In my Stoic readings this morning I was struck with a passage from Epictetus' writings... "THE man who is unrestrained, who hath all things in his power as he wills, is free; but he who may be restrained, or compelled, or hindered, or thrown into any condition against his will, is a slave. "And who is unrestrained?" — He that desires none of those things that belong to others. "And what are those things which belong to others?" — Those which are not in our own power, either to have or not to have. - EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1, ¶14."
In my response to this passage I wrote... "When I set my sights on my
"neighbour's stuff" I actually voluntarily give away my freedom. I am
now constrained by my desire to have the thing that my neighbour has or
to work towards acquiring an equivalent to what they have. I enslave myself to the need to devote resources, time, ambition, etc. in the acquisition of said "prize".
If I can be content with what I have and what the universe gives me, I
can acquire freedom from the constant need to acquire new and better
things, the plague of Affluenza that is infesting our planet on a daily
To be content with what I have, be thankful and mindful
of the blessings in my life, to practice gratitude and be at peace, that
should be my goal in this life. This goal is ever present and I need to
be ever vigilant in my pursuit of this goal.
Whether it be the
pursuit of things or of someone else's "vision", "path" or "purpose",
we lose sight of our own purpose when we try to conform our individual
life to the shape of someone's lifestyle. We lose our own light when
we attempt to live in another's shadow."
My last sentence struck me as exactly what happens in so many lives and in my own as well. We dim our own individual lights, the gift that we are to the Universe, when we live in other people's shadows. I think this process probably starts at an extremely young age. The first time we see a sibling or relative that has a talent for something, or owns something, and we set our sights on having it. We begin to warp our own identities, our own special individuality, into something that can "have" that quality or item that we have set our sights on desiring. This continues through school and into high-school where the "peer pressure" becomes an almost palpable thing. A festering monster that stalks the hallways of high-schools around the globe with its siren call to conformity and the "good life".
The monster of conformity and comparison continues to plague us through our early adult life, the post secondary school choices, the career choices, the debt choices (often incurred to fuel our need for what others have), the purchases at the behest of the advertising machine. We are slowly remade and warped into an image of what we desire. We are plagued and beset by our desires in our lifestyle choices, often overworked, in debt and a prisoner to the Affluenza that infests our planet.
People throughout the centuries have fought to combat conformity and this overwhelming grasping desire to have what others have and live the lives that others live. These people have been a dim light in an otherwise dark world of whatifs and wants. The small house movement, the minimalist movement, the 4 hour work week, etc. are all examples of modern day attempts to break away from the shadow of society. These are movements that encourage living outside of the box of normality, to be modern day Thoreaus and retreat to our own personal Walden of debt-free, "stuff" free living.
I know that I am going to personally examine my life to see what I am holding on to. What in my life, whether it be ideals, "stuff" or the need to belong/conform, is causing my own Light to be extinguished... to find the purpose that I was born for. To become a fully self-actualized ME and to let my light shine out like a lighthouse on a hill breaking forth through the darkness of society. A beacon of hope for others who also seek to find a higher wattage for their own personal lights.
I will not allow myself to continue to extinguish my own light while living in the shadows of someonelse's idea of the "ideal life". Perhaps by my own venturing forth I can be an example of how to shed some of the layers of darkness. When I break forth and shine I can be an example of "how" to accomplish this for my fellow travelers in this life. Stay tuned to this channel for more blogging and thoughts from a Stoic woman in pursuit of her own personal Light.