“and we learned to let that which does not matter, truly slide.”
- The Narrator
Stoicism, the art of choice and decisiveness. Of being truly realistic.
It is aiming for a target, without caring if you reach it. What matters is that your shooting is getting better.
It’s always having enough, and always wanting more.
It’s removing fear from the equation, and choosing desire and best odds to determine your course.
It is knowing the nature of fate, and knowing how best to play it.
Every choice in life involves the chance of fate. And you cannot control fate.
“No man can call the wind. So knowing, most men simply relax in the sun and wait for it to come. But the man who’s sails are open, who’s eye’s are alert, who’s boat is maintained, and who’s search is unyielding; When the wind arrives, he will catch it. His boat shall take him to a destination of his choosing, while the other men will simply have to see where they end up.”
So, knowing fate to be beyond our control, we look not for certainties, but for odds. We choose what we want to win, and then we take the best odds to getting there.
And along course, fate puts struggle in our way. She guides us up to face fears, and so to either cure them and move on, or cower and die.
And she stumbles us into wonder, into friends who help us out when we fall hard upon a bad bet. Who whisper and shout to us: “Push On!” as our travels and chosen destinies weave us together and apart.
And, when the winds of fate change, and a gust rushes over the waves of life, the man who is ready shall catch on and fight to keep his hold along a speedy and adventurous ride.
Should he fall, as he often will, he will often find that his chosen destination is dramatically closer in sight, and his boat minimally damaged. A short period of maintenance to recover the boat, and once more the man unfurls his sails and watches for the signs that fate is once more presenting him a challenge.
And should his boat be dashed up against the rocks, and suffer significant injury, he will rest on the rocks and heal his own wounds speedily. Then, with a grinning smile of Hakuna Matata and new odds to play on his mind, he will rebuild his boat until it is in minimally viable working order, and unfurl his sales once more.
And should he ride that wind until it dies away, he will use it to better catch the next gust.
This man does not acknowledge fear. He instead chooses to choose his actions based on the best odds he can find for reaching a chosen destination.
He understands that failure to reach a goal is not a failure at all. It is a learning success and a movement closer to the destination. The only true failure he knows, is to quit his dreams of arriving at a new and wonderful destination, and instead choose to save now-useless energy and waste once-invaluable time seeking the odds that are most likely not to loose, instead of most likely to result in a net win.
Many will fall into this lull, forgoing their battle armament for fishing gear, and their elite crew for placid friends. The man sees them as he passes by, inviting him to have a pause and enjoy himself. Sometimes, when he is resting, he willjoin them. He will laugh and love and strive for nothing at all. But he will soon tip his hat to them and leap back upon his ship, with a new map that had been sketched while relaxing, and a recovered crew ready to take on hurricanes.
And into the horizon he goes, chasing new horizons, facing new storms, finding new companions along the way, and re-inventing his ship whenever he sees an interesting opportunity.
No matter what happens, he will have Hakuna Matata. No matter what happens, he will continue sailing towards new chosen destinations, leaving the achieved and explored behind him in memory and bringing along a new improvement for his ship from every past destination reached.
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Thanks, I enjoyed this read :) A modern look at stoicism, one of my favorite guiding philosophies for my life :)
As I may have mentioned before, I am a huge fan of cruises. Although I haven't gone on one yet this year, I usually go on at least one or two every year. Where the cruise actually goes is wholly unimportant to me. Half the time I sleep through the stops anyway, and just stay on the boat. I just like having no cell phone, having great food available 24/7, and sitting on the back of the boat watching the waves.
It takes a certain type of person to enjoy a cruise. Usually that person is an old person. My friend Jonah and I are the two exceptions. I think we've gone on two cruises together, and each time we were the only people remotely close to our age. So much for meeting the hot ladies pirate-style.
On one such cruise we woke up at our usual time - 3pm. The boat was docked in Mexico, and was leaving at 5:30, meaning that everyone had to be on the boat at 5.
This book is undoubtedly most famous today for being the story behind the film Apocalypse Now and really comparisons between the two are inevitable.
The story itself is a story within a story, being related by a sailor on a ship while it is waiting at anchor in the Thames estuary. To pass the time he tells his crewmates of the time he spent several years previously working for a trading consortium in Africa, piloting a boat to the trading station up river to pick up ivory.
His manager is wary of the man who runs the trading station - Mr Kurtz. He believes he is ultimately after his job. It is clear that Kurtz is a very talismanic and polarising figure, some hating him and others talking about him as if he is some sort of deity. The narrator cannot wait to meet him but suffers many delays (including having to repair his boat) before he can set off up river. By the time he does the weight of expectation and anticipation has created his own expectations of what he will find. But what will the reality be?
This is s slim volume, and to be honest a slim plot. But the brilliance is in the telling of the story. Conrad carefully evokes the feeling of the oppressive heat and frustration of not being able to head up the river. But once underway the jungle closes in and is claustrophobic and full of mystery and hidden dangers. The attraction is not in the tale itself but in the way it is told.
By the time the trading post is reached the expectations of Kurtz have been raised in the reader as much as in the narrator and events unfold in an unexpected direction.