I was lost to them.
My emotions now feel crazy, but they are just ripples on a pond. An errant wind blows them up, and they scatter and jump around. When the wind stops, they are gone. Only the still pond is left. It’s just normal, I guess. How people feel when they aren’t building up enormous waves in their heads. I suppose I was lucky with the whole flash of enlightenment thing. It blew through my world like a giant meteor, smashing waves and tides into oblivion. When it was gone I felt alone and adrift on a vast empty plain.
The only world I had ever known was a world dark with towering waves all around me. Now they were gone. I’d learned tricks to survive those waves, ways to get through the world. Without the waves, I had nothing. My habits were useless, and I found myself trying to build up waves again so that I could know where I was, what I was. The tides still lived inside of me, despite it all.
It took time and wisdom to kill my sea legs, to learn to stand still without swaying to a force that was gone. Cicero taught me to do that. He taught me to be calm and peaceful, to see the beauty in being alive even when I was in a plane bucking in a sudden downdraft, heading for the suddenly so close mountains. He taught me love, acceptance and even joy in the deep heart of grief. Or I suppose, he wrote some words that evoked the right understanding in me.
To truly be alive you have to live a virtuous life. That’s not a bullshit empty phrase, but a rock-solid rule. Virtue means living in accord with your nature, and your nature is to die.
You think life is today, but you really don’t think about today. You think about all the crap that happened before today, or all the hopeless or grandiose dreams you have for tomorrow. Your nature is the whole of your life. The whole complete kit and kaboodle all summed up. That’s your nature, and that’s what you have to live thinking about.
I don’t have time to waste thinking about, never mind dwelling on, what happened yesterday. What kind of person do I want to be when I am dying? What do I want to happen between that moment and now? Who do I want be for all of that time? My nature is mine to determine. It is my goal, my target that I aim myself at. The only injury that can really happen to me is to let myself fall away from that goal, to take my eyes off of that target.
I used to have so many things in life. Career, family, friends, respect, money, property, plans for a sure and steady future. Lost it all in a storm, or I suppose a series of perfect storms, one after another. Not a surprise…when you spend a life stirring up waves, you make one hell of a storm. Doesn’t take much from the outside to make it really killer.
My still pond is so much smaller than the ocean I used to live in. I can still see people riding that ocean, in beautiful sailboats, hideous battleships, gauche cruiseships and overloaded freighters. Part of me wants to be back out there. But my still pond now has a tiny little cottage, with a weaver working inside. Rough and simple…I can’t think of a better goal to aim for in life.