Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: How can I bring a calm mind to tough situations?
We’re in a tough situation right now, as individuals and as a society. Not a lot I can do about the society part–except as a member of that society. One of the things I have been doing over the last 9 1/2 months is simple–keep out the noise. Right now, for instance, there is a lot of hand-wringing over vaccine rollout, delays, and that new more infectious strain of the virus. And there’s an estimate out there that something like 27% of people ignored public health advice and went ahead with Christmas gatherings. Does any of that change one bit what I need to do today? No, it does not. I need to do today precisely what I needed to do yesterday–stay home as much as possible, and take precautions when going out for essential errands. I am not going to yell at my Facebook friends to stay home and be careful–because, from what I have seen, most of them already are taking no unnecessary risks. Nor do they need me posting panic-stricken articles about hospitals being overwhelmed. My friends are a well-informed bunch; they’ve seen those articles. Those of us who are responsible already feel like we are drowning in the sea of toxic individualism.
No, what I want to see more of are people “living their lives”–not without care for anyone but themselves, but thoughtfully and safely, showing the way by showing that life can, indeed, go on. I’m reminded right now of some good friends of mine, both artists, and their young daughter, whose own artistic skills are already blooming–so much that her father took inspiration from one of her paintings of a spaceship and used it to produce his own piece of art that is nothing short of delightful. I am reminded of other friends, who shared Advent traditions of figures of Mary and Joseph travelling throughout their home on the way to Bethlehem–traditions that continued unbroken. The fact that over 70% of people did not gather at Christmas in their usual way is being lost in the anger over those who did. We 70% need to raise our voices, and show that even in the midst of hardship and sacrifice, life can and will continue, and what we are doing together is worth it.
I know with absolute certainty that I am doing what I need to do. That’s what keeps me calm. But I also know from first-hand experience how delayed gratification can pay off in long-term success.
I am now digging further into War and Peace, having just completed Book 2. My Kindle app tells me I have now completed 16%.
Another milestone today: The local Toastmasters club I’ve been attending for nearly a year now as it slowly built up strength to charter reached that goal today, just in time for it to count for a couple of folks who needed that last credit towards their DTM under the legacy program. I have really enjoyed attending this club on Thursday evenings (and serving as an officer), and it will be nice to finally be able to move forward as as full status club. It’ll be busy, since I’m the VP of Education, meaning that I’ll have a batch of folks to help finally officially start on the educational program.
I also received by mail today a special token for my SCA “plague projects” along with a nice note from TRM. (Yes, we finally got actual mail.)
Today was an important Shostakovich date: the 59th anniversary of the premiere of the 4th Symphony in 1961, 25 years after it should have premiered in 1936. I listened to my recording of the actual premiere performance of the work by the Moscow State Philharmonic, conducted by Kirill Kondrashin–a performance which, despite being recorded in mono and not having the greatest sound, is absolutely breathtaking–Kondrashin’s tempos are often breathtakingly fast (the performance comes in at under 58 minutes) and the orchestra sounds as if it is on the verge of collapse on multiple occasions, but yet it’s all exquisitely controlled. It’s a performance that just crackles with nervous energy–and no other symphony I know does a better job of releasing that energy in a climactic finale–but then to trail off into an otherwordly celesta-driven nothingness. Listening to the applause at the end of the recording, I know that Shostakovich, who was present, heard exactly what I was hearing. That’s special. This is a later recording with Kondrashin and the same orchestra, which shares a lot of similarities with that original recording, but lacks that sense of raw urgency that only a premiere can supply.
Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. Last year what had become our “regular” party was on a hiatus. No one expected that hiatus to last. I’ve decided to binge-listen all 15 Shostakovich symphonies, and there will be a special toast at 4 pm – midnight, Moscow time–and some more of the infamous smoked eel. No particularly special dinner otherwise — we actually did that tonight by using an UberEats gift certificate to order from our favourite cheap Serbian steak place in Stoney Creek. The evening will feature a “Peter O’Toole IS Henry II” festival–both Lion in Winter and Becket.