If superstar footballer David Beckham wants to put a can of pop in his fridge, his obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) immediately causes him a problem:
‘I’ve got this obsessive compulsive disorder where I need to have everything in a straight line or everything has to be in pairs,’ he said.
‘I’ll put my Pepsi cans in the fridge and if there’s one too many then I’ll put it in another cupboard somewhere. I’ll go into a hotel room and before I can relax, I have to move all the leaflets and all the books and put them in a drawer. Everything has to be perfect.’
And he isn’t the only one:
Harry Potter actor Daniel opened up about his experience of OCD in 2012, saying he had lived with the condition since the age of five. ‘I had to repeat every sentence I said under my breath.’
He said he was referred to a therapist and his condition is under control, adding: ‘I haven’t had it this year so far and I’m missing it.’
OCD – Not an excuse
Perhaps this OCD is just the perfectionism which has contributed to their success? Disorganization is a natural state of the chaos of the universe. And for me Stoicism looks inwards on what can achieve. The opposite is focusing on what you cannot achieve, blaming an external indifferent reason.
In philosophical terms, things that are indifferent are outside the application of moral law, that is without tendency to either promote or obstruct moral ends. Actions neither required nor forbidden by the moral law, or that do not affect morality, are called morally indifferent. The doctrine of things indifferent (ἀδιάφορα, adiaphora) arose in the Stoic school as a corollary of its diametric opposition of virtue and vice (καθήκοντα kathekon and ἁμαρτήματα hamartemata, respectively “convenient actions,” or actions in accordance with nature, and mistakes). As a result of this dichotomy, a large class of objects were left unassigned and thus regarded as indifferent.
Eventually three sub-classes of “things indifferent” developed:
- things to prefer because they assist life according to nature;
- things to avoid because they hinder it; and
- things indifferent in the narrower sense.
You don’t need to be an actor or sportsman to be great. The people in this article did not treat OCD, or any sort of external thing, as a reason for not being the best person they can be. If they did then it would be an excuse.
As Marcus Aurelius said in Meditations:
“Thou sayest, Men cannot admire the sharpness of thy wits.- Be it so: but there are many other things of which thou canst not say, I am not formed for them by nature. Show those qualities then which are altogether in thy power, sincerity, gravity, endurance of labour, aversion to pleasure, contentment with thy portion and with few things, benevolence, frankness, no love of superfluity, freedom from trifling magnanimity. Dost thou not see how many qualities thou art immediately able to exhibit, in which there is no excuse of natural incapacity and unfitness, and yet thou still remainest voluntarily below the mark? Or art thou compelled through being defectively furnished by nature to murmur, and to be stingy, and to flatter, and to find fault with thy poor body, and to try to please men, and to make great display, and to be so restless in thy mind? No, by the gods: but thou mightest have been delivered from these things long ago. Only if in truth thou canst be charged with being rather slow and dull of comprehension, thou must exert thyself about this also, not neglecting it nor yet taking pleasure in thy dulness.”
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