The Accidental Stoics

Man, What the hell have we gotten ourselves into?’ ‘What are we going to do next? We are so screwed, and we have to endure few more years of this ****.’ This was the discussion between me and my friend, ‘M’ (Who is now Dr.M, a Plastic Surgeon) after being burned by an internal assessment during our early undergrad days.

We were dejected about the turn of events in college, that we briefly considered quitting college. We had visions of us roaming free in our bike, exploring the world. (Neither of us owned a bike. And I didn’t even know how to ride a bike then.) Reality soon set in, and those visions were replaced by visions of our parents chasing us with brickbats. We decided going out to eat dinner was a viable, safe and cheap cost-effective alternative.

High on a potent combo of Parota, Salna, and Coke (the Coca-Cola kind, not the Breaking Bad kind) we decided to plan a coping mechanism to endure the rest of painful college years.

We decided that life is made up of two kinds of factors. The M factor, and the F factor. ‘M factor’ is any situation or event, which could be modified by our actions, and when an M factor is encountered, it is worth spending time and effort to overcome it. M stands for modifiable. ‘F factor’ is any situation or event, which is not going to change, no matter what you do, and when an F factor is encountered, it’s best to accept it, suck it up and move on. F stands for ****.

We decided college was truly an F factor, and there was nothing we could do about it. We gulped a few more Parotas, decided to accept college and simultaneously ignore it and ‘live our life’ (whatever that meant for a couple of cash strapped teens in early 2000s).

I had a few credits in my Audible that was about to expire, and I went through a list of book suggestions sent to me, and picked up an audiobook of ‘Meditations by Marcus Aurelius’ which was a compilation from the ‘never meant to be published, personal journals’ of an powerful Roman Emperor from centuries ago. The book was supposed to be rich in ‘Stoicism’, and I thought it would be a good idea to combine the audiobook, with the book ‘The Daily Stoic’ which had a similar theme.

The very first meditation in the book was titled ‘Control and Choice’ and had the following quote.

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.5.4–5

And then the chapter began, ‘The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t. What we have influence over and what we do not.’

I pointed out the similarity between the core Stoic philosophy and our M & F factors, to my better half.

She argued that I’m just making up random stuff.

I argued back that I have mentioned the same M & F factors to her before, to help her, and that our philosophies and stoic philosophies were as similar as ‘Potato, Potahto’.

She wouldn’t have any of it.

In true stoic fashion, I deemed her an F factor (secretly, and silently) and moved on.

I’m gonna send this article link to Dr.M. Soon he is gonna call me and go, ‘Dude, What the ****.’

Cover Image : Photo by Griffin Wooldridge