Imagination & Reality: A constant tussle


“… we suffer more in imagination than in reality.” 


Have you ever been left strangled between reality and imagination at some point in the course of your life? This has been a constant part of stoicism and their philosophical expositions which they went on to expound much like the Buddha and his Bodhisattvas. Seneca comes to the rescue here, “Seneca does not write as a philosopher who creates or expounds a philosophical theory from the ground up. Rather, he writes within the track of an existing system that he is largely in agreement with.”  A philosopher who was an independent thinker, free man, liberated from the clutches of worldly belongings and stoic from mind. “Follow no one but learn from everyone” we say, but, who initiated this saying in a more grand way? It was none other than Seneca alone when he emphatically reiterates that:  “Surely you can only want me to be like my leaders? Well then, I shall not go where they send me but where they lead”a defiant statement by the philosopher who wanted to educate the humanity through the “Letters from a stoic”  that humans should not turn out to be like cattle breeds who will blindly follow a man without questioning, much like the Katha Upanishad’s expression of a blind man leading another blind man in a circle of infinite regress- they are rightfully called as “mando” the dull witted and dumbfounded person. Similar to this expression, we come across a psychological tussle that races past the screen of our mind endlessly- the overgeneralization, over exaggeration and overthinking with the philosophy of fear that creates a poignant figure for us. Let us examine it.   


Sometimes, we tend to think excessively- everything starts from a thought, it spouts in a endless cycle of if and buts in our mind, we being to revolve in and around that thought, trying to find what could it take to become- what will be the consequences of it- what if fall and fail in my endeavor and what if the things do not end up picturing the way I have drawn it in my mind? A series of questions- which are not necessarily directed towards finding answers and actually working upon it, questions which keep us entangled in our thoughts of failure- it births feelings of temptation, aghast and anxiety of losing. These pertinent ripples cause much distress which becomes developmentally inappropriate for the functioning of a human being. We can’t seem to get away from the horrifying thoughts as contended by Serenus: “as if I were on a boat that doesn’t move forward and is tossed about.”  Such tumultuous and harsh ravages of time-frame only causes a person to feel in a constant despondency, deflected with positivity and decreased in bewilderment by happiness.

A person only accumulates in more of tragic, unfathomable fear and anguish which he nurtures within and the thought becomes like a never ending trail of fearful ideas which have already started to have deep imprints on the life, words and actions of a person. Seneca attempted to explain the premeditation of negative thoughts that possibly hamper our idea of present and color the notion of future. But why were negative thoughts highlighted by Seneca? It is because as he contends: “We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow.” The fact that tend to imagine the loss, exaggerate the ideas and anticipate the horrors befalling us prior to the happening of the actual incident in the empirical world- a phenomenon which is downright devoid of actual potency- practical basis, it starts to haunt us to the core of our soul. It starts to destroy us from within, slowly and slowly eating up all that is left within us- bringing us closer to nihilism in its extreme sense and pessimism in its crude sense. As Kevin Walker says in his interpretation of stoics from “Reading the Stoic with Millennials” that: “our disappointments loom large because we have nothing else to focus on.” deep clutches of separation, alienation and Wobegon passivity looms large on a person, only because he or she had primarily imagined it- allowed the seeds of detrimental ideas related to sorrows set in the mind, and thereby allowed the admission and significant exaggeration by holding tightly onto that particular idea- it ended up spreading like a wildfire, ended up consuming all that was inside the human.       


“Hence comes grief and melancholy and the thousand fluctuations of an uncertain mind, held in suspense by early hopes and then reduced to sadness once they fail to materialize.” Adding to this, “the human mind is a battleground; tame the negative reflections, conquer the internal judgments, reduce the number of times you compare yourself to others and self-criticisms.” because, as it is said by Aurelius: “External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now”

It is, however, generally believed that the philosophy espoused by stoics were filled with passive ideas and theoretical abstractions which are redundant, useless and downright filled with literature of valueless syllables. They were defamed as people with no legitimate philosophy and self deluders only talk about sorrow and escapism- but a deep analysis of the view withheld by the stoic makes us understand that we are actually looking towards a philosophy which is dedicated to serve the humans by highlighting the psychological, physiological and bodily anatomical issues which are at the core of mind-body dualism which is studied by the scientists and bioethicists till date.  


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B.A Philosophy (Hons.) from Hansraj College, University of Delhi


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