Sunday, June 27, 2010

Caretake This Moment

Caretake this moment.

Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed.

Quit the evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble.

It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now. You are not some disinterested bystander. Participate. Exert yourself.

Epictetus, The Art Of Living

* * *

I was told by a very conservative, very scholarly and very decent man that if I was to more fully understand the work of Viktor Frankl I had to see his work as part of a continuum that begins with the Stoic philosopher's of Rome. I had a bit of Marcus Aurelius and thought I had a foot hold, but the conservative scholar said Frankl's writing more closely resembled Epictetus, wouldn't I agree? I had never heard the name before and mumbled an assent.

Part of the fucked life includes an element of willful ignorance, safely hiding behind the truism that "You don't know what you don't know." For the fucked this is taken as a note written by their mom to excuse them from gym class because Bobby doesn't like to get sweaty at school; it is the end of curiosity, the end of inquiry, the end of looking. It says, because you don't know there is nothing to know.

It isn't possible to know all you need to know at once. Wisdom is accrued. The fucked are usually smart, but never wise. When I was asked about Epictetus and had nothing to say I wrote his name into a notebook I keep near by. I went to the store and bought his works. I read all I could find out about him. I am no scholar, but like the wanderers at the end of Fahrenheit 451, I now "have" Epictetus.

Epictetus was a former slave. He was lame of foot, possibly made so by his servitude. He taught from a school he'd established in northwestern Greece after being exiled from Rome. He never married and in his old age he adopted an orphan and so did not die alone. I mention this because it is easy to dismiss, or not even notice the humanity behind a name like Epictetus. I mention this because his story is our story; I mention this because he died almost 2000 years ago and his work is still alive; I mention this because he is part of a continuum that preceded him and has extended far beyond him - a continuum that now includes me, that now includes you.

* * *

There are some who move through their lives hardly noticing they are alive. Others fear the mystery of consciousness, and others still can neither make head nor tail of the situation they happen to find themselves in. When you don't know, or don't care to know, when you cannot muster the energy to immerse yourself in this one moment, to be present and accounted for, you are fucked. You cannot begin to unfuck your life until you decide otherwise.

Caretake this moment.
Quit the evasions.
Stop giving yourself needless trouble.
It is time to really live.
Exert yourself.
Unfuck yourself.

* * *

The last words in The Art of Living are these:

Give your best and always be kind.

Do that and your life is forever unfucked. Now get to it.


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