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STOIC POETRY | Dining upon our emotions

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

September 26, 2019

Dear Eric,

You, my friend, were one wont to emotion. Though normally you were riding high atop the joyful bubble of youth, I suspect you knew well the full range of human feeling and expression, though my time with you was only during that early period of life before the hard pressures of living began to leak through, and you had little evident chance to publicly take on the challenge of responding well to life's hard knocks. I wonder how you handled that leakage later in life? What did you do when the emotion was too much, or took you by surprise, or left you without better options than to become visibly upset? I can't say I ever saw you display negative emotion even once... Though I'm sure you did, and I suspect you did it like the rest of us in attempting to control our outward upset. I would have liked to have seen that side of you.


The Feast of Offal is the banquet of our feelings openly offered to the world as a consequence of our unprincipled and undisciplined living. We cast out our emotions into the social space, hoping to find some relief in the energetic shedding of feelings we cannot otherwise easily bear. The others deserve it we say. How could they slight us this way we think. How dare they. We'll show them! And thus the feast begins when we do indeed begin to "show them."

The others watch our show and take it all in. There's often someone to whom we direct our anger, and then those around who happen to see. We let 'em have it! We tell the person, the people, the world and the universe even what's what! We're not going to stand for it! Not for a second! Take this! And take that! And listen to these angry words and watch this raised fist! No more!!

Doesn't that feel good to get it out? Only for a moment. And maybe not even that. We're lucky we didn't get in a fight...

The emotion after is a mix of satisfaction, regret and some personal embarrassment. How did I let myself go like that? Why didn't I control my emotion? We rationalize our way into acceptance, telling ourselves "they deserved it" or "had it coming" or some other words to serve as accomplice to our immature utterances and deeds. But we're not proud of ourselves, even if we later brag about the incident to others, highlighting our angry outburst, we're not proud. We know we could have done better...

To the Stoic mind there is just what is, and what is not, within the scope of our control. The offence we received was likely beyond us; either being the result of circumstance, accident or folly. And if our own folly, then maybe we deserved the offense we received - a good lesson to us, perhaps? If the folly was another's, then what might we really do about that? If an accident, then again what's to do? In nearly all cases there is little effective response when the machinations of life churn against us; we've only small recourse when mindless fate causes us to stumble. Our upset then is merely that - upset. We'd do better to remember what is - in fact - within our control in such cases; namely, our reaction to what is happening, our reaction in the moment, our response in the here-and-now.

And so, we strive to be alert and recognize when life presents such opportunities of good response. We train our minds to act at once to the prospect of feast or fast. Will we feast now upon our own anger and pain and fury before throwing the spoilt leftovers to the world? Or will we fast instead through temperance while the unworthy banquet is laid before us and the smell and savor of delicious upset tempts our minds to immature reaction. Which will it be? To live well in disciplined self-control or tuck-in to a feast of empty?


My name is Kurt Bell.

You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.

Be safe... But not too safe.

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