It’s interesting how easily people can be placated. A scandal about some athlete that outraged them fades from memory when they start winning again. An apology settles some feud that ten minutes ago had people screaming. The news cycle moves right onto the next hot button topic. A couple goes to bed livid, and wakes up like nothing happened. Your morning grumpiness is forgotten with your first sip of coffee.
Where did all the anger go? “A trifle consoles us,” Blaise Pascal wrote, “because a trifle upsets us.” We get so worked up about things that don’t matter—of course we can be convinced to drop them. Of course we can be easily distracted.
This is why Marcus talks about the importance of having no opinion. That’s why he reminds himself that this trifle or that little nothing does not have to upset us. Don’t give little things more time than they deserve, he says. This cycle of latching on and then letting go—it’s pointless. It’s embarrassing. How much better it would be to have not gotten so hot in the first place.
Almost none of what people get so worked up about matters. None of it is worth letting it penetrate our peace of mind. None of it is worth trading our stillness for. Stay focused. Don’t let trifles provoke…or placate you.
Ignore them entirely.
P.S. This was originally sent on November 10, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.