The Implacable Governor
Anger governs all Denisov does today. This implacable governor furnishes him with a face as surly as the muddy sky above, orders him to lash his horse in unwarrantable frustration, and even denies him the pleasure of enjoying the refreshment of reunion with an old friend, one of the few reliable wellsprings of good cheer that we have. The tragedy is that Denisov freely elects anger to exercise its unsocial power over him.
Anger campaigns on thoughtless reaction to negative impressions. In Denisov’s case anger stumps on a few key issues: His horse’s swerve to avoid a puddle causing him to bump his knee on a tree. The rain. The hunger. Dolokhov’s failure to return with a captive officer from the nearby French transport. Denisov yields to the impression that all this is bad.
Note, however, that each impression is born of an event outside the sphere of Denisov’s control. The horse obeys its own counsel. The weather follows its own laws. The demands of warfare preclude eating that morning. He doesn’t even know where Dolokhov is right now, much less what that man is doing. Denisov is plucking after fugitive fruit if he desires any outcome other than what nature provides in these instances.
The human mind is a parliament with a fusion of powers. We can choose to populate it with the virtues of acceptance and endurance, those great friends of freedom, or, like Denisov today, we can slavishly cede it to the cruel tyranny of anger.
The value you place on an external object, whatever it may be, makes you subservient to another.
Epictetus, The Discourses