When the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161 AD) died, his last word was aequanimitas (equanimity) Fitting: he was an honest man whose reign was prosperous and peaceful. What’s his relevance? What’s so good about equanimity?
One man who knows is Paul Hannam, who gave a fascinating talk at our Horsham Climate Cafe on Saturday 2nd January. Paul is an expert on people’s emotional intelligence. Last autumn he spoke at our Horsham Climate Cafe about the ‘A New Story if humans want to survive and evolve as a species’, hear his podcast from this event here. As we move into a new year of pandemic meltdown and economic crisis Paul thinks that the key quality to get us through is resilience. Like the Stoic philosophers Paul defines resilience as a combination of mental toughness, adaptability and equanimity.
It’s easy to declare a state of Equanimity, and think from now on you’ll be alright. But, how does do noble resolutions survive when things start to happen? Paul has some good tips. Firstly, a little perspective. Is the loss of your car’s windscreen really quite as bad as being, for example, at the Gallipoli campaign, under shellfire and machine gunned, only to die of malaria when you get out of the trench (As happened to Rupert Brooke)? Secondly, get it out of your head: it’s amazing how just writing things down on paper stops a worry from marching round inside. Thirdly, it’s hard to be anxious when you’re box breathing, as you expend all your mental energy controlling your lungs and diaphragm. Apparently the SAS do this when things get a bit rough.
But the real answer is to stop pitying yourself, and just help others. No time for misery in an endless cycle of saving the planet. Going to meetings. Picking up waste. Teaching people new ways to live, cook, shop and communicate that won’t result in ecological catastrophe. Keeping a journal to record your progress on the journey. You could even develop a new method of carbon capture, if you’ve got time.
Antoninus Pius was succeeded by an even greater Emperor, Marcus Aurelius (yes, the guy in Gladiator) Greater because his reign was marred by wars,
plagues and economic crisis. Yet he never stopped trying, as we know from his own journal Meditations where he wrote:
Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of the ignorance of real good and ill…I can
neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together…(Book 11 part 1 Source Wikipedia)
We can all learn a bit from Marcus Aurelius. And Paul Hannam. Read about Paul’s work here. and his podcast from this event can be heard here.
By Keir Hartley
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