Break your wrist. Feel your bone cracking, your sinew twisting, your nerves splitting. You slipped while doing roundhouse kicks and landed on your wrist instead. The paper-thin padding of the dojo does nothing to cushion the impact with the concrete beneath. The master wraps your broken wrist in the board, which you still managed to break, and some duct tape.
You feel pain.
The truth in that last sentence is sneakier than it looks, because pain needs someone to feel it. Comb the universe atom by atom, and you will not find a single atom of pain; it is, rather, an experience. One who gets rid of the thought of pain will be rid of the pain itself. That is why a doctor with the authoritative voice and a charismatic quack can both relieve pain: they eliminate not the nerve signals which inform the brain that a wrist is broken, but the thoughts in the brain which tell the consciousness that it is in pain.
Have this delicious piece of cake. It is rich and luscious and velvety and smooth, the best piece of cake you have ever had. Have another slice. A third. A fourth. A forty-eighth.
How do you feel about cake now?
Anything can cause pain. But I can keep my perspective. Like Solomon looking at his ring, I remember: “this too, shall pass.” A broken wrist. A spell of vomiting. Acute embarrassment. A triumphant score on a test. All these, and more, shall pass. I can still punch a board in two. I can still enjoy cake. I can still get out in front of an audience and speak. I can still try to humble myself. And what if I do lose something permanently? I lose my wrist: I gain a topic of conversation and thought.
It is not quite a Stoic philosophy. A Stoic believes that virtue, as in the improvement of moral fortitude, is necessary and sufficient for happiness. I do not believe that. A dog may be happy, and truly happy at that, with a bone. I could be truly happy with a slice of cake, eaten on a comfy couch in front of a fireplace away from a torrential rainstorm without a care in the world, like Omar Kayaam with his “jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou,” no matter how unvirtuous I may be.
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