What did you expect?

On Sunday mornings, college cafeterias across the country are filled with groans and complaints such as, “It feels like I am being kicked in the brain by somebody wearing golf spikes!” and “I woke up in a puddle. A puddle of what exactly, I am not sure.” And for each of these complaints there is a retort: “You drank (so many shots/cans/glasses) of (tequila/beer/absinthe) last night, what did you expect?”

However, drinking is but one of the many circumstances in which people fail to properly consider the natural consequences of their actions. Everything that people do is attended by a whole slew of possible (and therefore, expect-able) consequences. One ought to anticipate these ahead of time so that he is not upset or surprised when they happen. For example, Epictetus recommends that “if you are going to bathe, picture to yourself the things which usually happen in the bath[house]: some people splash the water, some push, some use abusive language, and others steal.”  As unpleasant as being splashed, pushed or robbed are, one can avoid being bothered by simply accepting that these things happen and are beyond control.

Beer of the Week: Black Beer Stout – This is another Korean attempt to branch out from pretty bad adjunct lagers. Black Beer Stout is a “Lager Type” dark beer “From German Dark Roasted Malt.” The head is attractive, but fades quickly. It is not quite black, but it is pretty dark, with some amber showing when the beer is held to light. The flavor, body and smell are all pretty weak. There is some coffee bitterness in the aftertaste that is reminiscent of  Guinness. One should not be perturbed if he finds that Black Beer Stout is not to his liking, after all, what could one really expect?

Reading of the week: The Handbook of Epictetus, Chapter 4 – Some things are out of one’s own control. Epictetus asserts that these things can in no way harm a man. Only one’s perception of things can hurt him. If one is splashed or robbed, he need only understand that such things happen and are beyond his control, and he will be at peace. This advice is certainly difficult to follow, but if it is possible, it seems to be the key to true peace.

Question of the week: If one thinks that being splashed is more than he can bare calmly and without being perturbed, should he avoid the bathhouse, thereby exercising some measure of control over whether or not he is splashed?

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2 Comments on “What did you expect?”

  1. Jakie's mom says:

    Quite right – there are intended and unintended consequences to our actions. To say that they exist and we can do no more than accept them seems pretty, well . . . weak. Why not adopt an attitude of the future belongs to those who prepare for it. You don’t want to get robbed at the bathes. . . get a locker.

    • I think that stoicism properly understood is not simply a “do-nothing fatalism.” The bath is an intentionally mundane example to show that bad things will happen no matter WHAT you do. There is no surefire way to prevent being splashed if you go to the bathhouse just as there is no sure way to keep your wife from getting hit by a car. That doesn’t mean that you should stop trying things or that you should not take any precautions, only that when bad things do happen (as you know they will) you must focus first on “keep[ing your] mind in a state conformable to nature.” The person who can do that IS the person who is “prepared for the future.”


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