I was talking through my recent post with a friend who took my stance on relationships as cynical and in itself, self-harming. I disagreed with my friend, because, after all: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The opposite of the stoic rational mind is the irrational repetition of a harmful action.
With this in mind, I thought I’d draw up a list for myself – and others – of things that are in this sense, the definition of insanity. We can see them, exposed for their parts and simply say enough. It’s as simple as:
“If it is not right, don’t do it: if it is not true, don’t say it” – Meditations 12.17
- Drinking red wine and not expecting a hangover. I mean, come on. Every time I think it’s a good idea and then for some reason I’m surprised when it’s not. Simply: avoid merlot.
- Sleeping with someone because it seems like a good idea at the time and expecting things to have no particular consequence. Yet, of course, every time waking up with the sudden fear of a million STD’s and a sense that this will lead to some unexpected circumstance (which it often does). It’s almost as if there’s this sudden detachment of body and mind between two people only to realize and try to rationalize that mistake after. Sometimes it works out ok, sometimes it doesn’t yet it’s never not led to that sudden fear and dread of consequence. Sex always has consequences. While are neither good nor bad in the stoic sense: a product of vice is still a product of vice.
- Staying up late and expecting to be bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning. I did it today. Insanity. I know. Took me a sugar free Red Bull and three coffees to make it through work. What else is there to expect? If you don’t get enough sleep you’ll be tired and the consequences of that have no blame but to the self.
- Falling for someone unavailable and expecting a happy ending (in the conventional sense, I’m speaking). What does it do apart from prove that I – we – are capable of hurting our own feelings? I don’t have an answer for that question yet it seems to be a lesson that needs to be taught repeatedly.
- Expecting people not to act in a shameful or ignorant way. I’ll not my use my words here, but the Emperors: “Whenever you are offended at someone’s lack of shame, you should immediately ask yourself: ‘So is it possible for there to be no shameless people in the world? It is not possible.” – Meditations 9.42. Expecting the impossible to be possible is not a rational thought.
- Expecting independent growth from another without being a positive catalyst. We can only control ourselves, we cannot telepathically try to encourage others not to make daft decisions or expect them to stop being how they are because we would prefer it. When you desire an action to happen, take the action, with virtuousness and kindness. I can’t magically will people to relate to their environment or others in a more productive way despite some strange repetitive expectation.
- Expecting to lose weight and save money yet buy a £3 meal deal everyday on high fat content foods along with sugary mochas whenever chance I get. Everyday I expect myself to act differently, to show some restraint yet I make no active change. Everyday I get a caffeine headache and feel bloated yet expect not to. Is it the expectation or the action that I’m most perplexed by? I have no answers to that.
There’s perhaps more juxtapositions and hypocrisies of the soul I could list for myself. We could be here until the stars go out picking at every weird irrational act of my own character and the human condition. What can you pick out for yourself? What can we both break free from? What can we calmly reflect upon, notice and accept as a part of ourselves to keep in balance with our nature?
“The external things whose pursuit or avoidance troubles you do not force themselves on you, but in a way you yourself go out to them. However that may be, keep your judgement of them calm and they too will stay still – then you will not be seen wither to pursue or avoid.” – Meditations 11.11
Discard the irrational, return to the rational in balance, walking the middle path.