|In the original.|
- Epictetus, The Art of Living
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I came upon Epicetus' phrase "the flourishing life" and found the 180 of the fucked life - not simply unfucked, but flourishing. Who doesn't want to flourish? Yet, yet, yet... We don't, do we? We bog ourselves down in circular thoughts that leave us exhausted from trying to find the one unequivocal moment that was true or righteous or damning. We look for stasis, certainty, stability and ignore the everflowing changes in our lives. Because we live we change. Nothing holds its previous shape and yet we fuck ourselves trying to make believe it does.
Happiness is a verb and requires continual improvisation. Brilliant.
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What is it in us that wants to go backwards, that wants things to remain as they were, that fears the constancy of change? Epictetus' forerunner, Heraclitus, tells me I can't step into the same river twice and yet I have spent too much of my life trying to do just that: stop time. I wanted my father to live again; I wanted the love of one remarkable woman to return again; I wanted to return to the moment before the wheels came off so I could bolt them on and so on and so on and so on. Death, the loss of love, mistakes are all benign plagues that exist externally, in our outward lives. The malignant plague is how we internalize those outward events and judge ourselves sorely because we could not hold off our beloved's death, the end of love, our inherent fallibility. This is to cease improvising and instead devote time and energy to living in the one moment where we imagined ourselves whole. By doing so we forever exclude any chance at wholeness, at happiness, at a flourishing life.
Snap out of it. Forgive yourself, but for fuck's sake, snap out of it.
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I still dream of my father. The other night I saw him standing in the backyard of the home I grew up in. I was in my childhood bedroom looking out the window, and there he was smiling, laughing, tending to his fat, black Weber kettle. I still dream of the remarkable woman. The same night as my father's dream I was running through a school built like an Escher labyrinth. I escaped, but had to get back in to retrieve something. When I got there she emerged from behind a closed door, grabbed my arm and pulled me into her classroom. I still dream and in my dreams I am called to let go, all is well now, hush, close your eyes, my best beloveds are still with me, bred in my bone, informing each gesture and choice. They are gone only in the external world; they exist as part of who I am now. Their lesson is ancient: you can't step into the same river twice, but that doesn't mean you can't enter the stream and be carried by the currents that flow through you.
That is the flourishing life.
That is the life improvised to address the tasks set before it.
That is the life worth having.
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Unfuck yourself and live before you die.