The Tairua boat-ramming incident of January 23 bought to mind the ancient Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. One thousand, eight hundred and fifty years ago, he wrote in his Ta eis he'auton: "How much more harmful are the consequences of anger than the circumstances that aroused them in us?"
I wish the great man had been on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula late last month. He would have loved it.
Rarely has there been a better demonstration of his point. The consequences of that dude's actions were so much worse than the circumstance that kicked them off. It's a lesson for us all. Throwing a tanty turns bad terrible. You might even sink your own boat.
Ironically, quoting Marcus Aurelius' thoughts on anger can in itself cause anger. I received this email from a Susan last time I wrote about the great man.
"Matt your constant pseudo-intellectual quoting of ancient philosophy is annoying and pretentious. Sometimes I don't mind your writing - this makes me hate you," Susan wrote.
She's right. Nary a week goes by without me punishing Premium subscribers with my love of Marcus Aurelius, Musonius Rufus or Epictetus.
Susan, if you're reading this I have a quote from Seneca the Younger that may help:
"Maximum remedium irae mora est - The greatest remedy for anger is delay."
In his handy book A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, William B Irvine suggests a five-second rule. When you get angry, don't react straight away. Stop and leave it for a little bit. Even the briefest of pauses will lower the heat of your response.
Reject straightway the first incentives to anger. Resist its very beginnings, take care not to be betrayed into it: for if once it begins to carry us away, it is hard to get back again into a healthy condition - Seneca.
Maritime speed violations can be annoying, but if you take a few breaths, you'll realise ramming a woman and her children in their bigger boat isn't a great idea, especially in a poppable inflatable.
On the other side, if you've been rammed, you could maybe count to five before hitting an enraged man over the head with an oar. You never know - he might be a convicted murderer.
If someone is losing it in front of you, climbing down to their level isn't optimal. Not only do you lose your high ground and dignity, but you also hand your enemy a win. As Epictetus said: "Any person capable of angering you becomes your master."
If Marcus Aurelius were around today with access to YouTube, he might give this advice:
"You have a choice, be the person in the video everyone admires and supports or jump in and become the punchline."
If Musonius Rufus saw the video he might have stated: "Remember your three As. Anger adds admin."
What's more annoying, quoting ancient philosophers or making up quotes for them?
Next time anger takes over, stop and bring to mind the humiliating maritime rage of Tairua, January 2021.
How much better would that day have gone if no one lost their rag?