“If any man despises me, that is his problem. My only concern is not doing or saying anything deserving of contempt.”
Were I to ask you right now, are you reasonable? What would you say?
In a room full of people, I think it’s fair to say most would consider themselves part of the reasonable crowd.
Reasonable enough to call balls and strikes as to whether your behavior is “deserving of contempt,” as Marcus Aurelius seemed to believe he could do?
Categorizing our own behavior in this way is a tall order, yet in the tradition of Marcus Aurelius, most commentary on the subject assumes sober objectivity.
For example, Ryan Holiday’s “The Daily Stoic,” gives us an article about how to deal with “rude and selfish people.” All the tips assume the other person is the rude and selfish one.
But what if it was the rude and selfish one who was reading Ryan’s article?
This type of content, while not totally lacking in value, gives us a tidy and smug way of reinforcing the status of the other person as [FILL IN NEGATIVE ADJECTIVE].
But does the truly reasonable person self identify as reasonable?
As I write this, I am experiencing caffeine induced anxiety, which happens whenever I drink too much tea or coffee. Only a day ago, I was calmer than I’ve been in a long time.
I don’t maintain homeostasis on any front, instead, I cycle and flow.
The same can be said for my identity as one of the reasonable ones. Presented with two “micro crises” this afternoon, I behaved both reasonably, in a way I am proud of, as well as less than reasonably, in a way that I am not totally comfortable with.
The situation I am proud of will have someone saying nice things about me.
The situation where I behaved unreasonably has a guy in Silver Lake swearing to anyone who will listen that I am a villain.
Who is right?
Both of them.
Of this much I am sure: the most reasonable people know just how unreasonable they truly are.