Good Morning DHS.
It has been a busy week but I wanted to get something out to you guys so I'm writing now. I've had a few enlightening conversations, emails, and feedback surveys from students this week. It is great how much I learn from you all but at the same time it is humbling to find out limited my power is to always help in the ways I would like. But I promise to keep trying to do what I can. Yesterday I was in meetings all day at the district office so I didn't get a chance to see many of you, but inshallah today is a different story. I was reading Epictetus this morning and this rang true:
"Remember that it's not only the desires for wealth and position that debases and subjugates us, but also the desire for peace, leisure, and travel. It doesn't matter what the external thing is, the value we place on it subjugates us to another..... where our heart is set, there our impediment lies."
My grandfather used to paraphrase something Epictetus said with his definition of a poor person. He would say that a poor person is just someone who wants more than they have. This was to emphasize that a person could be "poor" even when living in luxury. Leisure, travel, wealth, and peace can all be good things. But Epictetus is saying that even without these things you can be at peace in the present if you focus back on what you can control. What do you control now? Your outlook and how you go about living each day. I have never been a person who counted down days until vacation. Because what that implies is that everyday until my vacation is worth less the vacation days. So whether I'd realize it or not I'd be sending my brain the signal "just get through these next 9 weeks, then life will be good." So I don't.
My grandfather by all accounts has always been a gregarious person, easy to laugh and make others laugh. He grew up in the Jim Crow south, depression era, fought in war, and faced a host challenges that many of us never will. How do you keep a smile on your face and some peace in your heart with all that going on around you? He would tell me what Epictetus would say, we can only focus on what we can control. Namely this is our own thoughts, how we interpret the outside world, and how we choose to behave. Things external aren't necessarily bad unless I allow them to adversely effect my character and/or my equanimity for any extended period of time. Try it for a day. Whatever happens today ask yourself if this is something that is in your control or outside of it. If it is outside of your control, leave it alone. Focus only on what is your own. See if it helps.
Next message update: Question: " Why are kids so mean these days?" Ok...I don't think they are any meaner than they used to be, they just have social media now which gives them more free reign to say impulsive and inelegant things publicly. Adults have the same problem. Caldwell theory: People only want to be mean to others if they are hurting themselves and dealing with insecurities they haven't worked out. If you're actually doing ok, you don't have the desire to make others feel bad. More on this next week.
As always the advice is free and you don't have to take it.