Remote From Those Bounties
Let’s talk about social media. If you’re anything like me an embarrassingly large part of your day is spent notification watching. Sometimes it seems as if I live for that green circle of Medium, that red box of Facebook, and that bell of twitter. What a rush these things bring. Literally. Science increasingly believes that there is a great hedonic impact from social media born of the dopamine loop created by merely anticipating your next notification. Sometimes this connectivity brings nice things. It’s pleasant, certainly, when you receive a nice note from a friend or stranger. But there is a dark side too. Click on any trending hashtag about religion, race or politics and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The amount of filth and noxious imbecility our fellow citizens share on the internet is enough to sour even the most optimistic person about the prospects of mass participatory democracy.
After reading today’s chapter I’m convinced Prince Andrei Bolkonsky needs to turn off his notifications.
At first glance this may seem an odd sentiment. After all, Prince Andrei is so happy in this chapter. He leaves the Rostov estate with feelings of great joy and purpose. On his way home he even passes by his old oak tree and looks at it in a new light. The summer has dressed it in leafy green bounty and other ornaments of blooming, beautiful summer. What a delight!
The question is where does this newfound, seemingly joyful attitude come from? The answer, obviously, is Natasha. What Andrei is feeling here is the first euphoric throes of love. Which is to say that his sense of happiness is not indigenous to his own soul. It’s actually a foreign invader. As such he has very little control over it.
This is similar to the rush of social media notifications. As such we can expect that perhaps his happiness will not be so long lived. It might even turn sour. If Prince Andrei is to find true happiness, it’s going to have to come from inside his own self. Not from someone or something else.
Myself I kept detached and remote from those bounties, and so Fortune has merely taken them away, not wrested them from me. No one is crushed by adverse Fortune who has not first been beguiled by her smile. Only those who become enamored of her gifts as if they were their own forever, and expect deference because of them, are prostrated by grief when the deceitful and ephemeral baubles abandon empty and childish minds ignorant of every abiding satisfaction.
Seneca, Consolation of Helvia