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The Lazy Live In Fear
The Stoic Avoids Distraction
I want you to imagine that I am the wise man on the mountain, and you have come up to me and asked me the secret of life, and I hand you a 3000 page book. I tell you, if you read this book and understand it and follow its instructions, you will know the secret of life. But if you do not read it, then you will be insecure.
You open the book to a random page. It's hard to read. It's like a PhD level writing. You take the book down the mountain and put it on a shelf in your room. You decide to go mountain biking, because even though that man on the mountain was crazy, it did look cool from up there. You talk to all of your friends and everyone you know and they all said they didn't read the book either.
You decide that nobody is really going to read the book and you decide to accept all of your friends for who they are, and they decide to accept you for who you are. Everyone you know has decided not to perfect themselves according to the book. But in the back of everyone's mind is a feeling that their friends still don't trust them, that they don't know the secret of life. So they all decide that the secret of life doesn't exist, and it's OK to be insecure because that's the way life actually is, not some theory or because of what some crazy old man on a mountain said.
I have just described popular culture.
Popular culture in America accepts that there is no such thing as perfection of the human soul. That everybody is racist. That everybody is sexist. That it is inevitable that only the strong survive, and that you must always fight for survival, that there is no grace, no forgiveness. Just watch.
The trait that keeps is sloth. Laziness. Refusing to read the book. Failure to discipline the self. Dismissal about the idea of working on the soul. Pretending that a better way doesn't exist and we're all going to fail miserably anyway so why even bother. So instead of living like men and women we relate to each other like animals, assuming that everyone is merely predator and prey, that there is no transcendent good to which all have access, that there is only what is obvious in front of us that we can react to. It's lazy.
The lazy live in fear.
Now all dissent and dissonance aside, I don’t want you to leave with the idea that it is discipline alone that solves all problems. Rather it is the particular discipline to continue while acknowledging discomfort that can put us in a better place. It is the avoidance of distraction from things you reasonably expect to be rewarding that is the lazy problem. It generates the fear that failure is inevitable and unrecoverable. That is the fear that shrinks us. Or as Frank Herbert reminded us, fear is the mind killer. Life is the box of fear. Remove yourself from it, and you die.
Very practically speaking, I have found that Oliver Burkeman has made excellent sense of this concept. His approach to time management is perfectly Stoic, and reviewing it reminds me of something it took a long time to learn. Never forget to account for luck. It’s always beyond our control and yet it can be favorable to us as a lesson in humility. We must accept the chaotic potential that the future holds.
To get very Ghost Dog in this direction, one must make the most of every moment and take satisfaction in what work we have already accomplished, including practice and training. The awareness that practice and training gives us rewards us every moment with our increased ability to see, even if in conflict we do not triumph. That which we survive banishes our fear. So we move to the next moment.