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STOIC POETRY | Knowing when to stop watching

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

It is not easy to not watch someone else struggling with life. I am not referring to not seeing them struggle, but not watching them do it. Seeing is to observe and note a fact, to then add it to our catalogue of what is true; something to remember for the purpose of influencing and perhaps altering our coming decisions and actions. Seeing someone else struggle is necessary if we are then to help them in any way, as awareness is prerequisite to informed action. Watching though, is to play the role of a spectator; to stand at the sidelines for the purpose of enjoying what we observe, to pass the time at someone else's expense, witnessing their joy or suffering - suffering usually - as a distracting relief from our own. Watching gets us, and others, nowhere; it is voyeurism and should be avoided by all means. Seeing always precedes watching, as awareness is always first-person as our consciousness must take in what is happening around us if we are to respond to the world. Maturity is in the moment of recognition that we have seen enough, and we turn our eyes to our own business, having noted the fact of what we have observed without engaging attention beyond the necessity of seeing, to watch then for the sole and entertaining sake of watching.

My eyes light upon a scene; Someone else's business and pain. I note what I see, Take in the essential facts, And then turn back to my own life— Always ready to help, Never willing to gawp.

And then we move on to other things. And we remember what we have seen. And we adjust the course and trajectory of our lives in small ways which may offer relief to those who we know now are hurting. And our lives becomes helpful perhaps, and a blessing even, by virtue of our informed, constrained, and decided action.

We become actors then rather than audience. And life is then maybe made better for our ability to both temper our observation and to consider our action.


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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