Party Like a Stoic

You ought when you are alone to call this condition tranquility and freedom, and to think yourself like the gods; and when you are with many, you ought not call it a crowd, nor trouble, nor uneasiness, but festival and assembly, and so accept all contentedly.


This is a great weekend quote. I might go to dinner with my wife tonight, meet some friends, drink a few pints. I'll probably head over to 30th Street to do this. 30th is, after all, the best place to find good food and great beer in San Diego. Chances are a lot of other people will also be heading to 30th Street pubs this Saturday night. That said, am I going to get frustrated when I can't find a table right away? Will the bar be "too loud" for me? If so, whose fault would that be? Mine.


What did I expect? Saturday evening crowds are predictable and few pubs employ the library "shhhh" against their patrons. So why enter a situation with expectations that are contrary to nature? What does that accomplish? I'm intentionally generating my own stress and decreasing my enjoyment of the night! So the smart move is either to not go to the pub, or to change my attitude.


What I like about Epictetus (and all of Stoicism) is that he doesn't ask me to avoid the pub, or any other place, just because it might not perfectly suit me. Instead, I'm asked to revise my approach to the pub. It isn't the Saturday night crowd that's causing my stressful emotions, it's my opinion of that crowd. Why not enjoy the energy that's in the room? Why not accept that others can laugh loudly with their friends, wouldn't I laugh with mine?


Sometimes we want to create a perfectly comfortable environment for ourselves. That's understandable. For instance, I love my apartment. It's filled with things I truly enjoy. But if my tranquility and joy are dependent on how much comfort my environment gives me, I'm going to live a small life. Stoicism encourages me to thrive everywhere, to find joy at all times. Tonight I might find it in a noisy pub...even before the beer kicks in.