A retired American doctor recently turned 100 and looked astonishingly strong for his age. He’s still able to exercise regularly, drive his car and attend social functions. He is the picture of a happy and content old man.
When asked about how big of a role it is that stress plays in his life, he laughed and replied, “You asked the wrong person.” The interviewer seemed a bit puzzled, but the old man continued, “I have a philosophy: you do the best you can, and the things you can’t do anything about, don’t give any thought to them.”
If you’re smart enough to appreciate the wisdom in this old philosophy (or new, if you have never heard of it before), you would zip your lip if I ask you if you have any objections. This man is a living proof of its efficacy. The idea itself makes a whole lot of sense. Why on earth would you want to allocate your precious personal resources on things that you know you can do nothing about?
If that question is not rhetorical enough, then the answer is this: weakness.
This centenarian is a strong-minded individual, which is why he’s able to construct such a philosophy and follow through with it for many years. If you’re mentally weak, you’re not going to come up with a similar idea, and if someone gives it to you, the follow-through will not be there.
The philosophy of a weak person goes something like this: You do whatever you will, and the things you can’t do anything about, give plenty of thought to them.
Such a person will bitch about things that he has no control over and gossip about other people either as a pastime or a passion. He will blame the government and the people around him and he will live a life that is full of sentiments about what’s wrong with the world and his immediate surroundings.
The reason this kind of individual focuses on things that he has little or no control over is because he himself doesn’t have control over his own thoughts. He has no capacity to zoom out of issues so the issues pull him in with ease. If you ask him how big of a role it is that stress plays in his life, he might as well say, “You asked the right person. I’m the expert.”
Between the centenarian and a person with that kind of bitchy mindset, who do you think is the winner and who is the loser? Who do you think will look 60 when they turn 100 and who do you think will look 100 when they turn 60?
The centenarian obviously wins.
I follow a similar philosophy, only that it may seem to you that I give plenty of thought to things that I can do little about, such as pinoy pride, thinking inside the Filipino box, etc. The thing is, I don’t really give plenty of thought to these things except when I write about them. And when I write about these topics, I don’t offer them as a source of stress that you can do nothing about. I explain a cause or suggest a course of action from a zoomed-out position to influence others to take up the same position.
If you can understand things from a zoomed-out position, stress will have a hard time reaching you. For example, instead of digesting and being concerned about every bit of news that comes out of the Philippines, if you understand that a lot of these issues are caused by filogic and filethic (which are things you can do very little to change) you will be wiser and more efficient about where you dispense your focus and energy. You’ll discover that it’s not the issue itself that is the problem but the “nature of the person” multiplied by 100 million, from the squatters all the way up to the politicians and people in the private sector.
If I didn’t come up with this manner of thinking, I’ll probably continue to take the bait of zooming in and being stressed about it. In other words, in the Philippine setting, thinking wisely adds value to the objectives of the centenarian’s philosophy.
You do the best you can, and the things you can’t do anything about, don’t give any thought to them. But if such things continually try to invade the beachhead of your senses, assume a zoomed-out position.
That’s one of the main reasons I write about the Philippines (I’ll write about something else too eventually ). By understanding and articulating the cause of the situation while looking at the big picture, I’m able to make sense of all the impropriety and retardation, whose task it is to confuse and bother. If you can chip away from the confusion, it ceases to be something you can’t do anything about. The sense invaders shrink from eye-level to an inch tall, making them easier to deal with.