Despair and Relax, the World is Burning
A few days ago, I stumbled upon a rerun of a Mexican tv show called “Chespirito.” I usually watch it with my Mom and Grandma. Somehow the jokes always hit. This is the kind of show that relies mostly on callbacks for its comedy. At some point in the episode, one of the characters says, “The mind is a world in itself,” and I paused for a minute.
“Did this Mexican comedy show from the 1920s just reminded me to cultivate my garden?” - I thought.
Voltaire’s Candide is the theme of 2020. With suffering being so plentiful this year, nothing feels better than being hopeless and focusing on learning guitar, reading fiction, planting vegetables, or what have you. Everyone has to deal with this pandemic. Most know someone who could is in a higher risk category. Some still talk to people who do not believe in the risks. We are, within our own minds, in conflict.
And that internal conflict makes Stoicism so necessary. Stoicism may have been written for all, but people who struggle feel the most protected by it. I like to find calm in stoic ideas, which were written during times of extreme turmoil. Marcus Aurelius wrote a bulk of his text while in a campaign, on the field of war. The general suggests that people live one week on stale bread, sleeping on the floor, to realize how little is needed to survive and be happy. People who stop fighting the inevitable and press themselves to imagine the worst are better prepared to deal with them.
Hope is as helpful as a placebo, so our energy must go elsewhere. That is what Candide’s famous excerpt “one must cultivate his own garden” meant. I need to do more gardening and stop looking at vaccine updates. Focus on what’s on my immediate control. To pick up a hobby and dive headfirst into it. To do what is needed, and not be concerned with problems that you have no say on.
Shocking what you can learn from comedy show reruns, isn’t it?