External Detachment For Internal Freedom

External Detachment For Internal Freedom

One day, Alexander the great went on a stroll in a Greek city, where he found a philosopher that lived in a barrel, and had barely anything but basic food, and the stray dogs were his friends.

The historical figure and the barrel-dweller spoke with each other, and eventually Diogenes, the philosopher, asked Alexander: “What is your ambition in your life?”

“My ambition is to conquer the entire world.”

The philosopher laughed at the fearless hero and told to one of his dogs “look at him - he needs to have the entire world in order to become happy!”

Funny, isn’t it?

Plenty of us have plenty of ambitions, and many of us delude ourselves that achieving these dreams shall make us happy.

But look - a guy that lives in a barrel, with very little in his life, can be happy and satisfied with his life even without planning world domination.

On the contrary, look at us, the consumerists, that pay sums after sums of money on plenty of things just to feel our lives are actually going somewhere and we feel more meaningful. I myself am no exception.

But what if we could all be happy even if we had very little? What if we learned to view ourselves meaningful internally instead of externally? Do we really need to have that degree, have that car, have that romantic partner, have that sex, have whatever else for us to find meaning in our lives?

If so, how come a person that lived in a barrel was happy and found meaning? It is because he found it inside of himself.

Everything external of us shall one day cease to exist, and when we ourselves shall cease to exist, all the things we had and produced are no longer ours, and do not come with us after our death. All what we had and created would eventually be inherited to someone else, and our ownership over them would no longer be intact.

Regardless our socio-economic state, with much internal effort we all can be happy, i.e, be filled with the sense that our lives have meaning, without necessarily needing anything outside of us, not even the things and people we value the most.

After I log into Quora and see that I got more views, upvotes, followers and so forth, I am quite happy, to be honest, but I do not view it as meaning, because all of these statistics are external to me, and I have no control over them. Why should we depend our mentality and emotional state over things we have no control over? Why , in comparison, should I depend my happiness on my financial state? Of course the Quora statistics, like my money, belong to me, but they are not a part of my inner state. My inner state is not affected by my possessions or my Quora stats, simply because I see no reason in risking my overall happiness over things I cannot control, whether they increase or decrease in either quality or quantity.

However if there’s something we can control, that something is ourselves and our reactions to the outside currents and happenings. Even if I am to be in deep poverty, as long as I shall not choose to react negatively to it, or to create a negative perspective towards it, I myself shall not be negative, and, therefore, miserable.

An inner core is in need to be created and preserved within us, that will not or at least be very minorly affected by the external happenings around us, for the good and for the bad. That's how we will be able to optimally endure life and its dynamic occurrences.

My advice is this: stop putting your happiness and overall satisfaction over external things, even if these things are your property and belong to you. Just because they belong to you does not mean they are a part of you, and when they would disappear from your world, a part of yourself won't go along with it if you won't let it; if your inner core is strong enough to triumph over external fluidity.


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© 2019 Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosopher