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Andy Warhol, Stoic?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 06, 2018

From The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again):

Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, “So what.” That’s one of my favorite things to say. “So what.” “My mother didn’t love me.” So what. “My husband won’t ball me.” So what. “I’m a success but I’m still alone.” So what. I don’t know how I made it through all the years before I learned how to do that trick. It took a long time for me to learn it, but once you do, you never forget.

Warhol was channeling the Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who wrote about this in Meditations:

You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

Not everyone has the privilege of saying “So what.” in every situation, but changing your perception about things you have little control over can be a powerful tool. I still struggle mightily to be mindful about my perceptions, but like Warhol, I wish I’d come to this realization sooner. Not having control over some outside events was a source of despair and anxiety for me. These happenings were facts, they had a “truth” that I perceived as immutable; everyone knows you can’t change facts! But human brains don’t work like that. Your perception of and emotional reaction to events *is* your reality. Sure, those things happened, that person is that way, the system will do its thing, but you don’t have to feel a certain way about any of it. (via nitch)