Eric Weiner’s defense of uncertainty reminds me of a number of modern-day Stoic bloggers, in that I don’t recognize the brain about which he is talking.
We engage in certain activities—such as watching thrillers or reading mysteries—precisely because the outcome is uncertain. Or, say you receive a note from a secret admirer. The mystery of who sent it, Gilbert says, yields “the kind of uncertainty you would find delicious and delightful.”
Let me dispense with the latter example first: that would send me into a rager of an anxiety spiral; diagnosable anxiety isn’t merely an “intolerance of uncertainty” that can be Stoic-minded away, even if for some people certain forms of it can be mitigated by medication of mindfulness.
As to the former, one thing Weiner misses is that such things are at a remove from our own, personal and lived experience. That distance or detachment precisely is one of the reasons we enjoy reading and watching stories: they are vicarious experiences whose uncertainty doesn’t put as personally at risk.
(That said, I’ve experienced some pretty strong anxiety states just from coming near to the end of a good book.)
Stoicism (or, at least modern-day Stoic bloggers) flattens neurology, presupposing that everyone’s brain effectively is the same.
Lawrence’s response is pure Stoic. Sure, he felt the pain, yet it remained a sensation, a reflex. It never metastasized into panic. Lawrence didn’t mind the pain, in the literal sense of the word: He didn’t allow his mind to dwell on, and amplify, what his body had felt.
That’s all fine and well for Lawrence of Arabia, but to take just the example at hand (my own autisticness) and put it in terms I’ve used before: there simply sometimes exist circumstances in which my brain cannot interrupt its reaction to stimulus in order to fashion a considered response.
I’m sorry, Stoics, but sometimes, there’s no other choice but to mind the pain.