It is a fairly regular experience of mine that my expectations about the future fail. And, it is a fairly pervasive failure. Watch–
(Career) I will become a doer of this work and all will be ponies, rainbows, and mild days of blue skies and bunnies…the reality has been good but far harder.
(Family, friendship) I will be be in this, that and the other good social relations with others…and all will be ponies, rainbows, and mild days of blue skies and bunnies…the reality has been good but far harder.
(Hobby) I will dig the earth and produce food…and all will be ponies, rainbows, and mild days of blue skies and bunnies…the reality has been good but far harder.
(Investment) I will invest my savings in stocks and make more of what I have…and all will be ponies, rainbows, and mild days of blue skies and bunnies…the reality has been good but far harder.
(Health) I will maintain a healthy relationship to sugar, sex and reputation…and all will be ponies, rainbows, and mild days of blue skies and bunnies…the reality has been good but far harder.
Let’s move on. There is nothing complete about the above list. I was just getting warmed up! What happened? What continues to happen? What should my experience thus far begin to teach me about the reality that I am if by “am” I want to get at it through effects? I have a tendency. The tendency is to forecast that pursuit of the good will feel good. That is as succinctly as I can put it.
I have not been way off in my estimates of what would be good though late to the aim in some arenas. What I have constantly underestimated is how it would feel to walk toward what is good.
Were I to attempt a repair the first principle I would set out for myself is that the very solution toward repair is bound to appear rosy and cloaked in expectations of feel good aiming at the good! The second principle I would set out for myself is a warning about responding to bad feeling.
We have covered this before, but I cannot stop repeating in the effort to digest more fully. Feeling is information. But so much of the information is about me, not about the reality with which I am interacting. What I learn through the information provided by feeling is about my preferences.
Finally, what I am learning, in mid-life (if I am so lucky), is the most ancient of settled wisdom. Kierkegaard says, in Fear and Trembling, that some things must be learned new in every generation. Thus, the logging of said wisdom in words is no guarantee of it being passed down. But listen to Epictetus and Epicurus expressing what they took to be true over two-thousand years ago:
Epicurus: “To grow accustomed therefore to simple and not luxurious diet gives us health to the full, and makes a man alert for the needful employments of life, and when after long intervals we approach luxuries, disposes us better towards them, and fits us to be fearless of fortune.”
What I am struck by is the modifiability of my feeling states in the phrase “grow accustomed”. My own state of satisfaction or dissatisfaction is a matter of how I have trained my own soul-state.
Epictetus (and this is one of my favorite of his many nuggets): “Don’t seek for things to happen as you wish, but wish for things to happen as they do, and you will get on well.”
Of reader! I do not know what the upper limit of conforming my willing and seeking to deep reality is, but I cannot do anything except bask in the meek thought of my conforming and adjusting to deep reality instead of trying to make it the way I want it. In the former act I am submissive. In the latter sovereign. Wouldn’t it be strange is sovereignty were through submissiveness. In Epictetus’ thought is that my seeking is mine. Thus my satisfaction or dissatisfaction is to some significant degree mine.
Onward with this so far inadequate effort at living well. There is no time for pouting. Best to use available time for observation, collection of data, generalization, formulation of strategy, and action. Onward.