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March 8th, 2019
The word inure often has an attributed meaning of jaded and blasé due to being accustomed. But the word merely means accustomed, or to be in practice and of use. While not necessarily related in etymology, we can hear the relation of the word inure to other words like durable and and endure. There is something going on in these related concepts that speaks of a constant practice, one that is often mistaken for a cold and ineffective state.
this is the criticism that has often been levelled at the Stoics, and unfairly so. Stoicism often evokes the image of a stony and cold man who either has no feelings or snuffs them out with no breathing room. Nothing about this image sounds healthy, and if anything, any common person or armchair psychologist is going to guess that such a person is a seething pressure cooker just ready to pop. This is close only insofar as a bullet comes close to it’s target, but misses, and then proceeds to hit something very very far away.
As is often said: a miss is as good as a mile. Or rather a slight miss is just as meaningful as missing by a huge margin.
Much of stoicism is about exposing one’s self to difficult thoughts, feelings and situations so that over time, such disagreeable items have less effect on one’s being. Notice the subtle difference of purpose here. Often people concentrate on their problems in totally counter-productive ways, allowing such problems to chronically stress out their minds and bodies. The stoic is doing much the same for the exact opposite purpose.
A practical example helps illuminate this:
Someone may eat every chance they get because they are afraid of a time when they might have nothing to eat.
The stoic would simply fast for some period of time in order to have the emotional and physical experience that enables, indeed, entitles such a person to meet that worry square in the face and say “see, we’ll be just fine if we don’t have food, now shut up and leave me alone with your petty and negative fantasies about the future.”
Here the stoic has endured hunger in order to inure one’s self to the experience. The practice has been put into use and the experience of such creates a cascade of new emotional understanding and a change about what no food actually means.
We can apply this kind of endure to inure practice in many aspects of life. Whether that be a slight shift to nutrition: picking the healthier option gets far less painful and difficult the more often it is put in practice.
or if we go to the most viscerally unpleasant things, like pain: lifting weights is painful, in the sense that if someone woke up feeling the sensations that are felt while squatting their own body weight, they’d most likely call an ambulance. But given enough time engaging and dancing with such pain, it’s sensation decreases, and it can even turn into a kind of pleasure.
This begs a strange question of attention in general. It seems to be misleading. In one situation we can focus our attention on the sensations of the body and feel a lot of pain, but if we subjugate our body regularly to such exercises, the focus of our attention garners a much different sensation.
Perhaps the most important arena that this capacity can be applied to is frustration. Perhaps we are trying to learn something, or deal with an aggravating person. The frustration that arises in such situations either adds to our overall frustration and brings us closer to the brink of exploding, or with a different perspective, it becomes an instance to exercise our ability to accept and relax. We can practice this so that we are accustomed with frustration and instead of having losing focus on what we actually need to do, we can smoothly forge ahead.
When it comes to learning something new, this acceptance and accustomed ability to handle frustration can be a superpower that enables one to learn much faster and more efficiently than others.
We can even zoom out to a much grander perspective and wonder if those who are truly at peace with their movement through life, those who seem calm and have achieved a real equanimity: perhaps they are properly inured of life, in the most positive way possible, meaning, none of the meaningless negativity affects them any longer.
How lovely does that sound?