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There Are Dreams That Cannot Be

Daily Stoic Emails

Marcus Aurelius certainly hoped his reign would be peaceful and prosperous–as the fates had blessed his mentor Antoninus for 23 years. Certainly, he dreamed of growing old with all his children around him. Never would Seneca have asked for exile and loss, for Nero’s descent into cruelty. Epictetus, like every child, would have hoped for a life of fun and lightness. Stockdale, as he left his family for a tour in Vietnam, no doubt envisioned returning home unscathed as soon as it was over.

But as the song goes…there are some dreams that cannot be.

Because fate, the world, it does not care much about what we want. It does not care about our plans. It does not consider us at all.

The pandemic. The economy. The affair that broke up your marriage. The car accident that shattered everything. Life happens. Painful stuff happens. In an instant, all our well-laid plans, our hopes, what we deserve–we are informed that it cannot be. There are some storms we cannot weather…yet weather them we must.

We practice the art of what the Stoics call “the art of acquiescence.” After assenting we try, as Stockdale did, to turn this event into something that in retrospect, we would not trade. That’s all we can do.