On Tuesday, I researched the word “stoicism.”
Yes I know lots of words, but sometimes I’ve only got a fuzzy sense of their meanings, and when I thought about “stoicism,” I didn’t think about fortitude and self-control. I didn’t think about being unaffected by feelings of grief or joy. And I sure as hell didn’t think about 3rd Century Greek philosophy.
I thought about Clint Eastwood.
(To be fair, I think about him an awful lot — the house is plastered with images of that steel-faced sumbitch.)
But “Clint Eastwood” isn’t really a definition. And I wanted one because I’d just read a column someone sent to me and needed to be absolutely sure of what the writer meant when she said, “…the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles — fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity — are obsolete, even a little embarrassing.”
I processed this “information” accordingly:
1. Re-read the column
2. Shouted, “You idiotic ass-clown!”
3. Apologized to the guy sitting next to me
4. Re-re-read the column
5. Thought about Clint Eastwood
6. Looked up “stoicism”
7. Remembered I’d just shouted, “You idiotic ass-clown!” at my computer screen
8. Realized I wasn’t stoic
Sadly, this is par for the course.
On a windy day a few weeks ago, my pal Billy and I went to the Unseen Bean, a small coffee shop lined with low-slung chairs, and well-lit since nearly half the joint is comprised of windows.
It was going to be our last trip there for a while since our office was moving across town, and so, as I walked out the door and into the wind, with a huge coffee in one hand and a snack in the other, I hollered, “BYE BYE BEAN!” over my shoulder.
Before the door had even shut, a huge gust of wind blew my skirt up into my face, ensuring I would flash anyone driving along Broadway in the middle of the day.
Mortified, I used the fists holding the coffee and snack to push the front of my skirt down and backed that ass up against a wall as another gust of wind tore down the sidewalk.
It was too late, of course, and so the wind, presumably pissed I’d blocked the front, blew the back of my skirt up just in time for me to press ham against that wall.
Which turned out to be a window.
With a man sitting in one of those low-slung chairs just on the other side.
Did I handle this with fortitude and self-control? Was I unmoved by feelings of embarrassment and shock? Did I remember that Epictetus said man should strive to be “sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy…” and would probably add, “pressing ham in an innocent man’s face and happy?”
Nope. Instead, there was shrieking, oversharing (you’re welcome) and sulking.
I’m looking at Eastwood now. It’s this huge poster for “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” a close-up shot of Clint, his face expressing little more than mild annoyance by the fact he’s got a noose around his throat. I know in my gut of guts, in the highly unlikely event he’d be caught in a windstorm holding coffee in one hand and a snack in the other, the man wouldn’t care a whit if his skirt got flipped up.