As I was saying: freedom to think what you want to think, when you want to think it – an inner life, in other words – is one of our very most prizable possessions. Pulling your own strings from the inside, as it were, no matter what else may be going on out there beyond your reach: that’s stoic freedom.
And that’s the Stoics’ fundamental presumption, mirrored in William James’s attentive version of free will. More on that later in CoPhi, when we pick up John Lachs’ Stoic Pragmatism.
Inner freedom so expressed is a variant on a familiar prayer for serenity as something reasonable to pray, work, and strive for.
May we have grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things we can and should, and wisdom to know the difference.
There are different versions of Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer, but the core of it is a stoically steely resolve to focus one’s energies on what might actually be responsive to them. Instead, we too frequently squander time and tranquility trying to move immovable objects and then go crazy when they resist our wills.
I don’t pray, myself, except in a quasi-Emersonian way.
Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul… But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. It supposes dualism and not unity in nature and consciousness.
Quasi, I say, because unlike Emerson I don’t toss the term “god” around lightly, and wouldn’t presume to channel His or It’s spirit in my own soliloquies. I think (and feel) those to be my own self-reliant affair. The sort of prayer that takes to bended knee and beseeches god(s) for favor, on the other hand, feels servile and phony to me. I’m not very churchable.
But I do endorse The Sage’s refusal to beg for cheap and selfish ends. All worthy actions are prayerful in a nobler sense, for a truly free and natural earthly spirit. “The prayer of the farmer kneeling in his field to weed it, the prayer of the rower kneeling with the stroke of his oar…”
And then at 3 am I felt cramps below the knees. Too late to hope or pray I die before I get old, though that was never my preference anyway.
So today it’s back on the bike, continuing to pedal-pray for courage and wisdom. And luck. And a foot massage would be nice. I’m not begging, just puttin’ it out there.
Postscript, 8:30 a.m., Percy Warner Park, “Inspiration Point”-