It is easy to talk about philosophy. Anyone can jabber on about the existence of God or freewill at Starbucks using their pseudo-intellectual powers to sound like they have life figured out. Anyone can throw out quotes. Anyone can act like they understand what the quotes mean. It’s difficult to live philosophy. It’s difficult to change the focus from others to yourself. It’s difficult to admit what you are not doing as well as you could because it takes courage to look at yourself and say “I am not the person I want to be”. It takes even more courage to say “I am not the person I want to be and I am going to change”.
I do not just talk philosophy, I live it. I live it with each struggle I encounter. And sometimes I fail to learn the lesson which life is giving. But, more often than not, I succeed. I succeed because of the lessons taught by the philosophers which came before me.
The philosophers wanted their students to succeed and their lessons are built to help all of us, not just certain “special” people or academics.
When I got out of the military I thought I knew everything about the world I wanted to inhabit and the life I wanted to build. Within days of shedding that identity I faced the crushing fact that I was wrong. I had tried with all my might to create a perfect transition trip from the military into the “real world” and failed. I came face to face with the faulty reasoning I had built my life on in the mirror of a hostile bathroom. I was not the person I wanted to be and it filled me with shame. Who the hell was I? What was I doing? Why was I living like this? I had traveled to Maui to find paradise but instead I found the same hell I left behind on the mainland ( I did get a better tan which was a bonus).
What I understand now, which I did not understand then, is what I was doing was running away from the fire or the “Hell” I told myself life was back home. This instead of running towards what filled me. There is a strange law of life; No matter where “Hell” is for you, unless you move towards what you love with integrity, you will find the same “Hell” wherever you go. Running away doesn’t put out the fire, it allows it to grow unchecked. Running towards it does. It is the only surefire way to put that fire out and get out of “Hell.” Stoicism gave me this ability.
Actively working towards understanding what is in my control, what isn’t, and disregarding that which is not in my control is the first step. Letting go of aggravation and frustration toward other drivers on the road or the people I work with (still working on this one) is the second step. This gives me space and energy to focus on other, more important aspects of life. The third step: Accepting events as they happen, understanding they are impersonal and indifferent, creates further space for me to look at myself and address issues as they arise. This allowes me to discover who I am as a man and human, begin to explore the world and what it has to offer.