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Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Those who do study history are doomed to watch other people repeat it.

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  • 2 weeks
    Patreon... yeah, how about a Patreon...

    So... I'm biting the bullet and making a Patreon.

    I haven't the foggiest idea what to do with it, mind you, but I'm making one. Because people have told me they want to give me money for writing these stories and, well, I'm not going to argue with them.

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    5 comments · 129 views
  • 6 weeks
    New Story: My Neighbor's War

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  • 8 weeks
    Who Would Read "A 14th Century Podcast?"

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    21 comments · 147 views
  • 13 weeks
    Sharing Grandpa's Final Lessons

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    16 comments · 162 views
  • 13 weeks
    Thank you!

    Third and hopefully last post on this. Grandpa made it through surgery and the tough old man's still with us. The road to recovery will be long, and he'll certainly still need prayers, but he made it. Thank you all for your prayers! It has meant a great deal to me to see the outpouring of support from all of you, even those who are not believers!

    13 comments · 62 views

A 14th Century PSA: Soothing the Soul · 6:22pm Sep 8th, 2018

The camera slowly panned in on two figures. One, a tall human elder in a black monk’s robe. The other, a white earth pony whose black mane was streaked with gold. Answering some unseen cue, the human began to speak.

“Hello. I’m Friar Jacques de Charette from the apparently popular web-series A 14th Century Friar in Celestia’s Court.”

“And I’m First Lieutenant Morning Song from the same series.”

“You know, in light of the serious nature of some of the topics touched upon in the last chapter…”

“Namely depression, anxiety, and suicide,” clarified Song.

“… we thought it would be worth our time to speak about it, even if we had to break character to do so.”

“Our writer, Antiquarian, agreed,” Song assured the audience. From the nearby supply closet, the sound of angry cries of objection, likely muffled by some sort of gag, contradicted her. “Ignore that.”

“Consequently,” said the friar, “we decided to put together a little PSA to talk about some practical tips for dealing with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and other forms of emotional hardship.”

“Now, it should be noted that these are not a substitute for professional counselling,” cautioned Song. “If you are in a place where you need more help than we can provide, then please, for your sake and for ours, find help. There is no shame in needing help. In fact, it is a sign of incredible maturity and strength to seek it.”

“Indeed,” agreed Antiquarian. “It is a foolhardy soldier who attempts to fight without his fellows. Far better to lean upon those around us. We are made to love and nurture each other, and are healthiest when we allow ourselves to love and be loved by caring and being cared for, even by strangers.”

“So, without further ado,” more muffled cries were heard, “and before Antiquarian manages to untie himself in the supply closet, here are five practical tips for dealing with emotional distress.”

At this point the main theme played; it closely resembled the opening credits of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but with the addition of Redheart, Medevac, the REF soldiers, and, of course, Friar Jacques. The episode title was announced as A 14th C. PSA: Soothing the Soul.

When the credits finished playing, Jacques took over the narrative. “Emotional pain is a reality of life; it has been so from the beginning and will be long after we are dust. As such, every era has produced individuals who sought to find healthy ways to cope. Today we’ll be looking at five helpful tips from my era. Specifically, they are drawn from a theologian who died not terribly long before I left my homeland for Equestria: Thomas Aquinas.”

Song interjected, “Now, before anyone thinks that this will be a theological treatise in any way, these practical tips from Aquinas are actually in essence identical to many strategies prescribed by modern psychologists. They may have come from the Summa Theologica, but they more than stand the test of time even if the rest of the Summa is not compelling to you.”

“Quite right, my friend,” agreed Jacques. “We’ll touch on each in greater detail, but for now the five tools are: Legitimate Pleasure, Tears, Friends, Contemplation, and, my personal favorite, Sleep and Baths.”

“That’s my favorite too,” said Song.

“Mmams ma mamahma mah,” agreed the muffled voice.

