Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Stoicism

The latest episode of my podcast is available! I have a widget conveniently located to the right of this post, you can listen right here in WordPress! I know I didn't cover everything there is to learn about stoicism, but this is a tiny little "intro" bite for you. If you'd prefer to read than listen, below you'll find the essay! Thanks!

"Stoicism is something I try to practice in my everyday life. Obviously, I fail regularly because… practice. I’ll never be the perfect “stoic” because I am a human. What is stoicism? It’s not the Vulcans from Star Trek or the talking robot thing in 2001 Space Odyssey. The dictionary defines the noun stoicism as the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint. Stoicism, as the philosophy, is defined by Wikipedia as: 

“a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno in the early 3rd century BC. It is a philosophy of personal eudemonic (sounds Satanic, hail Satan) virtue ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world, asserting that the practice of virtue is both necessary and sufficient to achieve eudaimonia – flourishing, by means of living an ethical life. The Stoics identified the path to eudaimonia with a life spent practicing the cardinal virtues and living in accordance with nature. The Stoics are especially known for teaching that "virtue is the only good" for human beings, and those external things—such as health, wealth, and pleasure—are not good or bad in themselves, but have value as "material for virtue to act upon". The Stoics also held that certain destructive emotions resulted from errors of judgment, and they believed people should aim to maintain a will that is "in accordance with nature". Because of this, the Stoics thought the best indication of an individual's philosophy was not what a person said but how a person behaved. To live a good life, one had to understand the rules of the natural order since they thought everything was rooted in nature.”

Another quote from Wikipedia: 

“Philosophy for a Stoic is not just a set of beliefs or ethical claims; it is a way of life involving constant practice and training. Stoic philosophical and spiritual practices included logic, Socratic dialogue and self-dialogue, contemplation of death, mortality salience (the awareness by individuals that their death is inevitable), training attention to remain in the present moment (similar to mindfulness), and daily reflection on everyday problems and possible solutions e.g. with journaling. Philosophy for a Stoic is an active process of constant practice and self-reminder.”

The best way I heard stoicism summarized is “You don’t have control over the people around you, or sometimes even the events that happen to you, but you do have control over how you react to them”. Other ancient Stoic philosophers since stoicism’s conception (maybe, though it was unofficial) include: Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca. In the present day, most powerful, often white, men claim to be Stoics though I commonly see in their practices: they are not. It’s a buzzword for politicians and celebrities. They fancy themselves stoics but their actions (which we know are important to stoics) prove otherwise. 

I recommend you do your own research into Stoicism. As Lavar Burton always taught my generation: “Don’t take my word for it” (but I always did, Lavar), A great person to start with is Ryan Holiday… his “Daily Stoic” is an AWESOME way to wake up each morning. By the time this podcast drops, it’ll be February 1 so let me share the daily inspiration: “Keep this thought handy when you feel a fit of rage coming on- it isn’t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human and therefore, manlier. A real man doesn’t give way to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage and endurance- unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength”. This was drawn from Marcus Aurelieus’ Meditations. . Also, please check out the website dailystoic.com. 

Final thoughts to wrap up this episode, the only thing we are left with is our choices. Whether they be big, or small. If we were a POW, we still have choices. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian physicist, trapped by Nazi’s in a concentration camp. His book “Man’s Search for Meaning” is CHALK full of stoic points. Though the Nazi’s had control of his physical body, they did not have control of his mind. He still had choices! The opposite side of the coin, extreme wealth and success. Celebrities have choices! No matter what your lot in life, there will always be a choice or choices to be made. That will always be yours. Your principles are choices. You can either betray them, or cling to them. Your reactions are choices. Someone cuts you off in traffic: what will your reaction, a choice, be? When you start to let go and stop trying to change everyone and everything around you, you feel the weight lifting. Stop clinging to the immovable! You are immovable: cling to that."


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