Stoicism: No surprises!

“Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, devious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil.”

Meditations (Marcus Aurelius) Book 2

I’ve used this quote before but it’s a good one so I’m returning to it. In these few words you’ll find the essence of what we mean by ‘No surprises’.

It doesn’t mean ‘No changes’ – that really would be dull.

Nor does it mean control everything so you know what’s coming – that would be both impossible and (even if it were possible) entirely counter-productive.

Rather it means that we can understand the nature of the world and of the people who inhabit it. Understand that people are fickle, that misfortune is a very regular occurrence and that we do not need to be surprised by the things we have foreknowledge of.

We may not know precisely who will treat us poorly today, tomorrow or indeed on any other day but we know that someone will – and that’s enough. We also know the ways in which we may be mistreated, at least in general terms and so we can prepare for them ‘thematically’.

We know that misfortune comes in themes. That there are groups of issues that share the same characteristics and we can prepare ourselves to deal with, to cope with these characteristic annoyances in advance.

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