“Well, we’ll get to it eventually,” Jacques assured them. “Let’s begin with Legitimate Pleasure. Pleasure has the capacity to lift the soul out of its lowness by elevating it to a state of relaxation and happiness. After all, it is not enough to simply choose not to be depressed or anxious anymore; it must be replaced with a positive emotion to prevent the negative emotion from returning.”

“Now, that qualifier is placed at the front of it because certain forms of pleasure can be counter-productive,” cautioned Song. “Destructive pleasures like drug abuse might make the pain seem like it goes away, but ultimately they only mask it, harm the body and the mind, and make the negative emotions return with greater vengeance.”

“And even pleasures which, while not inherently wrong, are simply placeholders can be problematic as well,” added Jacques. “If a pleasure is merely a distraction rather than a positive prescription, then it produces no lasting effect. For instance, if people spend an hour surfing the web,” he leaned to Song and whispered, “Am I saying that right?” She nodded. He cleared his throat and resumed, “…surfing the web or constantly checking social media, it may prove a distraction for a time, but it does nothing to deal with the underlying problem and can even make you feel worse as a result. Binging on television can have a similar effect.”

Song nodded. “Now, this is not to say that all technological pursuits are necessarily counter-productive, simply that they must be achieving a positive effect beyond distraction to truly help. For example, Antiquarian has found that watching an episode of My Little Pony can help alleviate stress because the content is edifying and uplifting. The same effect is not achieved for by watching, say, the average episode of NCIS because, though he enjoys the show, there doesn’t tend to be as much in the way of edifying or uplifting content; it’s the difference between having a tasty but well-balanced meal and a candy bar. There’s nothing wrong with the candy bar in itself, but it’s not a meal.” There was the sound of someone crashing against something in the supply closet and muffled swearing. “You’re bringing much-needed comic relief to a serious topic!” shouted Song.

“Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, can be a great help,” said Jacques, ignoring Antiquarian. “The endorphins that the body releases, along with other ‘happiness’ chemicals, go a long way to helping the body and the mind. Also, respect for one’s body through exercise and the fact that one is being productive give added value.”

“Another great option is finding a creative outlet,” suggested Song. “Are you good with manual projects? Take up wood-working or knitting. Like music? Learn an instrument or practice singing. It doesn’t have to be good; you’re not performing for others, you’re doing this for you. Journal. Write. Draw. Any of these pursuits can be an outlet.”

“Read a good book,” advised Jacques, holding up a paperback called Redwall. “This Brian fellow, for example, does an incredible job of building worlds that are engaging without being overwhelming; they’re relatively quick and light reads and are all stand-alones, so you don’t need to worry about getting wrapped up in a big series. At the same time, though, he draws on his experiences growing up during the Battle of Britain to craft narratives full of compassion, heroism, and the best qualities of people. This makes for an uplifting and moving read, which makes this a positive and legitimate pleasure.”

Song nudged him teasingly. “You sure you just don’t like the books because of the author’s last name?”

Jacques snorted. “Please! In his case it’s pronounced ‘Jakes.’ It’s completely different.”

Laughing for a moment, she continued in a more somber tone. “The next strategy is Tears. All too often, we keep our emotions bottled up inside.”

Jacques nodded. “Somewhere along the line, modern society acquired this idea that tears and grief are a sign of weakness, but that is a lie. Tears demonstrate emotional strength by showing your willingness to air out your pain. One must allow oneself to experience the emotion if one is to allow your pain to be transformed into joy one day.”

“The movie Inside Out actually did a wonderful job of explaining this,” noted Song, “but even if you haven’t seen it, let me assure you that sadness is a legitimate emotion. We need to allow ourselves to experience the weight of our struggles in order to address them and heal from them. Sadness is the mind’s immune system telling you that there is a wound that requires binding.”

“Aquinas said that when we are sad, we must cry and even groan for the pain,” said Jacques. “This helps for two reasons. Firstly, the pain is more intense if we keep it shut up inside. Secondly, because ‘an action that befits a man according to his actual disposition is always pleasant to him.’ In other words, self-deception or the deception of others by denying our pain makes things worse. In contrast, being honest with ourselves about our misery is, itself, a thing pleasing to our psyches.”

