Ataraxia

The dictionary.com defines the word as ‘a state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety; tranquility’. Below that is Jean Jacques Rousseau’s sentence from A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and a Discourse on Political Economy ~ ‘The former breathes only peace and liberty; he desires only to live and be free from labour; even the ataraxia of the Stoic falls short of his profound indifference to every other object.’

Maybe, I need to explain why I suddenly find the need to quote www.dictionary.com on my blog. It started with a last-minute project that I need to be presently working on. At some point, it becomes evident that I cannot submit a decent piece of work, even if I devotedly jab at my keyboard during the next half an hour. Also, the WiFi of the hostel is going through one of its occasional bouts of moodiness where it refuses to let you connect to the internet, as if it is punishing you for something you ought to have remembered to do. So, I quit working on it. I like to think of it as more of a break. Hopefully, I will make it back to the project once I finish this brief introspection that I intend to publish for the world to see before the project deadline.

Why did I stop working on my project? There are many reasons, but the one that forms 78% (yes, it’s a random number above 50% that I decided to arbitrarily use; sue me!) of all the reasons is the fact that I am overwhelmed by my to-do list, and not in a good way. I do that more often these days than before, but I guess I have always been that way. In the direst of situations, I end up feeling this severe need to walk away from my problem (even if it is only for a while) and experience that ‘state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety’.

The question then is, am I the stoic in Rousseau’s sentence or the other person with his ‘profound indifference to every other object’? I am divided on this matter. Naturally, I like to think that I am the former, but the very thought that I want(hope, or perhaps aspire would be a better word) to fall in that category makes me doubt if I am being indifferent at the moment. Then again, what if this momentary indifference only leads to added conviction in my efforts at a later point in time? What if it is this ‘break’ from the problem at hand, thatprevents me from completely abandoning the task at hand? Is my fleeting ataraxia a good thing then? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but I am confident that I have distracted myself long enough to resume work now!

When work overwhelms…

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