April 22, 2021

Keeping Your Composure

Over at Brainpickings, Maria Popova writes about accepting reality and setting your expectations accordingly. Though most of the piece is focused on passages from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, she also offers lessons in equanimity from Walt Whitman, who had to reset his outlook in the face of a debilitating stroke.

He spared himself the additional self-inflicted suffering of outrage at how his body failed him — perhaps because, having proclaimed himself the poet of the Body and the poet of the Soul, he understood the two to be one. He squandered no emotional energy on the expectation that his suddenly disabled body perform a counterpossible feat against reality to let him enjoy his beloved tree workouts and daily excursions to the river. He simply edited his expectations to accord with his new reality and sought to find his joy there, within these new parameters of being. (emphasis mine)

Whitman, an unabashed lover of nature, lost much of the freedom that had been afforded him to enjoy it, after his stroke at the age of 53. He was forced to move from his home in Washington to live with his brother in New Jersey. Although he regained some of his abilities over time, the event changed his perspective and allowed him to see continue to see meaning and purpose even within the constraints he was given. I like the phrase parameters of being” as it implies the life that must be lived within those constraints.

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