A Note On Discomfort

I’m really tired. It’s been a seriously long week and for reasons I won’t bore you with, I’ve just spent 12 hours on a train. I’m knackered. I’m fed up and I want to go to bed.

I’m writing this on the train and I’m nearly at my final destination (I mean that literally, not in a metaphorical ‘I’m about to die’ way, at least I hope not), and it occurs to me that the rest of my journey might not be plain sailing. Ok, this sounds dramatic but I’ve just read an article about how Trump deals with North Korea and honestly it gave me a fleeting, nightmarish glimpse of an atomic bomb being dropped on London. I said it was dramatic. I realise that N.Korea can’t reach that far but it’s where I live so seemed appropriate. I thought “what if it drops tonight? How will I cope? What will I do? How long might I have to stay up for? How far might I have to walk? How long might it be before I can eat again?” Granted an A bomb is pretty extreme but it could be a car accident, mugging, physical attack, terrorist attack. What would happen if I needed to shift up a gear?

Which brings me back to discomfort. The Stoics, such as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus believed that hardship was good for the soul. I won’t do them the discredit of trying to sum up Stoic philosophy here but it’s well worth looking into.

By choosing to spend days or weeks eating very simple food – or not eating at all – and by wearing rough sacks for clothes, and sleeping outside or in small shacks the Stoics prepared themselves for the hardships they were unable to choose, but which they knew were an inevitable part of life.

Wishing away hardship is pointless because, as I’ve written about before, there’s always something. No matter how much we will it not to be so, there’s always something around the corner that will capsize us if we let it. That’s not to say that I won’t gladly crawl into bed when I get home, but knowing what it feels like to not be able to is a lesson worth learning.

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