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I'm a Stoic. I don't give a damn

David Sherman

I’m trying to become a Stoic. It’s a practice like Buddhism or being a Canadiens fan. Stoics accept what they can’t change, keep cool when they can’t do a thing about it. Dat’s life. … And then the tough part -- knowing the difference between the two. …

Excuse me, I’m trying to open this bottle. …

… Stoicism goes back a couple of thousand years give or take a century or three. Why waste blood pressure or even good booze on what’s going on 20,000 kilometres away? Russians and Ukrainians, Israelis and Palestinians, Americans and Yemenites, Lebanese and Iranians, psychos with knives and guns, psychos who push people onto subway tracks, Americans and Taylor Swift.

And the rage and chaos in nooks and crannies of the globe I’ve gratefully never heard of. Hunger, poverty, death is to be human. Friends and family get sick and die. That’s life. Or death.

What am I supposed to do about it? What’s it got to do with me and why shouldn’t I sit back and watch a game and forget about stuff that’s out of my hands? I’m a Stoic. I can handle it. Callused from toenail to thinning hair on a widening forehead.

… Excuse me. It’s the end of the first period and I need some fresh ice. I’ll be right back.

… Little ice takes the sting out but not the bite. Ice I can do something about. If I remember. If not, nothing wrong with a warm drink.

… The other side of this ancient coin? If something’s eating at your spleen and you can change it, go for it. I can fix a leaking tap. I can probably get to a gas station while the fuel warning light glows. If not, that’s why I joined CAA.

I can decide between apples and oranges. I can make an ailing friend chicken soup. I can flirt with the pretty girl behind the bar. If she “accidentally” spills a drink in my lap, that’s life and out of my control.

This philosophy has become the mantra of AA. It translates as, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff.”

So, you can have some control? But, will eating pizza instead of souvlaki change your life? Buying a Mazda instead of a Subaru? Gin or single malt?

Of course, there’s that grey area. Should you have visited a friend while he or she was dying? Would it have made him or her feel better? Or exhaust them? Made you feel better or make you bleed? That’s the last part of the equation -- knowing the difference between what you can change and what you can’t.

… I’ll be right back. Just need another splash of gin. It’s Ungava, made in Quebec. A lot of complex flavours, best cut with a few drops of water, or an ice cube. No tonic. … Where was I?

… Right. Knowing what you can change and what you can’t gives you a mirage of control. They’re union busters so I stopped my morning Starbuck’s habit and I wrote to tell them same. Worked out well. I found a better café and Starbucks is on its knees without my $3 every few days. I can make a difference.

Boeing’s still putting profit over lives. What can I do the FAA can’t? Out of my hands, unless I want to fly, of course, but there’s Airbus. Maybe. Or I can drive. Take a train. Boat. Swim? Stay home and watch the playoffs or the start of baseball season.

Stoics keep cool about this stuff. Besides, not all Boeings crash. One just had a section of its fuselage fall out at 19,000 feet, and no one died. They got a little chilly, I suppose, and maybe recalled a psalm or two.

Another one’s GE engine caught fire soon after takeoff but it was carrying cargo and I guess the pilot was a Stoic. He radioed “Mayday! I’m on fire,” and it landed without anyone roasted, so no reason to get weepy. And a wheel fell of one just as it was about to take off. Shit happens. And now, there are perhaps more bolts to worry about. Not my problem.

Canadians are joining American and British military and a few others to drop bombs on Yemen. Certainly, they’ll call these surgical strikes with missiles smarter than my phone – surgical as in depicting doctors and nurses in scrubs to fix you right up -- but here surgical means fewer people will be blown to fertilizer. If you’re lucky, you can catch a video of fireballs or dead bodies.

I can write to my friend Justin and voice my condemnation of us killing people and our department of defence would salute me and stop doing whatever they’re doing.

… Maybe another splash. …

… No, a true Stoic brushes off the spectre of thousands of dead as easily as wiping sesame seeds from a fresh bagel off your shirt and savours the extravagant flavour of West Coast smoked salmon and wonders why Liberty stopped making cream cheese. Now, I can smear guar gum, Carrageenan, Locust bean gum along with milk ingredients on my bagels but rarely. If I wanted gum there’s Double Bubble. I have a choice.

New studies show West Coast wild salmon is as good as Atlantic farmed salmon but my taste buds don’t agree so I can make a choice and control what I can. But we’re not talking about how the governor of Texas thinks it’s a good idea to shoot migrants, cause after all they clutter streets and destroy property values and are all Hannibal Lector – eaters of human livers -- so, as a newbie Stoic, I can take pride in my ability to know what I can or cannot do or change. No matter what I say or do an asshole will still be an asshole. And if refugees want to eat our livers, they’ll have to wait. I’m using mine.

… Maybe I’ll take a walk in the fresh snow. …

Of course, the tasteless farmed salmon is cheaper than the tasty wild salmon which begs the question of how much choice do I have when I have a choice. But, that’s something the original Stoics didn’t worry about in 1,000 AD.

Stoicism’s adoption by Alcoholics Anonymous is testimony that ignoring the disintegration of the world as we know it, either by climate warming, power-hungry stupidity, environmental pillage, can help keep you sober.

Covid’s making a comeback with about another dozen viruses in the incoming viral tsunami, but masks are bothersome, vaccines are out of style, it’s only a cold unless you’re elderly, young, sick or shit out of luck, so … maybe Netflix.

And what can you do about police shooting Black people in the States, Aboriginal people here, or arresting women for having an abortion while rapists rape with near impunity? She probably should have stayed home behind locked doors and not worn those tight pants and little top. Better yet, been pregnant in the kitchen.

Of course, it’s now impossible for most families to live on one salary but do I have time to worry about that, too? People living in cars, people living in tents, people living on sidewalks. I have a roof and a fireplace and it’s nothing another inch or two of this really good gin can’t fix.

I’ll be right back. …

… If you’re a well-practiced Stoic, you can slice your arm off with a band saw and one arm is better than no arms. What me worry?

But you don’t need AA or anyone else to teach you reading of the day’s inanity makes you want to dull the mind to soothe the soul.

Must be why Quebec government weed shops have a strain with 30 per cent THC, just the right amount to make sure you don’t burn your throat when you fry your brain. …

Let me just light my pipe. … All right, where was I?

Right. …

Uh, I was going to order two shirts online. But, it seems, online retailers usually don’t recycle returns, which are about 25 per cent of sales. Cost too much to clean and repackage, etc., and they don’t want to let you keep it so they give some to charities but throw most in the garbage. Millions of tons of clothes and anything else you can imagine.

Landfill everywhere is final resting place for perfectly good, new everything -- soup to nuts. While people everywhere are doing without. Top of that, much of the stuff is trucked and shipped from a city in China and delivered to our doors. The pollution is mind-boggling while we fret over “recycling” an empty tomato cup to salve our conscience. But, by most accounts, our soup cans, like most everything else we recycle, ends up as landfill in some far away land.

What can I do about it? Being a Stoic, I didn’t buy two shirts. I bought three. I can always return the extra one.

… Maybe another finger of gin.

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