“It is possible to form no judgement about this and not to be disturbed in your mind; things in themselves do not have the nature to create our judgements.” Marcus Aurelius
Besides proper nutrition, physical exercise, appropriate rest and all the other things that are conducive to good health, what enables the mind itself to remain sound? Could we say concentration, focus and attention are necessary components for effective mental processes without sounding too specific?
“Sounds right to me.” What do you mean by that? “It makes sense to me.” How does it make sense to you? “There are occasions in my life when I try to focus on something, let’s say a good book, but my concentration wanes due to noisy neighbors. There are also times when I am able to keep my attention on a bunch of things at once without losing my ability to concentrate on my reading.”
So a balance between concentration, focus and awareness enables your mind to be present to the task at hand. Would you agree that this sort of even-mindedness has something to do with the notion of equanimity? “If we define equanimity as mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation, then why yes, these terms seem to be on par with one another.”
As to the noise next store, that supposedly impaired your concentration, would this be an example of a lack of equanimity? “Yes it is. My neighbours are always making a racket.” By neighbours you mean? “The kids in the next flat over. They are students attending college but are using their place to party.” This upsets you? “Of course, you never know what potheads are capable of.”
Might it be possible that your estimation of a pothead could be the reason for your irritation? “Hmmm, there’s no doubt that our estimation of things has an influence over our emotional state of mind. So yes, of course, it is possible, but that doesn’t change the reality of my situation.”
Allow me to share a quote by Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic Philosopher who intentionally lived in tents with soldiers who love to rant and roar. He on the other hand didn’t mind the noise: “If any external thing causes you distress, it is not the thing itself that troubles you, but your own judgment about it. And this you have the power to eliminate now.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 8.47
“If we really have that kind of self-mastery, then give me a way to override my frustration towards these stoners?” One means to override the rigid judgments we have of others is to simply soften the words we use to represent them. Instead of seeing your neighbors as stoners you may acknowledge that they are human beings who want to have fun.
You may also consider the metaphysics of the situation. For instance, the audio impressions you receive in your environment is not really noise. In other words, what you are actually hearing may be called sound. The meaning you associate to such stimulus happens to be the source of your annoyance. Things in themselves do not have the power to form our opinions.
I love the way you ask your readers to question their assumptions and perceptions. It is when we accept things at face value or unquestioningly that we tend to get in trouble. I think, to your point, that sound judgment and equanimity stem from critiquing both events and perceptions of the events. I borrow from General Semantics in that regard. Alfred Korzybski discussed the “event level” where the thing happens, the “object level” where the person makes an assessment or assumption of what happened, the “descriptive level” where the person describes the event based on their perception of it, and then the “inference level” where the person uses their perception of the event to create meaning or make sense of why it occurred. I know this may seem abstract, but it is how I try to work through things that are outside of my control.
Thank you for engaging the material and taking the time to make sense of it. Korzybski’s method certainly has merit eh.
I’ve been trying to synthesize Korzybski’s system with my own beliefs for several months. I’ve found it quite practical and several other general semanticists ascribe to Stoicism as well. I think they are compatible in many ways due to their pragmatic approach.
Isn’t it always (? frequently) true that it’s our interpretations to external messages and events which give meaning. I take offence at something but my friend doesn’t, so the offence is all mine. I hear the loud banging noises from a neighbour’s house and worry if it will ever end, which makes me more anxious and worried. Easier to think of remedies but not so easy to act on them.
Interesting post 🙏🏼
Thank you for dropping by and sharing your deep experiential wisdom!