I’ve always thought that if turtles had a philosophy, it would be Stoicism. When confronted with danger, draw yourself up as tight as you can, hold perfectly still, and maybe it will miss you.

Yes, I’m being slightly unfair for the sake of metaphor, but leaving aside the absurdity of human beings trying to “live in accordance with nature”, or that of the notion that there could ever be pure, clear reason detached from emotional considerations, it’s still largely a negative philosophy aimed at “reducing vulnerability“, and as such, allows itself to be too defined by the avoidance or rationalizing away of pain. There are aspects of it I find useful in small doses and in certain circumstances — it’s worthwhile to meditate, for example, on the fact that all you love will eventually pass away. But as with some manifestations of Buddhism*, the lesson drawn from this is too often to attempt to cultivate a serene detachment in advance to lessen the turbulent emotional pain when the feared event comes to pass, rather than to feel more intensely in full knowledge and acceptance of the inevitable, gladly taking your chances that the pain may be too much for you to bear then.

Life is constant flux. Contingent things are always arising and passing away. But there is no safe vantage point from which to observe it all, no shelter to eventually arrive at. We’re already in the thick of it. Open up your heart and dive right in.

To me, a more sensible philosophy to deal with the inevitable losses we all suffer was espoused by none other than Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss: Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

*Joel Mendez notices the same parallels, but I disagree that Zen is a good example of the sort of Buddhism that cultivates this sort of mentality. The Zen practitioners I know use Zen as a tool to see through the limits of all conceptual frameworks, especially of “the self”. Using it to try to master an ironclad self-control would indicate that you haven’t taken the insights far enough, and they would probably smile and ask, “Who is it that’s doing the controlling?”