Practicing Philosophy – An Example

On December 15, 2021, a lot of our country was ransacked by storms. According to one source, there were 43 confirmed tornadoes in Iowa. It just so happened that we were traveling back to Iowa from Seattle that day with a stopover in Denver.

One of the tenets of Stoicism is premeditatio malorum, which requires the practitioner to imagine things going awry in order to prepare ourselves for the inevitable moment when things actually do go bad. It was easy to practice this on the evening of December 14th, as the weather report did not look good for us getting home the next day.

Our flight from Seattle to Denver took off on time, which was a little after 6am PT. Half way to Denver our flight was diverted to Las Vegas because there were very high cross winds in Denver making it dangerous for most planes to land. This would mean our connecting flight to Des Moines would not be made.

During the trip, I happened to be reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book You Are Here. Within it he gave me a phrase that got me through the entire trip.

I have arrived, I am home,

In the here, and in the now.

I am solid, I am free,

In the ultimate I dwell.

You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh

After sitting on the tarmac in Las Vegas for five hours waiting for the winds to die down in Denver, we finally got clearance to take off for Denver. When we arrived and got in line, we found out the fastest way to get to Des Moines was by taking a morning flight out of Vegas the next day. Since we had just come from Vegas, this was frustrating news.

If Stoics are distinguished by one policy as an everyday matter, it is a refusal to worry about things beyond their control or to otherwise get worked up about them.

The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth

We took the next flight to Vegas and went to an airport restaurant to get off our feet and have some dinner and a beer. We booked a cheap hotel in Vegas and enjoyed our meals. About halfway through the beer, we both received texts letting us know that our flight to Vegas had been cancelled. “I have arrived,” I began saying in my mind, breathing in and out.

We waited for another 45 minutes in line to speak with a Southwest agent who determined she couldn’t help us. There were no flights to Des Moines she could find. “How about this one to Omaha?” we asked. She informed us there was room on the flight, but there were no flights from Omaha to Des Moines and Southwest could not cover the cost of a rental car from Omaha to Des Moines. That was OK in our book, as we wanted to make progress for home. She got us on the flight to Omaha.

After a questionable landing, many passengers began applauding. A flight attendant catching a ride and sitting next to my wife on the plane commented how she hadn’t ever experienced such a precarious landing. Although the crazy storms had passed, there was still a residue of high winds in the storm’s wake.

It took us until our third try on rental car establishments to find one that had a car that could be rented for a one-way trip to Des Moines. In another 3 hours, we were comfortably at Dad’s in Indianola, IA, staying the night without our luggage and toiletries. It wouldn’t be until 1:30pm the next day when our luggage would arrive at the Des Moines airport.

After this whirlwind of a trip, I recall being more calm and at ease at the end of it than at the beginning. I can say I practice my philosophy every day, but it isn’t until times like these when I actually notice.

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