Many of us are suffering from electile disfunction in the wake of the recent election. Yes, whichever way the vote turned out, a significant number of us were going to be disappointed. (Credit to a dharma talk by Tara Brach for the term “electile disfunction.”)
Many are dreading the coming years. A daily barrage of disconcerting announcements. A vilified press that seems befuddled as to how to cover the new administration.
What are we to do? How to live in these coming years?
How about turning off the TV and radio, and reading no newspapers or magazines? Live like an ostrich? Being intentionally ill-informed seems a poor option, and I doubt it would work anyway.
The Stoics Have an Answer
We’ve recently turned to The Daily Stoic, 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday to serve as a source of daily reflections for 2017.
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own.”
As the author, Ryan Holiday, summarizes, “The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t.”
What is Old is New Again
But, if we are to preserve our mental balance, I think a daily reminder of this key Stoic insight may help. Try to remember what externals are under our control, and what are not. And then look to ourselves to make good choices regarding those things that are under our control.
This, by the way, we think is a commendable path no matter which side of the political divide we occupy. The Stoic course may help maintain equilibrium and balance, and provide space for making sound choices of action.
The prophet Micah, writing in the 8th century BCE, also spoke in a time of national uncertainty. The destruction of Samaria was considered a warning of what might happen to Jerusalem. His advice: “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly.”
That, we think is the best and what we can do. Focus on what we can control, and try to live as Micah exhorted.
A Communication Option
If you’d like to assemble a support group (whether in support of or opposition to the current administration), we hope you will sign up for the Families Connect application. On Families Connect, you can build a private network of friends and family. A group to sustain one another and to provide encouragement in coming days.