Break a Rack of Pool Balls
So you’ve watched The Hustler — one of the best movies of all-time — and you’re inspired to head down to your local pool hall for some billiards action. You grab a cue, line it up to break the rack, and instead of hitting it perfectly like you did in your daydreams, you shank the cue ball for the ultimate whiff, and the rack is still intact. Breaking the rack is your billiards first impression — it has the potential to intimidate foes and impress buddies. Don’t blow it.
For today's Sunday with Sisson, I'm talking about dreams.
Not sure if something different is in the air, but I sure am having more vivid dreams than ever before. Almost everyone I speak to on a regular basis is having the same experience at night: dreams, and dreams that they can remember, consistently.
What's going on?
I don't know. I don't profess to know, nor do I subscribe to any explicitly "supernatural" ideas. What I suspect is that the "zeitgeist" (for lack of a better word), the physiological trends set in place by the unique situation almost everyone finds themselves in these days is shifting the way people sleep and dream. Who knows how it's happening.
One theory I have is that people are dealing with more trauma than usual. Between COVID, elections, political upheaval, a tumultuous economy, and everything else 2020 seems to be throwing in our general direction, people are on edge. Many people think the world is falling apart. And no matter what you think is the objective truth on all those things or whether people should feel a certain way, the fact remains that people feel the way they feel. Feelings feel real. What's trauma is subjective, but what's subjective feels objective.
Where do dreams come in? Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep, says that REM sleep (dream sleep) is therapy for emotional trauma. It's how our subconscious selves self-treat and work through problems we're having in waking life (or problems we don't know we're having but are).
I feel fine. I'm confident we'll get through all this. But there could be a part of me, unbeknownst to my conscious self, that's worried, that's dealing with some stuff. And maybe that part, if it indeed exists, feels the need to work through all the stuff with dreams.
Are you dreaming more these days (or nights)? Are the dreams more vivid, more memorable than normal?
Whether you thought things were about to go back to normal or you’re entering another long month of quarantine or your country is locking down due to a second wave, we are all in the same boat: We’re all getting a little stir-crazy.
The timing couldn’t be worse, by the way.
We were just about to find out about to launch that project we had worked on for years. We were just about to sign a deal long in the making. We were just about to make that career change. We were just about to board the plane for that backpacking trip.
And now? We’re cooped up for who knows how long… again? How much will it set us back at work this time? Will that client still be interested, still lucrative? Will they still even be around? Will that career still exist? That airline? It’s impossible to say. Will we have to wait weeks or months to find out like the first wave? Or will it be years this time? It’s impossible to say. All we know is, we’ve never had our patience tested quite like this.
When the emperor Hadrian started devising his succession plan, he bumped into a problem. It wasn’t just that he didn’t have a son; it was that the boy he thought could be a future king was only 17 years old. Hadrian’s workaround was to adopt a fifty-one year old man named Antoninus on the condition that he adopt and train that 17 year old boy named Marcus Aurelius.
Given life-expectancy statistics of the time, Hadrian figured this regent and mentor might be at the helm for five years. In the end, Antoninus lived and ruled for twenty-three years. This could have driven Marcus crazy. Instead, it made him better.
“In the twenty-three years of Antoninus’s reign Marcus spent just two nights away from him,” biographer Frank McLynn tells us, “another severe test of his patience and stoical character.” As severe a test as it was, some thirty years later Marcus would write in his journal with great adoration for those years and what he learned from his adopted father: “Hard work. Persistence… Self-reliance, always. Respect for people who practiced philosophy.”
Think of Seneca spending years in exile. Think of Epictetus having to wait until his was thirty—how long the minimum term of slavery was in Roman times—until he could be free. Think of Stockdale in that North Vietnamese prison camp for close to a decade. These were not easy situations. They were not short waits.
But these Stoics endured them. They survived them. They chose to be made better for them, just as you can choose to be made better for what we’re going through right now. Who knows how long it will last? Who knows if your best-laid plans will ever come to fruition? All you can do is work hard. Persist. Be self-reliant. Practice philosophy. You can lead a good life anywhere, Marcus wrote, including in lockdown during a pandemic.
You just have to be patient. And you have to choose to be productive....The Daily Stoic
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