I really enjoy the podcast, Levar Burton Reads. Levar is an actor best known for his roles as Geordi La Forge in Star Trek, Kunta Kinte in Roots, and as the host of the PBS series, Reading Rainbow.
Levar Burton Reads is a grown-up version of Reading Rainbow. Mr. Burton — or Levar? I feel like I can call him Levar — reads short stories that he loves. They tend to fall into a loose category of “speculative fiction” which includes sci-fi, futurism, supernatural, fantasy, etc. It’s not for kids. There’s strong language and adult themes.
I love this type of fiction because it pulls us from our mundane lives, our routines, our restrictions, and it gives us a sense of greater possibilities. A sense of hope.
I also think it’s a great way to draw people out of their preconceived ideas. We see characters, creatures, and races interact with each other and we can judge them by their behavior, without the biases that come from identity, with tribalism.
I was listening to the episode where Levar read “Cricket” by Kenneth Yu, and in the recap Levar said;
I tend to believe that pain is a part of life, right? But that self-pity, that suffering brought on by self-pity, that’s optional. It doesn’t necessarily come along with the entree, you know?
That really struck me. It ties into Stoicism so well. I’ve written about Stocisim and Control before. You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your reaction to the world around you. You control how you think and feel about the events in your life.
So I would expand on what Levar says. It’s not just self-pity that’s optional. It’s also self-doubt and self-blame. All the ways we sabotage ourselves with negativity.
Those feelings are what cause us real harm to the part of us that matters most — the choices we make, our belief in ourselves, our sense of self-worth, our identity.
What if after making a mistake, you simply recognized it, adjusted strategy and tried again? Making mistakes doesn’t make you weak. Learning from mistakes makes you strong.
If you’ve gone down the wrong path, responded badly, acted in ways that you regret, shame isn’t the answer. Shame is a terrible motivator. Shame requires that you identify with that behavior, that you say “I am this person who does bad things, and this makes me a lesser person.”
I believe we are capable of constant renewal. I believe we are the choices we make now, the principles we follow now. Recognize your past mistakes as belonging to the person you were before.
Choose to be the person who can bounce back, who can do better. Choose to be a person who can hold their head high and feel proud.
That’s your choice. No one can stop you. No one can get in your way except yourself. Your own negative feelings and ideas are what get in your way. So leave them behind.
Life is full of pain, but self-pity, self-doubt, and self-blame are optional.