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On Stress

Stoic meditation with reference to being homeless. Written to myself at a particularly low point; like many, I take comfort in considering how things could be worse.

All around I see stress. Consider: does it really matter whether you achieve fame, fortune, and success? Luxuriously but uneasy rests the crowned head, if its heart be not made of stone. How could it be otherwise? You’d have to be indifferent to your duties to rest easy; would you not worry, What do other people make of my accomplishments? Am I truly the most fit for the duties, of all the myriads on this globe? That you do your best does not really matter—the innocents still suffer. What do you owe to others? They have debts of their own. What guilt do you have? We are all of us descended from survivors, which is to say, the most prolific murderers. To bring justice once and forever would require tracing the twisted skeins back to the beginning, and when we had reached it, we might find we had gone nowhere at all.

To those who contend with shadows and fret their life away, I offer this thought:

Life does not require as much as you think it does. Your life does not need these foolish agglomerations of chemicals and clods—this microwave, this cheesecloth; it does not need that shoe horn nor does it need the comb over there. You can live perfectly adequately without lipstick; and chewing gum leaves you no different than before.

Remember always: you chose this. Of all the choices proffered, this was the one you chose, and which you have kept on choosing. This too was once but only one of the things you hoped would come to pass. Any month, any day—nay, this very second, you are offered anew that choice.

You may say, ‘But I must continue with my job, with my schooling—else be put outwith, to perish in the elements.’ This is a false dichotomy: you deny your freedom. Consider: 1000 dollars suffices to procure an inexpensive car, and perhaps a month or several’s judicious use of fuel; thus, you have your shelter from the elements (and a remarkably comfortable one your ancestors would adjudge it). This is a few months ill-paid drudgery, and not an exceptional sum.

Similarly, it is not required of you that you dine at fine restaurants night and day—merely that you live in reasonably (but not optimally) good health. Do you refuse to eat cheap staples like beans and rice? Fine then, consider the rhetorical trope of “retirees eating dog food”! A 50-lb bag of dog food will last you around 17 days (assuming you eat quite a bit every day); that, potable water (freely available), and a large multivitamin (around 100 days). The food would be around $20, the multivitamins amortized over several 17-day periods perhaps $3, and then an indeterminate amount for gas; let us put expenses at perhaps 30 dollars. A single soda bottle can be redeemed for ¢5, so to cover your expenses would require the redemption of 600 cans, or 36 cans a day, or 2.25 cans per waking hour. Is this a onerous task?

Do you wish entertainment? Patronize your local library, or finally write that novel (does no inspiration strike? Then write your autobiography, for even the dull and ignorant have stories to tell).

This life is not your life, but it could be—never deny that.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

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