memes and epiphanies

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I like memes. They are the new millennium’s version of the fortune cookie; sage advice, deep thoughts, or clever quotes presented in bite-sized pieces that are accompanied by lovely visuals.

Without memes, I’d never have learned about the poetry of Rumi, or been inspired to read his work. Without memes, I would have encountered far less philosophy. Without memes, I wouldn’t have been able to fully appreciate the wit of Will Ferrell.

Most helpful are the inspirational and philosophical ones. They have replaced the daily quote reading I used to engage in each morning. It’s the work of minutes to find a post on social media that applies to whatever issue you happen to be dealing with.

Some are like junk food; tasty but they don’t satisfy. Some offer more. Quotes from Stoic philosophers seem to be especially popular of late. My exposure to their wisdom and advice via the decorative word-bite inspired me to explore.

A favourite philosophy book is one I discovered after reading an online quote from Epictetus’ The Enchiridion. It’s a short read but I’ve found almost every entry to be insightful and salient.

The quote from the opening pages is a favourites: “Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.”

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The only things we control are our own actions. I never gave that idea much thought before I read that quote. People had suggested it but I didn’t take it onboard. I always assumed my brain was its own independent entity, out of my control. The idea that I could direct and choose my thoughts, and that I could choose what thoughts to attend to, was foundation shaking.

I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life. Particularly challenging is the way in which your thoughts run away from you. Your mind seems completely independent from your will. The thoughts take you down dark and twisted roads and leave you miserable and panicked. For years, my method of dealing was to try and chase the thoughts away with fairly unhealthy and massively hurtful coping mechanisms. The eye-opening meme changed that.

My thoughts don’t just happen. I have control over what I pay attention to. Thoughts will rise up in my brain all the time, but I don’t have to accept them or engage with them. I can choose what I want to embrace.

So, bring on the memes. Open my mind. Share the things that you love with the world. You never know who might be paying attention, or what it might inspire.

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