Don’t Whine, Don’t Weep

The environmentalist and novelist Edward Abbey produced one of the greatest books about nature in American history when he wrote Desert Solitaire, about his time as a park ranger at Arches National Park. Although much of the book confirms Seneca’s line, Mundus ipse est ingens deorum omnium templum (The world itself is a huge temple of all the gods), there is another observation that captures a tougher Stoic ethos as well. Abbey, writing on the distinction between animals and man, says:

“They do not sweat and whine about their condition. They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins.”

No, animals exist in the present moment. If a situation is difficult, they work on getting out of it–they don’t expect someone to come along and solve their problems for them. Nor do they feel like they are being singled out unfairly either. If they make a mistake, they don’t carry guilt. Even your dog, which can know it did something wrong, isn’t still feeling sorry for herself a month later. No, they move on.

Animals don’t whine and they don’t weep–not for themselves anyway. Neither should a Stoic.

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