You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. -Marcus Aurelius
At around 5:30 in the evening on Dec. 10, 1914 Thomas Edison was informed that his factory in West Orange, New Jersey was in flames. Upon arriving on the scene with his 24-year-old son Edison quickly realized that much of his life’s work was indeed burning to the ground.
After gazing at the fire for a few more minutes Edison turned to his son and calmly asked, “Where is your mother?” Wracked with anxiety his shaken son replied, “I don’t know.” Edison immediately responded, “Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.”
After seeing his son’s bewilderment, Edison explained, “Don’t worry. It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”
Now, as you may already know, Edison would go on to rebuild his campus… barely missing a beat. In fact he started the very next day. Put another way, instead of sulking and falling into despair Edison took control of what he could… namely his perception of the situation followed by immediate action.
Along these same lines, Epictetus, the great Stoic Philosopher, once explained, “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not.”
I’ve been doing my best to keep the story of Edison’s fire and how the Stoic’s encourage us to keep our emotions in check no matter the situation. Now, obviously, this is far easier said than done but I think it’s worth the effort.
So the next time you get to the store and realize you forgot your wallet don’t fret or get upset. It won’t help. Really. It won’t. Just go home and get your wallet and go back to the store.
And the next time some guy (or gal) cuts you off in traffic and you want to send a few “hand signals” their way… let it go. Heck, say a prayer for the guy (or gal). You have no idea what’s happening in their life. Perhaps one of their loved ones just died and they’re rushing to be with family. You really don’t know.
Now, obviously, words are easy to type and I often wonder how I’d react to real tragedy. Would I be like Epictetus, Edison, and most especially, Our Lady? Or would I crumble?
I’d like to think I’d be the former… but, only God knows. So, for now, I’ll do my best to practice self-control, discipline, and mastery as best I can in everyday life. And I’ll also continue to ask our Lord to make me strong and to make me holy in the event I am faced with real adversity. I’d invite you to do the same.
Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!