Accepting What Is – The Daily Stoic – Part 5 of 366

Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will — then your life will flow well.

Epictetus, Enchiridion, 8

It is easy to praise providence for anything that may happen if you have two qualities: a complete view of what has actually happened in each instance and a sense of gratitude. Without gratitude what is the point of seeing, and without seeing what is the object of gratitude?

Epictetus, Discourses, 1.6.1-2

The book mentions that in Stoicism this is called the “art of acquiescence” — to accept rather than fight every little thing. Indeed, when considering an event we wished had not occurred it is only possible to change our opinion and perception of the event since what has occurred is already in in the past.

After a very long break from writing this seems a to be a poignant topic to return with. Few would argue that 2019 and 2020 were not years utter chaos and disappointment in so many ways. Political turmoil, frequent natural disasters, a war on science, and a global pandemic all seek to occupy the mind and destroy all sense of stability, control, and happiness.

And yet, as consuming as these things are, for most people these things are still largely on the periphery of life. The worry over these things has far more damaging effects than many of these things for most people. Although it is not easy in times of turmoil, there is a great deal of virtue and value to be had in accepting the things you cannot change.

Integrate your learnings from these events into the decisions you make going forward, and then move on. Do not linger; dwelling on the past does not change it. There is more life ahead of you to live.

Interestingly the book also discusses the mental hack of wishing for what has occurred. Wishing for fate to play its hand never results in disappointment, and may very well be a source of joy by avoiding frequent anguish over any and every negative thing that occurs.

I personally find this a bit of a stretch. Wishing fate to play its hand and accepting it are two different things. It is not an inherently bad thing to experience disappointment or regret over something that has happened. In fact, I would consider this a primary source of empathy and solidarity that is important in society. Regretting that someone has cancer and expressing your sadness and disappointment seems a more human response than telling them that it was fated to be. But perhaps the point here was more in dealing with acceptance of one’s own experiences specifically. If you get cancer then regret and frustration would be natural feelings, but they do not change what has or is about to happen. In such a scenario I can see the virtue in acquiescence to the situation and focusing all effort on the future.

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