Calm Self-Sufficiency


Life is like the weather—everyone has his troubles, disappointments, rebuffs,
You’ve got to take what comes, adapt to circumstances.
Nature has not only endowed me with immense emotionality but immense placid resignation to what happens;
I have a good deal of the feeling of Epictetus and stoicism, or try to have,
(But I am clear that I include and allow and probably teach some things stoicism would frown upon and discard.)
Epictetus’ “Description of a Wise Man”:
All his desires depend on things within his power.

I don’t have any blue spells,
My theory is that it’s mostly in oneself one gets blue, and not from outside circumstances,
It is in oneself and not from outside one suffers unhappy hours.
It is not so much the little misfortunes of life themselves, as the way we take them and brood over them, that causes the trouble. The more one yields to them the frequenter and stronger they get. One soon falls into the habit of getting low spirited or depressed and moody—if a man allows himself, he will always find plenty to make him so—until at last they take complete possession of a fellow. See if you can’t wrestle, throw them, and keep ’em thrown.

Whatever happens, in such ups and downs, you must try to meet it with a stout heart,
Try and put a brave face against everything that happens,
Cast aside all irritating thoughts and recollections, preserve a cheerful mind, (and provide, in reason, for rain and snow,) and you can make it all go pretty well,
That is the main part of getting along through the toil and battle of life—and it is a good deal habit.

In this life, which is itself a continual fight with some form of adversary or other, the aim should be to form that solid and adamantine fibre which will endure long and serious attacks upon it, and come out unharmed from them, rather than the ability to perform sudden and brilliant feats, which often exhaust the powers, without doing any substantial good.

The quality of being able to endure any quantity of blows and bruises, and hold out toughly under them, is what most tells—
As long as the Almighty vouchsafes you health, strength, and a clear conscience, let other things do their worst.
Bold and strong invocation of suffering—
O the joy of suffering! To find how much one can stand!
He wins who can best stand grief.

To find how easily one can abstract his identity from temporary affairs, the trick is, I find, to make much of negatives—
What is this small thing in the great continuous volumes everywhere?
This is but a temporary portion, not to be dwelt upon, not to have prominence, not to distress.
Of the occasional ridiculous little storms and squalls of the past, I have quite discarded them from my memory,
Finding my occupation, poverty, notoriety, foibles, crimes, less important than I thought—
The depths of qualities and things are fathomless, and therefore calm.

I fancy I should take it very quietly if I found myself in the midst of a desperate conflict,
To these proud laws of the air, the water, and the ground, proving my interior soul impregnable.
I, elate, saw with wonder, yet pensive and masterful, all the menacing might of the globe uprisen around me,
Yet there with my soul I fed, I fed content, supercilious,
Aplomb in the midst of irrational things, imbued as they, passive, receptive, silent as they.
I swear I will not be outfaced by irrational things,
I will penetrate what it is in them that is sarcastic upon me,
And nothing exterior shall ever take command of me.

Men can be good or grand only of the consciousness of their supremacy within them,
That something in the soul which says, rage on, whirl on, I tread master here and everywhere,
Master of nature and passion and death, and of all terror and all pain.

I say to any man or woman, Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard!
These shows of the east and west are tame compared to you
,
These furies, elements, storms, motions of nature, throes of apparent dissolution, you are he or she who is master or mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over nature, elements, pain, passion.
Nothing that happens—no event, rencontre, weather, etc.—but it is confronted,
Nothing but is subdued into sustenance—
Such is the marvellous transformation from the old timorousness and the old process of causes and effects.
To meet life as a powerful conqueror,
Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.

O to be self-balanced for contingencies,
To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as the trees and animals do,
O for the satisfaction and aplomb of animals, moving serenely over the earth, teaching content;
I think I could turn and live awhile with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
One must be contained within himself or herself—otherwise the world is all in vain.

O for the swiftness and balance of fishes,
I will see if the fishes and birds are to be enough for themselves, and I am not to be enough for myself;

O to have the feeling today or any day, I am sufficient as I am!
(The consequent meanness of me should I skulk or find myself indecent, while birds and animals never once skulk or find themselves indecent.)

Must all then amount to but this?
Must we barely arrive at this beginning of us?—and yet it is enough, O soul;
O soul, we have positively appear’d—that is enough.
I exist as I am, that is enough,
Enough merely to be! enough merely to live! enough to breathe!
To be at all—what is better than that?
To be is just as great as to perceive or tell,
Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave, let him know that he has enough.

Outline sketch of a superb calm character:
His emotions are complete in himself irrespective of whether his friendship, etc., are returned or not,
His analogy is the earth, complete in itself,
He grows, blooms, like some perfect tree or flower in nature, whether viewed by admiring eyes, or in some wild or wood entirely unknown.

My immediate acquaintances, even those attached strongly to me, secretly entertain the idea that I am a great fool not to “make something” out of my talents and out of the general good will with which I am regarded. Can it be that some such notion is lately infusing itself into me also?

I will no more trouble myself about recognition,
Not take the position of one wanting compliments,
(This must be real, because if the wanting compliments exist it will show out somehow.)
I have no wish to lift myself above breathing air, and be specially eminent or attractive,
I am not quite such a fool as that.
I say to my own greatness, Away!

I know my book has been composed in a cheerful and contented spirit—and that the same still substantially remains with me,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
For oratory, it is great art in a man to be able to triumph on either side of an argument and get applause. But the highest art is to be able to triumph only on the right side without regard to applause.

I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws do not get excited and run and bawl to vindicate themselves,
The elementary laws never apologize.
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
If certain outsiders stop puzzled, or dispute, or laugh, or rage, very well—
The doctors might all deny the attraction of gravity, and that sublime power would never complain.
(Be you like the grand elemental powers.)

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
I myself make the only growth by which I can be appreciated,
(Poets, inventors, knowers, must themselves make the only growth through which they shall become appreciated,)
I am more resolute because all have denied me than I could ever have been had all accepted me.
I am willing to wait to be understood by the growth of the taste of myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.
My foothold is tenon’d and mortis’d in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.

A holy calm descends like dew upon me,
Floating and basking upon heaven’s lake,
Ever with pleas’d smile I may keep on.

NEXT: DOUBT AND DESPAIR