Know What You Can Control and What You Can’t
Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.
Within our control are our own opinions, aspirations, desires, and the things that repel us. These areas are quite rightly our concern, because they are directly subject to our influence. We always have a choice about the contents and character of our inner lives.
Outside our control, however, are such things as what kind of body we have, whether we’re born into wealth or strike it rich, how we are regarded by others, and our status in society. We must remember that those things are externals and are therefore not our concern. Trying to control or to change what we can’t only results in torment.
Remember: The things within our power are naturally at our disposal, free from any restraint or hindrance; but those things outside our power are weak, dependent, or determined by the whims and actions of others. Remember, too, that if you think that you have free rein over things that are naturally beyond your control, or if you attempt to adopt the affairs of others as your own, your pursuits will be thwarted and you will become a frustrated, anxious, and fault-finding person.
from The Art of Living The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness
Epictetus A New Interpretation by Sharon Lebell
Like Shakespeare Jane Austen knew the inner nature by intuition, and had learned its outward expression by observation. Character not only affects the speech of each one of her men and women, but determines their destiny and shapes the plot of the story.
- Clara H. Whitmore, Women’s Work in English Fiction (1909) [full text]
Dangers of long term loneliness
In recent years, sociologists and epidemiologists have begun studying the long-term effects (Direct PDF link) of loneliness. It turns out to be really dangerous. We are social primates, and when we’re cut off from the social network, we are more likely to die from just about everything (but especially heart disease). At this point, the link between abstinence and social isolation is merely hypothetical. But given the extensive history of group drinking—it’s what we do when we come together—it seems likely that drinking in moderation makes it easier for us develop and nurture relationships. And it’s these relationships that help keep us alive.
Esther “Etty” Hillesum was a young Jewish woman whose letters and diaries, kept between 1941 and 1943 describe life in Amsterdam during the German occupation. They were published posthumously in 1981, before being translated into English in 1983.
In her journals, one can hear her striving to understand and transform her experience, historically and spiritually-and always inwardly. Slowly a gentle, quiet, personal victory of the spirit grows out of her fear and doubt. One can also hear in her anecdotes how much people began to find her a deep comfort. Her last words, written on a scrap of paper and thrown from a cattle car headed for Auschwitz, are perhaps my favorite quote from her “We left the camps singing.”
Etty Hillesum leaned heavily on the psychology of Jung and the poetry of Rilke. About Rilke, she wrote:
"It is strange to think that…(Rilke) would perhaps have been broken by the circumstances in which we now live. Is it not further testimony that life is finely balanced? Evidence that, in peaceful times and under favourable circumstances, sensitive artists may search for the purest and most fitting expression of their deepest thoughts so that, during more turbulent and debilitating times, others can turn to them for support and a ready response to their bewildered questions? A response they are unable to formulate for themselves since all their energies are taken up in looking after the bare necessities. Sadly, in difficult times we tend to shrug off the spiritual heritage of artists from an "easier" age, with "what use is that sort of thing to us now?"
It is an understandable but shortsighted reaction. And utterly impoverishing.”
Whatever the times, suffering eventually touches every life. How we live with it, and help others to, is one of the great creative and ethical opportunities..
From the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron Ph.D