January 21, 2021

Careful What You Wish For

Two newsletters hit my stoop inbox back to back ….

The Stoics Newsletter

You want it. You want it badly. The promotion. To win that higher office. To get called up. To buy that house. To sleep with that person. To have just one free punch at you-know-who.

You want it more than anything and, by god, you’re going to get it. You’re working. You’re scheming. You’re… obsessed. Honestly, what you’re in is a fever dream—a delusion of drive and lust and want.

Epicurus, Seneca’s old favorite, had a way of shaking us out of that sleep. What will it actually feel like to get what you want, he asked, how will you actually feel after? He wanted you to think of the refractory period, the guilt after, not just the few seconds of pleasure. He wanted you to think about all the other times you climbed this mountain or that one—and how anticlimactic it was. He wanted you to talk to and think about other people who have done what you think is going to be so wonderful and really listen to their experiences.

Because what you find, as the Stoics did when they looked at many drives and pleasures rationally, is that like the facts of a dream, it doesn’t all add up. It’s an illusion. It’s based on false assumptions that crumble as soon as you open your eyes.

The Californian Report

On Jan. 8, the surfer Peter Mel rode what surfing publications are calling one of the most glorious waves ever surfed at Mavericks, the fabled Half Moon Bay break. For a moment, he disappeared inside the barrel. Mel called it the best wave he’d caught in 29 years of surfing Mavericks. “It’s weird,” he said. “I feel depressed right now. What do I look forward to now?”


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