Sunday morning Stoic: Past and future have no power over you

Meditations 8.35-36:

“35. We have various abilities, present in all rational creatures as in the nature of rationality itself. And this is one of them. Just as nature takes every obstacle, every impediment, and works around it—turns it to its purposes, incorporates it into itself—so, too, a rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.

36. Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand, and ask, “Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?” You’ll be embarrassed to answer. Then remind yourself that past and future have no power over you. Only the present—and even that can be minimized. Just mark off its limits. And if your mind tries to claim that it can’t hold out against that … well, then, heap shame upon it.”

“Turn each setback into raw material” for your use. Convert obstacles into fuel. Welcome bad luck and bad news as if you chose them to somehow make yourself more awesome.

But remember that the past is gone, and we can’t even remember it exactly as it was. And the future is only in our imagination. Both are phantoms, unreal, empty.

The present is all any of us ever have. Face it with full attention, no matter what obstacles you may see in it. It’s manageable and, when fully inhabited and embraced, can be magnificent.