You can bind up my leg, but not even Zeus has the power to break my freedom of choice.”
Epictetus, Discourses, 1.1.23
Allow me to start, dear reader, by extending an invitation to approach today’s blog with the hope of coming away with the ability to see your own potential for resolve, possibility to endure, and power over your own mind.
Additionally, and for the sake of transparency, I’m an almost-50 yr. old white guy living in privileged America writing about the ability to be strong in the face of things I’ve never faced… and yet, in this year long exploration into Stoicism, this is today’s topic, and here I am.
Finally, I want to recognize that while I am active in un-weaving the systems that have kept so many of my fellow citizens oppressed and diminished, I am certainly the recipient of the privileges that they and their forebears have, and are paying for.
With that being said, let us begin… with a breath… for the work ahead can be triggering.
Slavery, captivity, non-consensual bondage… so many more categories… seemingly endless…
When we take a moment to consider any and all who have been held captive, that “moment” grows quite long, very quickly. Individuals and groups held locked and bound are within our religious histories, cultural histories, national histories, near histories, and those long past. In addition, our personal histories are deeply intertwined with the privilege-dynamic, idea, and experienced, lived-truths of “dominion over others”, whether we want them to be or not.
For those who didn’t or won’t make it through those impossible times, may any merit these words, and any consequential actions generate, be yours that you may find peace knowing that there are those trying to make right what was once made wrong.
For those who do make it through the hardest of those times, they are to be held aloft as the strongest of us, with the greatest of Wisdom to help guide us all beyond the circumstances it cost us to attain said wisdom.
Epictetus, the late Sen. John McCain, James Stockdale, Nelson Mandela, and countless others… all physically damaged through their imprisonment or time enslaved. They took away limps, respiratory issues, and myriad other ailments and conditions, but…
… what stayed intact, as if adamantine in nature, were their personal natures, and individual commitments to not being broken in mind or spirit, even though they be broken in body.
That’s some real superhero stuff, right there. Real. Superhero. Stuff.
So, I suppose what I’m coming away with after my “moments” of philosophical contemplation on the woes and personal-strengths of others (gotta’ call it what it is, y’all) is that even in the worst of circumstances, we must remember and hold dear as if it were our very breath, the adage: Our freedom to choose can only ever be surrendered.
(See y’all tomorrow)