82 Swallow your emotion
We tend to forget that the ideal among the best of men for many a century, was to rid themselves of their emotions. Being able to shrug off that chaos, dump that load, stifle those harmful fires- these were noble tasks.
Romanticism, it must be admitted, has not helped us in this forgetting. It turned emotions into a huge adventure, and treated them as signs of great destiny. Under its influence, they have become glorious, and some times grandiose. Enviable, at any rate. The classical age, the inheritors of Antiquity, did everything they could to marginalize them. Emotions were to be banished.
Examine the ideal of the Sage in Antiquity. If the Sage is happy and to be admired, it is because he has freed himself from the tyranny of emotions. He lives beyond their reach. He ignores them, having become impermeable to their existence. The Sage is never moved.
You will probably never be a Sage. But try all the same to swallow an emotion. When it arises, refuse to go along with it. Regard it as you would a boil, an inflammation, a temporary swelling. Try and look at it from without, from where it seems laughable and unpleasant. Don’t enter into the emotion. If you find yourself inside it, find a way out. Press it down. But don’t get too involved with that task either. Let it go.
Naturally, this is sometimes very difficult to do. If you are tormented by some anxiety, submerged in some dread, transported by some joy, swallowing emotions promptly and completely is sometimes scarcely possible. But not impossible. The important thing is to set yourself an ideal. Either a life without sadness or panic, without heat or enthusiasm, a storm-free existence. Or else a life made up of contrast, implosions, terrors and ecstasies, laughter and tears. Try experimenting with the foretaste of one of then the other. Or else, if you can, invent an alternative.
Humanity will be forever in your debt.
Droit, Roger-Pol (2002) 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life, London: Faber and Faber. (Droit, Roger-Pol, p.165)