Daily Meditation #172–8/13/2022
Imagine you’re walking down the street.
It’s a beautiful day. The sun is beaming. It isn’t too hot. There’s a pleasant breeze with the scent of lilacs wafting about. You had a nice breakfast and a great cup of coffee. People seem to be in good spirits all around…
There, just ahead, in the very middle of the sidewalk; a large, wet, and fresh pile of dog poop that someone left.
Upon seeing it as you walk towards it, what do you do?
Do you choose to step directly in it?
Do you even consider for the splittest of split seconds of stepping in it?
Literally no one of sound mind would ever choose intentionally stepping in a heap of fresh shit.
And, literally no one of sound mind would ever have the thought of doing so cross their minds.
Because the idea of it is so laughably heinous. Why would you choose to willingly do something that would clearly ruin your day?
We would never choose to willingly step in poop, so why would we choose to allow the words or actions of others to offend or harm us?
“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been,” as Aurelius, himself, said.
Perception is our most powerful tool in regulation of our emotions and joy.
Just like you would never choose to step in poop, you should endeavor to attain a level of self-control over your perception to the point that you can choose to not be offended — “harmed” — by others.
Most people don’t go out into their days actively seeking to ruin the days of others. Most humans just aren’t conscientious enough or practiced enough in careful, precise selection of their words, so many things come across as hurtful, offensive, or personal attacks when, in fact, they’re not. The sayer just is off in their own world too deeply to pay attention to what they’ve said.
Knowing and perceiving that we cannot control others nor the world, why would we willingly allow ourselves to perceive that others intend us harm? Choosing to be offended will only make us obsess over silly things said and serve to make us into victims, which allows others to have dominion over us.
I certainly desire autonomy of the self. And so I work to ensure it by knowing that I can freely choose to be hurt or indifferent when I hear things.
And even if someone says something intentionally hurtful…
They chose to take a swing at your verbally, trying to drag you down to escalate things.
So, you must choose to perceive their slight as them being not of sound mind.
Of being in pain, themselves.
Of being angry, for a reason that is theirs.
Of hating you…
You can’t control them.
But, you can control yourself.
Perception is the ultimate lens through which we can control ourselves in the world and, by extension, how happy we are.
If it’s raining — let it. You’re going to get wet, so choose joyful wetness instead of angry wetness!
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These are distillations from my coming book “YouDaimonia: the Ancient Philosophy of Human Flourishing.”