Be the Rock
Our world is awash in waves of confusion and capriciousness. It’s like a bowl of chicken noodle soup if the chicken was actually Taleb’s black swan and the noodles were Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. There is just too little stability and too much flux.
Consider the Russian army in today’s chapter. They fight just to retreat. Rearguard actions punctuate the long slog of a miserable march away from the enemy towards relative safety. And, yet, when they are at their most vulnerable, they secure a victory against the French near the bank of the Danube. Suddenly their spirits are lifted.
Prince Andrei Bolkonsky’s certainly are.
Just look at him as he trots along the road to Brünn to deliver a special dispatch from Kutuzov. He fantasizes about promotion and the good feelings the news of Russia’s recent victory will bring to the people of Brünn. But the good feeling is all erased — indeed it’s reversed — when he experiences a cold reception as he delivers the dispatch.
He ends the chapter in a funk, the excitement of the victory in battle now a distant, cold, and fading memory.
The world is an oceanic mess. But our mind is an anchor if we want it to be. So don’t be like Prince Andrei, his emotional state dependent upon a tumultuous external world he cannot control. Don’t be like that. Be more like Marcus:
Be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the raging sea falls still around it.
Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations