Prisoner AT War. Stoic lessons my Dad taught me.
My Father, aka Big Art, loved to teach us about perspective.
He could take nearly any situation, and find some lesson, some thread of good in it. And usually a chance to learn and do better next time. He suffered hardships throughout his life, some by his own hand, but never lost that gift of self awareness and the thirst for improvement. The most extreme example he would give was about a man who would become Vice presidential Candidate under Ross Perot- James Stockdale– and the seven years he was held POW in Vietnam. AOM tels it well;
Rear Admiral James Stockdale wasn’t a prisoner of war in that prison camp in North Vietnam. He was a prisoner at war. At war with his captors. At war with his own limitations. At war with anyone who wanted to give in or betray the cause of their fellow inmates. At war against fear, doubt, hopelessness and pain. So too was the future Senator John McCain. Considering his captors had offered him an early release—thinking that seeing the son of a high ranking officer accepting special treatment would demoralize fellow prisoners—he was essentially fighting to remain in the camp.
This is what Stoics do. “Life is warfare and a journey far from home,” is how Marcus put it. The Stoics are fighters. They aren’t victims. They might passively accept the things that are entirely outside their control, but the rest? They fight, fight, fight. A stoic, Nassim Taleb says, is someone who says fuck you to fate—who challenges what they can and makes the life they want and need.