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Honey Girl Books and Gifts humor meditation retirement wisdom work

a zinger about ambition, from Seneca (ca. 4 BC-AD 65)

Reading Seneca this morning, I had the feeling of being with a shrewd friend who was laughing at me! And I had to laugh along, because there was a lot of truth in what he said.

“We commonly give the impression that the reasons for our having gone into political retirement are our disgust with public life and our dissatisfaction with some uncongenial and unrewarding post. Yet every now and then ambition rears its head again in the retreat into which we were really driven by our apprehensions and our waning interest; for our ambition did not cease because it had been rooted out, but merely because it had tired–or become piqued, perhaps, at its lack of success.” Letter LVI, p. 111-112, in Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, ed. Robin Campbell (Penguin ed., 1969.

HA! just see all those books on my bibliography about Buddhism, alternative economies, compassion, and “letting go” etc., as contrasted with the exuberant posting when I made a sale on Etsy! We are all the same.

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art creativity design wisdom

Day 35, create your own merit, again and again

Hello,

Today is grey and rainy, and after reading Vanessa Friedman’s article about face masks in the style section of the New York Times, I was feeling like a loser. The prices I charge  are well below market, I realize (not to mention all the ones I give away for free), even though mine are made by hand with great care and the finest fabrics. I am not selling them on-line or paying for advertising, but getting the word out on local blogs, and focusing on the neighborhood where I live and my fellow Seattlelites. Some friends have sent in orders, and I was encouraged to submit a bid for 50 masks yesterday: I have so much business that I’ll be wrapped up in face-mask production well into the month of June! Yet I wonder how long I can or want to go on doing this?  (I have to admit it is tiring and hard on the back!) Thus the suspicion, awakened by Friedman’s comments on the fortunes being made during this crisis:  have my better intentions made me into a schmuck? Being a schmuck—a simpleton or dupe—about money is an anxiety shared by many; one of my articles targets this very topic: how people are ridiculed for such credulity by sarcastic French writers of the Enlightenment, and the American media today!*

However, after a bit of thought and a return to my bookshelf, peace has returned. I’ll copy it here for the pleasure of sharing and reflecting on the message, before heading out on my morning walk and another nice quiet day of sewing masks for people:

It’s from the great Stoic philosopher Epictetus, The Art of Living:

“Never depend on the admiration of others. There is no strength in it. Personal merit cannot be derived from an external source. It is not to be found in your personal associations, nor can it be found in the regard of other people. It is a fact of life that other people, even people who love you, will not necessarily agree with your ideas, understand you, or share your enthusiasms. Grow up! Who cares what other people think about you!

Create your own merit.

… Get to it right now, do your best at it, and don’t be concerned who is watching you. Do your own useful work without regard for the honor or admiration your efforts might win from others. There is no such thing as vicarious merit.

… Think about it. What is really your own? The use you make of the ideas, resources, and opportunities that come your way. Do you have books? Read them. Learn from them. Apply their wisdom. … Do you have tools? Get them out and build or repair things with them. Do you have a good idea? Follow up and follow through on it. Make the most of what you’ve got, what is actually yours.”

Epictetus, The Art of Living, pp. 12-13.

___

Yesterday’s face mask production, fyi

maks made on April 22 2020

 

* Julia V. Douthwaite, Is Charity for Schmucks? The Legitimacy of Bienfaisance, ca. 1762-82 and ca. 2013-15”: available on academia.com.

 

 

 

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nature wisdom work

day 17: early morning reminder from Marcus Aurelius

Yesterday was an amazing day–sewing non-stop! The orders for face masks have been pouring in and now I have more than enough work to keep me busy for weeks. I only hope my neighbors will remain patient–six to ten in a day is all I can make, especially since they are made entirely from scratch (no more elastic or bias tape here). I’ve always said “I love sewing”: now will be the true test. Yet what better way to spend my time? So I return to Marcus Aurelius for another jolt of wisdom about work:

“In the morning, when you rise unwillingly, let this thought be present: I am rising to do the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie under the blankets and keep myself warm? But this is more pleasant.

Do you exist then to take your pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion? Do you not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their separate parts of the universe?

— Meditations, Book V, 1.

 

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art health humor meditation wisdom work

day three: remember your “heroic truth” (and snarl against hoarders)

Ok, we’ve read all the horrors of the coronavirus pandemic; our minds are thoroughly alerted and alarmed to the perils out there in the world and Shelter-in-Place remains the rule. (When my husband left to the local Safeway, I said, “Be careful!” as if he were going to be wandering the streets of some faraway ghetto or jungle.)  Life feels different. Harder and more uncertain. Like a war is beginning, or something is changing forever.

Today we need some encouragement (and to send out a collective snarl against evil-doers). First, let’s take the the high road. From the Meditations of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121-180), Stoic philosopher:

Marcus Aurelius Meditations

“If you apply yourself to the task before you, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure, as if you might be bound to give it back immediately; if you hold to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with your present activities according to nature, and with heroic truth in every word and sound which you utter, you will live happily. And there is no man who is able to prevent this.”

“Hasten then to your appointed end and, throwing away idle hopes, come to your own aid, if you care at all for yourself, while it is in your power.”

–Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Book III, 12, 14.

In other words: be kind to yourself, but exercise self-discipline. Speak carefully and stay busy. Create now. No one can stop you from living according to your own rules.

Finally, there are some seriously annoying people out there doing seriously obnoxious things in this moment of public health crisis, from that jerk in Tennessee to the Senator in North Carolina. The law will punish evil-doers, one hopes. In the meantime, all of us have by now experienced toilet paper shortages caused by fearful fellow citizens.  Argh!  So a big THANK YOU to Seattle Times cartoonist David Horsey, whose work nails the ugliness of hoarding.

Dave Horsey Toilet-paper-hoarding Seattle Times Mar 22 2020 ONLINE-COLOR-1020x670

Be strong, stay busy, and see you tomorrow!

 

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art design quilts work

Day four and the fun is done…

Day four.jpg

Well, days one through four were fun. But tomorrow will be a different story.  Now I’ve reached the hardest part of quilt-making which is cutting the back and the batting, basting it all together as a “quilt sandwich,” and the doing the machine quilting. Plus hand-sewing the final binding. So, time for a dip into one of my favorite stoics, Epictetus, for a bit of character-building wisdom and patience.

When confronting life’s inevitable hard times or the technical challenges that work brings, the Roman philosopher advises:

“When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it.  …  What really frightens us and dismays us is not the external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them.”

–Epictetus, The Art of Living

This may seem like a lofty prescription for well-being, but no one said the art of life would be easy…