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I've Been Talking to People I'm Scared of And It's Turning Out Okay. And a Bit About Choice and Who You Are
BE BRAVE FRIDAY AND LIVING HAPPY EXTRA: THE NICE EXPERIMENT
On one of its many posts, The Daily Stoic writes of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, who was a Roman emperor between 161 to 180 AD. He was also a writer and philosopher.
The Stoic writes of Marcus’ decision to be a more chill, more kind emperor,
Marcus saw the “malice, cunning and hypocrisy that power produces,” as well as the “peculiar ruthlessness often shown by people from ‘good families,’” and then he set his goal: he would be an exception to that rule. “Take care not be Caesarified, or dyed in purple,” he wrote, “it happens. So keep yourself simple, good, pure, serious, unpretentious, a friend of justice, god-fearing, kind, full of affection, strong for your proper work. Strive hard to remain the same man that philosophy wished to make you.”
The Stoic then talks about Seneca, another Stoic, who believed that your goals are basically who you want to be.
Your goals create the future you. Your steps toward them mold the current you.
When I talk to writers about the characters they create on the page in their stories, we talk about this a lot. In most books and plays, characters have goals and objectives. They have reasons why they want those goals. The story is about the achieving or not achieving those goals—the emotional journey.
Character on the page is defined by what your character’s goals are, their yearnings, but also in how they go after those goals. Character is defined by actions and dialogue and inner thought, but mostly by action.
Two people might want to be town councilor. That’s the same goal, the same label even to put in the obituary, right? But how they go after it? That’s what defines their character. One might do nothing, just skate on their popularity. One might like every voters’ social media posts. One might go door to door. One might bad mouth the other opponents.
Those choices in how to attain the goal helps define who they are. It’s not just the end result. It’s all the steps and choices and actions to get there.
“Stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions. But make sure you guard against the other kind of confusion. People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time—even when hard at work.” — Marcus Aurelius
This feeds into my BE BRAVE FRIDAY POST from social media yesterday that I’m putting in here so you aren’t horrifyingly barraged by posts from me every single day.
BE BRAVE FRIDAY - THE NICE EXPERIMENT
This year, I've been talking to a lot of people that I used to be a little afraid of.
And it's been?
It's actually been lovely.
People that I was intimidated by, I now message on Facebook.
People that I would stress about seeing because they had no problem telling me uncomfortable truths? We talk on the phone.
People that were so beautiful and confident that I would sort of gawp at and run the other way? We smile and talk now. We make eye contact during meetings when other people are being dorks.
And this? It's kind of a beautiful thing and a lucky thing. It's all just because I stopped being a wimp and started just going into everything I'm afraid of with the goal of being nice no matter what.
Tomorrow is the tenth year anniversary of Richie Havens' death. This man was a talent, an enhancing talent, but also someone who spent a lot of his life making the kind of music that preached love and kindness for each other and the environment.
Next week it will be the tenth anniversary of my little hobbit dad's death. He was no Richie Havens, but he, too, dedicated so much of his time in love and kindness for other people, for the environment, breaking into song or whistling because the music of the world meant a lot to him and was a part of him.
And both of them seemed as if they could be skeptics; they were comfortable and familiar with unease.
And I think both of them believed (at least at some point in their lives) that injustice often came from not taking care of the earth and then not taking care of each other.
Today, I decided (again) that I need to rededicate myself to humanhood - to the hope that I can find a way to see everyone as part of a great, big human system that we are all in together.
There is magic in the earth. But it has to be tended to.
There is magic in humanity. But it has to be tended to, too.
I am tired of enemies. I am tired of thinking in a way that makes other people enemies or the earth, an enemy. I want a world that doesn’t have that, yet I still think that way sometimes. Recently, someone who has some issues and has been kind of mean to me, asked me, “How can you still be nice to me? I don’t understand how you can still be nice.”
It’s the only way I want to be. And, I TOTALLY fail at it sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I am going to stop trying. I want a world of nice, or magic, or tending to, a world where we celebrate each other being brave even when the result is sort of a mess (like my sketch up there).
I can’t control anyone else, but I can at least partially control myself, so I’m going to try.
I’ll call it the Nice Experiment. It’s starting now. Fingers crossed that I'll do okay with hit. Fingers double crossed that people like Havens and my dad are still here, paying homage, creating music with words and thoughts and guitar riffs and hobbit voices (my dad, not Havens) that matter.