Song raised an eyebrow. “So, you tripped over social media, but television, PSAs, and psyches are just fine for you.”

“To be fair, mon ami, you shouldn’t know what PSAs, social media, and television are any more than I.” More angry shouts were heard through the supply closet door. Jacques frowned. “Let your tongue not be sullied with such wicked words, Antiquarian!”

“What did he say?”

“Something unrepeatable in Polish.”

“Wait, you speak Polish?”

“I can’t answer that question in the detail it requires without giving something away about the story.”

“Fair. The next point is Friends.” Song glanced at the title card. “Rather fitting, given the fandom.”

“Why do you think Antiquarian resonates with it?” commented Jacques. “The word ‘compassion’ can, in essence, be translated to ‘suffering with.’ When we are burdened, and we share our burden with another, be it a friend, a therapist, or a family member, our load is lightened. A seemingly impassible journey becomes manageable when we have someone to walk with.”

“Speaking as a soldier,” interjected Song, “I know that making it through the hellish runs in training was nigh-impossible when I did them alone, but when I ran them with a friend that I could share the pain with, we both made it farther than either of us could on our own. This is even more true when it comes to emotional pain.”

“And, sometimes, sharing another’s burden can help alleviate our own,” remarked Jacques. “Some of my worst days have only been made better by a friend suffering horrible circumstances and trusting in me to aid them. This is not to be undertaken lightly, as such aid can be exhausting and we don’t want to overtax ourselves, but it is worth mentioning for consideration.”

“Hence Antiquarian taking the time to write this even when he’s stressed. It’s actually helping him as we speak.” Shouts of anger came. “Mostly.”

“Fourth is contemplation. One thing which separates thinking beings from irrational animals is our capacity to consider and think. Ultimately, the intellectual pleasures far outweigh the physical ones. The deepest and most lasting moments in our lives, you will note, come from that which we can contemplate rather than our mere animal pleasures. Plato’s vision of what God would be was that which is perfectly good, perfectly virtuous, perfectly beautiful, perfectly true, perfectly honorable, and so on. The contemplation of such higher things leads to a more lasting form of happiness than mere carnal pleasures. Whether you believe in God or not, this principal of valuing such higher things holds true.”

“If one considers the different levels of happiness,” said Song, “creature comforts and pleasures, while good, do no last long. Actions which build the self up are better, but are ultimately vulnerable to outside circumstances damaging them and making us dissatisfied. Working for the community is more stable still, but risks burnout if the community is ungrateful or if we feel alone.”

Jacques resumed the narrative. “Thus, only the highest form of happiness, the stage wherein we are concerned with that which is ultimately Good, leaves a lasting happiness. This is why you see people like Mother Teresa smiling genuinely in the midst of abject poverty and spiritual misery. Her happiness was not tied to anything but the ultimate Good, and so even when her pleasures, her self, and her community were stripped away by pain and hostility, her heart was unassailable.”

“Few of us can claim to be like Mother Teresa,” smiled Song, “but in the contemplation of truths like Love and Beauty which are grander than us, we can find satisfaction in things which last beyond the pains and sorrows of our lives. This is how many soldiers cope with the loss of their comrades – to know that they died for something bigger than themselves; how children grieve the loss of their parents – to know that their parents left them a legacy of love that lives on; how former addicts reconcile their past sins – to know that their experience can help them pull others out of the same abyss and live fulfilling lives.”

“It can be a frightening thing to consider that your life is bigger than yourself,” said Jacques solemnly, “but in the end it is intensely reassuring, because it means that we have far more to lean on and value than our own flawed selves. And, more than that, it means that our own flawed selves are so much grander than they first appear, because even in our flaws we can achieve great things.”

