Being Free from Perturbation Pt. 3
Followup to: Being Free from Perturbation Pt. 1 and Pt. 2
When Xerxes crossed the Hellespont on his way into Greece, the river surged up and destroyed the bridges he’d spent days building. And so he threw chains into the river, lashed it and branded it with irons. In preparation, he wrote a letter to a nearby mountain warning it that if it caused him the same trouble he’d “topple it into the sea.” How comical is that? More than that, isn’t it pathetic? I like Marcus’ line that “Why should we be angry at the world–as if the world would notice?”
You can fight and fight and fight and struggle but you’ll never change the fundamental nature of things–that you are a person and the world is an enormous, goalless entity that doesn’t care about you or your well being. And neither do other people.
That’s not to say you can’t thrive in it, or that it doesn’t want you there–(it doesn’t care either way) but you’ll never change that. Perturbation, remember, is interruption or disorder. How can you be interrupted if you aren’t speaking when something else is trying to talk? And how can you have disorganization forced upon you if you’ve already embraced simplicity? Just breathe, and cede control. It’s not just a business strategy, it’s a lifestyle.
Of course, this isn’t easy either. The idea that you should relinquish a little to something bigger than yourself is almost antithetical to you’re “supposed to do.” But I found that when things start to get tumultuous–when I feel like a blowup might be coming or I might be close to fucking up–it goes away when I just stop doing. It’s not encouraging for the ego to understand that problems resolve themselves better without your help but if it works, it works. Try it. Just take 24 hours off from trying; don’t email, don’t call, don’t express your opinion on anything and see if your position gets better or worse. That is ceding control. That is the world (your world) telling you that it doesn’t need you as much as you think.
Seneca, a hypocrite too, wrote “What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend.” Beginning. It is a process. One of ceasing to be your enemy and starting to be your ally. That means abandoning the things that make you feel like you’re “helping” in exchange for the true focus on the things that actually produce results.
“Disdain the things you cannot have.” Learn to laugh at the things you hate rather than screaming at them–at lashing the water in a river. How well you teach the world a “lesson” in one instance doesn’t transfer over to another, just like the mountain wasn’t deterred by punishment of the Hellespont. All I have is me. Does it infuriate me that someone takes up two parking spots by themselves instead of pulling all the way to the edge of the curb? Of course, but all I can do is to not make that error myself. I hate it when people are late so I am almost always on time. I’ve shown them the respect that even if they don’t return it, allows me to respect myself. And I certainly note the transgression. It doesn’t make them anymore on time if I sit their and grind my teeth in rage as I wait. I’m the one who becomes miserable, I am the one that loses.
So I think freedom from perturbation comes most simply from getting rid of the things you can be perturbed about and from understanding how minuscule you are in the midst of all the things around you. And to understand that not only can no one else hear the things going on inside your head, but if they did, they wouldn’t care because they’ve got their own voices too. All you have then is to be consistent to yourself–to have your actions align with your principles. Then you remove the dissonance that comes from internal and external contradiction; this has to be the first step towards peace and calmness.
This piece reminds me of story that was just recently told to me by my karate instructor.When he was younger he used to solve most problems by a punch in the face or by some sort of direct confrontation. This of course led to great inner frustration if he couldn’t right the wrong in his way, say if some random said something they shouldn’t have and he never got the chance to put them down.
One day when he was talking to a local priest who knew his rep (he grew up in a small community) the priest asked him what’s the point of getting angry? By fretting and getting frustrated over that one person who pissed him off for some random reason he’s essentially losing. That person will go on with his day and that earlier incident will not even cross his mind, while his mind will be repeating the event over and over and festering those negative emotions for not “coming out on top”. Thus the same event which at this point is spilled milk, begets nothing more than a casual occurrence for one person and for the other it causes a whole bout of festering negative thoughts.
So the moral of the story is to train yourself to let it go. Like you said the world will keep going no matter if you’re angry, happy or sad. By feeding your ego to constantly teach the world a lesson is not the best use of your energy. Instead of guiding that energy towards things you cannot change it’s better to let go and channel it towards yourself rather than outside yourself.
This is a series of posts that you should repost at least once a year. I think far too many people (myself included) get caught up in being perturbed based on the actions of others. This is the cold glass of water to the face that I’ve needed. Thank you.
Or in my case, once every month or so…
I liked these series of posts/blogs. They seemed to be a nice mixture of Viktor Frankl and Fight Club.
I saw a film a couple of nights ago, Revolver. Not a great film but the idea behind it, is really what saved the film. The premise was that “if you change the rules on what controls you, you can change the rules on what you can control”. The movie argued that your greatest enemy is usually yourself and not your perceived enemy, the outside world.
I think these ideas tie into what your talking about when you say “Learn to laugh at the things you hate rather than screaming at them–at lashing the water in a river”.
I think the movie and your point about learning to laugh really shows how happiness is in our own hands. We decided what effects us and how we see the world. We have the power to be happy or sad.
“I am the happiest man alive. I have that in me that can convert poverty into riches, adversity into prosperity, and I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.”
Sir Thomas Browne