Let Us Not Be Angry By Jean de La Bruyère: Reading and Meditation

November 16, 2020  • Todd Breyfogle

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I can’t quarrel with a stone for falling to the ground. And yet I do. Often. How much energy do we expend in anger at things that cannot be changed, or at people whose idiosyncrasies are the source of frustration? How much of our (or others’) character is nature? How much of it can be modified or improved? We are at once stuck in our ways and fickle. What a puzzling lot we are. Jean de La Bruyère counsels habits of forbearance and restraint. There is a wisdom in Stoic acceptance. But acceptance has two sources—it may be rooted in resignation or in appreciation. Do I cease to be angry by submerging my bitterness, or because I grow in love? There are, of course, limits to forbearance. Some things are not to be tolerated, and yet when do we draw the line to quickly, too firmly? The fields of biology and physics acknowledge a “range of tolerance”—a band within which a species can survive or an object can bend without breaking. What is your range of tolerance? What ought your range of tolerance be?

Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado

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