“On a lighter note, the fifth strategy is Sleep and Baths,” said Song. “And, boy, I really do love this one. At a glance, this one may appear silly. But it’s rooted in respect for the self. As advanced as we are, we are still animals, albeit sentient ones, and a full night’s rest and a clean body communicate to us at an unconscious level that we are taken care of, healthy, and safe.”

“Moreover, it tells us that we are worth being taken care of, healthy, and safe, because effort was expended to make us feel better. Self-care fights depression and negative emotions by repeating to oneself, physically and emotionally, that our body and spirit are beautiful and worthy of attention and care.”

“It also helps us physiologically,” noted Song. “Sleep in particular is necessary for our body to function correctly. When there isn’t enough sleep, both mind and body struggle to keep up. To do this, the body has to release chemicals to keep itself hyper-alert because, at some evolutionary level, our body thinks that if it’s awake when it should be resting, then there must be danger. Adrenalin levels spike, cortisol (the stress chemical) floods the body, and everything about you becomes set to being ‘on edge.’ That’s not sustainable long-term, and just leaves us more exhausted the next day. It’s a vicious cycle.”

“Antiquarian would know,” pointed out Jacques. “That’s why his adrenal glands are damaged.”

“True story.”

“Mm mu!”

“You kiss your mother with that mouth!” shouted Song.

“It’s a seemingly innocuous thing, but highly important,” continued Jacques. “Tonight, take a nice long shower or, better yet, a bath. Get to bed early. Have a long rest. If you, like Antiquarian, struggle with insomnia, ask your doctor about using a light dose of melatonin (the sleep chemical our bodies produce) for a short time until your body begins producing it more naturally again. Budget extra time for sleep and for getting up in the morning (especially if your doctor prescribes melatonin and you wake up groggy) and take care of yourself. You’re worth taking care of, and you need to be reminding yourself of it with the consistent practice.”

“Any of these five strategies may be used. We recommend doing at least three. Do it with intent, and do it diligently. Be deliberate rather than half-hearted. As we said at the beginning, they are not substitutes for therapy, but they can be a tremendous help on the road to recovery and have worked for people quite literally since the 13th century (and likely before). We are all psychologically and physiologically wired for these things, so let them do their work and help heal you naturally.”

There was a loud crash in the supply closet and the sound of hooves striking against the door, followed by audible swearing. Jacques began ushering Song to the exit. “Well, it sounds like that’s all we have time for. We sincerely hope that this PSA has been helpful to you. Know that you are never alone in your struggles and that there is never a point in your life at which things can’t take a turn for the better.”

“Happiness is achievable for all of us and worth fighting for!”

Friar Jacques waved to the camera. “May God bless you, dear readers, and I hope you will join me in encouraging Antiquarian not to punish us too greatly for this impropriety.”

Green magic began to burn down the door. “Should we run?” asked Song.


The camera followed them as they tore off down the hall. A moment after they left, the door exploded, and a disheveled Antiquarian stumbled out. Dragging himself to the exit, charred rope still trailing from him, he shouted, “Get back hear you little sh—

“My Little Pony,

I used to wonder what friendship could be…”

Snapping to black, the screen began playing the ending credits and outro music.

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Comments ( 6 )

Hey, I thought the RvB reference fit, alright?

Life becomes so much more interesting when your muses start doing things of their own volition yes? They did a good job, this is excellent, and needful, advice. Personally, I always enjoy a good bit of music, things always seem to go smoother with some upbeat music in the back of my head.

Here's a lovely one, and it's topical too!

I'm glad you liked it. That song (and artist generally) are on my playlist.

Thanks for the advice. It's really helpful to remember that one's suffering is not unique or new, and that there has long been good advice for dealing with it.

I think I'll keep this tab open for awhile yet, until it sticks.

If it helps you, pay it forward by passing it along. I heard about it because I was looking up materials on soothing emotional pain and came across this video by Matt Fradd. He approaches it from the perspective of a Catholic, but (like a lot of his self-help sort of content), he describes it in such a way as to be widely consumable regardless of one's religious beliefs.

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