I have observed of late with a frown that many people too soon adapt to events that have the potential of being world-sundering. I have had reason to revisit the claim I made in 2011 about ‘strategies of retention’:
Understanding the reasons why a practice is causing somebody disquietude will involve more than helping her to achieve theoretical insight, though this will be one exercise among others. It will also require guiding her through the various strategies she’s employed in order to hold onto a life that she still values and desires yet that cannot conceivably work. At the same time, the practice will be directed to getting her to develop new practices that carry the potential of realising worthwhile final ends. (‘Putting Lives in Order,’ TPM 57)
In some cases, it is necessary for a being to adapt to his external circumstances. Cold weather provides an occasion for one to learn hardiness while exceptionally warm weather allows one to exercise forbearance, patience, and whatever virtue is the contrary of lassitude. Other everyday cases also come to mind: incivility could be met with a smile, the chattering of a fellow with a dumb ear or with a Zen-like blow to the head.
However, in other cases of a world-sundering sort, strategies of retention are forms of adaptation that close one off from precarity. These make one ‘used to’ one’s lot rather than freeing one up to leave behind a sorry life to venture forth into the unknown; these dumb the mind and dull the senses. Danger puts one in touch with enormity whereas facile adaptability encrusts and makes shoddy.
These days, many are those who are coddled and few those who are properly admonished. Many are those who could stand some forceful admonition, a genre that is neither vengeance nor titillating punishment nor wanton cruelty nor sheer aggression. To admonish is to care for someone who is too weak in character, too deficient in resolve. You: are you spending too much time counting your remaining possessions in an attempt to immunize yourself from thinking or feeling profusely or from doing something that your peers would deem foolish and risible? Are you dumbly reassuring yourself from morning to night? Are you seeking creature comforts? Then, you could use a firm blow to the head from a master who is yelling, without anger, at you to wake up!