A Stoic Experience
Practice What You Preach
After writing about stoicism and how it looks today. I felt that I would be a hypocrite if I did not provide a story of how I actually apply stoicism to my life. Below is a story where I was able to keep from responding to a situation with emotion, allowing me to think clearly. If you have not read my previous article on stoicism you can find it here.
A Story of Stoicism
It was sometime midday in the middle of summer and my wife and I were working on cleaning our house. We heard some screaming and commotion outside, but wrote it off as being common for the area we live in. We went back to cleaning and a few seconds later the same commotion started back up and became louder and louder. Normally I try to avoid such situations, however this one sounded like it must be serious.
I told my wife to stay with our son, Jackie, and I walked outside. As I walked out it became obvious that the screaming was coming from behind our house, in our neighbors yard. I spoke with another neighbor in passing asking what happened, but she was unsure, so I continued on. I was unsure of what might be going on, but I knew if I was going to be helpful I needed to remain calm. Knowing this, I intentionally walk slowly the entire way to our neighbor’s house, keeping a clear mind.
Arriving at my neighbors back deck I see an older lady staring at the bottom of a set of stairs. I look up past her and see 2 men and one woman standing on the deck. The woman is screaming hysterically saying something like “my baby, my baby”, I push the screams out of my focus and turn back to the old woman. I calmly ask “May I go up?”
She replies “Please”
Then I make my way up the stairs.
Once I reach the deck I look down and see a young boy laying on his back. He must have been younger than 7, but beyond that his features are a blur in my memory. I mostly remember his eyes, they looked so empty staring off into nothing. If I had not noticed his lips quivering I would have sworn he was dead. The next thing I notice is the boy is covered in water, I try to lean in close to hear if he is breathing, but I cannot hear over the screaming.
I turn to the woman and say “I need you to be quiet for just a second so I can hear if he is breathing.”
She screams “He’s breathing!”
I calmly reply “Be quiet.”
I lean in close again and I am able to hear the boy breathing. His face is still quivering and I see him become a little more aware as he struggles to breathe. Then a what seems to be a clot of blood started coming out of his mouth. One of the two men started freaking out saying “What the fuck is this?” almost on the verge of tears.
After another moment I am able to speak to the two men and determine that the boy had fallen into the pool nearby. Then one of the men, I was unsure of which, performed CPR.
I look back down at the boy still struggling to breathe and recall the recovery position begin taught to me, though I cannot recall where. So I instruct the one of the men to get towels or blankets, we gently turn the boy onto his side and support his head with towels. As a few moments pass the child seems to be able to breathe slightly better and I begin to hear sirens. Not wanting to be a part of what comes next I make my way off the deck and back to my house.
Upon arriving home I sit on my couch and stare at the tv. I have not encountered many situations like this, so it takes some time to process everything. After running everything that happened in my mind, I know the time for calm and a clear mind have passed and begin to cry.
Emotion and Stoicism
Striving to be a stoic does not mean that you cannot have emotion. It is about understanding and controlling your emotions. There are times and places where emotion servers you well as well as many where it does not. You need to be able to identify these situations and understand how to keep a calm clear head. Emotions are important and I am not one who thinks that letting them out is bad, you just have to understand when emotion serves you best.
I know in this story I did not do much, but simply being calm and taking the time to asses the situation helps. Especially when there are 3 adults surrounding a young boy while in a state of hysteria or shock.
I hope you enjoyed this story and that it helps to spark your interest in stoicism!