We here at the DoD are enamored of archaic sources that provide shorthand techniques for coping with the travails of life.
Some of these are purposeful, self-consciously mantra-like statements that function to re-set attitude, emotion, or reaction, as when the Dhammapada suggests encountering enmity with the statement: “We here are struggling.” Apart from being a finely apt representation of just about every human experience, this has to be one of the finest uses of “we” we have ever beheld.
Some of these techniques are embedded in wider arguments but have a catchy therapeutic punch that begs to be made a mental refuge, as when Zhuangzi registers the sagely capacity for subtle adaptation to circumstance with the injunction: “Out in the world, follow its rules.” In this he remarks an internal freedom that need not bother itself with frustration and resistance to things that likely don’t matter much.
And some of them work on us via humor, providing relief by asserting one’s ability to laugh at that which annoys, upsets, or bothers, as when Seneca suggests greeting Fortuna’s dirty tricks with the bold claim: “You have to deal with a man!” We confess that, not being a man ourselves, this is one of our favorites. Indeed, we revel most in announcing it, along with raising a fist to the heavens, as something of a ritual prelude to changing flat tires, an activity in which we excel. (True, Seneca wasn’t trying to be funny, but we never let that stop our finding him so.)
And, finally, since our childhood involved playing cops and robbers (and always being the robbers) more than was likely healthy, we have a mantra preserved from childhood, from that esteemed source Mad Magazine. It serves as our go-to mental recitation upon encountering the Normal border control agents, those boundary police ever ready to catch us out in deviance: “Cheese it, Rocko, it’s the fuzz!” This allows us to enjoy our intellectual naughtiness almost as much as playing robbers.