[Mis]fortune falls heavily on those
for whom she’s unexpected.
The one always on the lookout easily endures.
(On Consolations To Helvia, 5.3)
There is a story of a Zen Master who has a beautiful prized cup. The master would repeat to himself, ‘The glass is already broken.’ He enjoyed the cup. He used it. He showed if off to visitors. But in his mind, it was already broken. And so one day, when it actually did break, he simply said, ‘Of course.’
This is how the Stoics think too. There is a supposedly true story about Epictetus and a lamp. He never locked his house, and so his expensive lamp was stolen. When Epictetus replaced it, he replaced it with a cheaper one so he could be less attached to it if it was stolen again.
Devastation – that feeling that we’re absolutely crushed and shocked by an event – is a factor of how unlikely we considered that event in the first place. No one is wrecked by the fact that it’s snowing in the winter because we’ve accepted (and even anticipated) this turn of events. What about the occurrences that surprise us? We might not be so shocked if we too time to consider their possibility.
The Daily Stoic:
366 Meditations On Wisdom, Perseverance, And The Art Of Living
Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman