January 26th 2022 (Stoic Boot Camp challenge version)

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My Precious

So today’s task is to “Pick one of your prized possessions and “get a cheaper, less attractive one.”

Oh God, this is not going to be easy.

Well, let’s start with the OG story that sounds like an Aesop Fable, known as Epictetus and the Brass Lamp. Epictetus, born a slave, (you always have to write born a slave after Epictetus’ name no matter how educated your audience. It is just a thing.) acquired a fancy brass lamp. One day, a thief stole his lamp. Epictetus had a very non-stoic reaction to this violation. Realising that the possession was a threat to his stoicism, he replaced the fancy lamp with a plain clay lamp. (I can’t help but think of the picking the Holy Grail scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). He kept the clay lamp for the rest of his life as a reminder. (Ironically, making it his most important possession, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole just yet, if at all.)

So what is the Premise?

Okay, so the premise is that an attachment to things goes against Stoic principles and can cause one to needlessly suffer. We don’t own our stuff instead, our stuff owns us. I couldn’t agree more. I have been preaching this for a while. Decluttering, Konmari, minimalism have all been goals of mine long before I embraced Stoicism.

But do you practice what you preach?

Well… you know how people do intermittent fasting or Keto not in a completely strict way, but because it helps stem the tide. Much easier to say no to a cupcake if you have Keto running on a loop in the back of your mind. It is not as if you’re putting Kerrygold in your morning coffee or pouring bacon grease on your eggs, but you say no to a cupcake. I am a minimalist that way.

I use it as a reminder I don’t really need another Godzilla statue or that neat t-shirt from Hot Topic with a cartoon Jason on it. A quick glance around my house will show bookcases that are full. Way too many comics (I am working on selling these), and way too many video games (Which I never seem to play.)

What a look around my house also reveals is plenty of negative space. This is hardly a hoarding home and when you open a closet, you are not assaulted by a mass of stuff. Let’s put it this way. I park my car in my garage. (A rarity in Florida, it seems.)

So you need to find your precious and replace it with a lesser object?

Ryan’s suggestion is as follows. “It’s that non-essential essential thing you’d grab if your house was on fire.” This gives me an out. Because I would grab five things if the house was on fire and four of those five things are cats. (The other is my emergency folder with all the passports and relevant paperwork that is in one place for exactly that purpose.)

I honestly don’t own one thing that, as Ryan puts it, “That thing that would most infuriate you if stolen. That thing you’re so hypervigilant about that it’s in a special place, taken out only for special occasions, and never loaned out… even to the closest of friends.” I do not have one object that fits that bill.

So you are off the hook?

No. I am not being honest with myself. Though I have purged many possessions, I have kept many more. They have meaning. Take the artwork as an example. I could get rid of two-thirds of my paintings and not blink an eye. (I will probably donate at least a couple of pieces on my next trip to the charity shop.) But the other third I am keeping for now. They don’t necessarily have monetary value. I may not even like some of them. But they are all art my late wife bought with me on one of our vacations. And when I see the piece, I am transported immediately to that happier time. They are triggers of my soul. And part of me realizes the entire thing going up in flames could be a blessing in disguise. But I am not going to light that match.

There are other objects like that as well. You can steal my oled TV and PlayStation 5. But my desk is one we got the first year we were together. Her hat hangs off the curtains in my office. An axe we bought also early in our relationship hangs on the wall. Those objects stay. Those I care about.

So we are not doing this one are we?

I am not eating the cupcake. But I still want to lick the frosting.

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