If the internet is to be believed the holidays are not a source of familial reunion and joy but, rather, opening fronts in the culture war. Go ahead and google “holiday political fighting” and you’ll find a distasteful menu of nearly forty million hits to feast upon. It’s not the twelve days of Christmas so much as a double Six-Day War. It doesn’t have to be this way. We, like the young Bezukhov and Rostov characters today, can apply some of the philosophical tools we’ve developed this year to guard against frustration born of disagreement, political or otherwise.
Old Countess Rostov, as we learned yesterday, isn’t the most agreeable person to spend time with. She’s irritable, cantankerous and misinformed. Yet the youth of the household don’t avoid her. They engage her on her own terms. They find contentment not in wishing for the Countess to behave as they want but instead by being content with how she wants to behave.
This can be a difficult task for something as emotionally charged as politics. It can, however, be done. One need only nurture a liberal heart, maintain a degree of epistemological modesty, and exercise mindful toleration.
From Sextus I learned benevolent behavior, disposition, and the example of a family governed in a fatherly manner, and the idea of living comfortably to nature; and gravity without affection, and to look carefully after the interest of friends, and to tolerate ignorant persons, and those who form opinions without consideration: he had the power of readily accommodating himself to all, so that intercourse was more agreeable than any flattery.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations