A Stoic Christmas Story

Is Marcus being festive in the snow? Not sure really. But one person who has thought about what a ‘Stoic Christmas’ might entail is Paul Bryson,  who blogs at the Stoic Lawyer. There follows his ‘Stoic Christmas Story’. A very merry Christmas to you all.

A Stoic Christmas Story

This is what’s under my Christmas tree as of today. At first glance, you wouldn’t think such a materialistic tradition would deserve mention in a blog about Stoicism. But there is a lesson here that reflects Stoic principles; a lesson I’m glad to be learning from my 5-year-old daughter.

I should mention my wife LOVES Christmas. Even in a 1-bedroom apartment, she used 7 storage boxes of decorations to celebrate the season. I’ve never really cared for Christmas, so I didn’t understand or appreciate my wife’s exuberance. But I went along with my wife’s wish to make the season special for our daughter. It was hard to justify not making Christmas a great season to be a kid. All of the early presents in the picture above are for our daughter to open before Christmas eve.

The funny thing is, almost none of those packages contains something new, and my daughter knows it. The bulk of them are books she already has, many handed down in one side of the family or the other over the years. She gets to open one of those every night between the beginning of December and Christmas Eve. The few packages that do contain something new are little crafts or seasonal knickknacks that my wife bought at post-Christmas clearance sales last year (usually at several for a dollar or two). She gets to open and complete one of those crafts or play with one of those knickknacks a few nights each week in the 25 days leading up to Christmas. She’s always so excited to tear into and read, build, or play with each one.

So what does all this have to do with living a Stoic life?

Continue reading “A Stoic Christmas Story”

Audio: Jules Evans on The Revival of Stoic Philosophy

In this talk at Kings’ College London, Jules Evans discusses how Stoicism has experienced a revival in CBT and positive psychology. He also discusses concerns about the ‘politics of wellbeing’, and the need to encourage discussion, rather than dogmatism, about what it is that constitutes a ‘good’ life. The revival of Stoic philosophy has the strength of offering ‘space for ethical discussion’. In addition, he discusses the perennial Stoic difficulty of establishing supportive communities, before concluding that Stoicism’ greatest strength is the idea of serving something really worthwhile in life, such as the good or morality, and how the philosophy is especially useful in schools, prisons, adult education.

In the Q&A which followed the talk, the discussion turns to how Stoicism can work as a philosophy if one does not believe in a providential world view.

Excerpt from Keith Seddon's Stoic Serenity

New readers of the blog might be interested in this chapter from Keith Seddon’s excellent course, ‘Stoic Serenity‘, a chapter which explores Epictetus’ core ‘entry point’ Stoicism, knowing the difference between what is in your power and and what is not.

That chapter can be found here. We ran a mini-course using this chapter back in September.


Video: Roundtable Discussion from Stoicism for Everyday Life Event

The full round-table discussion (one hour long) from the Stoicism for Everyday Life event at Birkbeck, University of London, on November 30th. Participants included Prof. Chris Gill chairing Julian Baggini, Jules Evans, Antonia Macaro, Richard Sorabji, and Mark Vernon.

Questions covered in the fascinating discussion and debate include: Can Stoicism be revived as a guide to life today? Should Stoicism be revived today? How much of Stoicism do we have to embrace if we try to revive it? Can we establish via evidence its effectiveness?

Adapting Stoicism today raises many interesting questions – join in with your view on the debate below!

More videos and resources from the London event will be published shortly.


Excerpt from Teach Yourself Stoicism by Donald Robertson

Excerpt from the forthcoming book Teach Yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013) by Donald J. Robertson.

Release Date: 27th December



If you can’t see the embedded document above, you should be able to follow this link to download it from the cloud using Microsoft SkyDrive.

Important: Please Fill in the End of Stoic Week Questionnaires

Stoic Week 2013 T-ShirtYour feedback is really important to us to help us evaluate the effectiveness of the Stoic exercises, and to help us to secure funding for any future projects. We would very much like you to fill in all the scales even if you only dipped in to Stoic week a little.

As a small gesture of appreciation for your time we are offering four prizes to be drawn at random from people who fill in all the questionnaires. The prizes are

* Two £20 amazon.co.uk vouchers and

* Two books written by the Exeter Stoic team – Jules Evans’ Philosophy for Life and Gill Garratt’s CBT for Work

To qualify for the draw you need to have completed all 5 questionnaires on line by SUNDAY December 8th at 5.00 pm. Those who have already submitted entries will also be included in the draw. If you have won one of the prizes, we will contact you by email by Dec 15th.

Please use the same email or pseudonym which you used at the start of the week. Please use these links for the post-study questionnaires:

  1. The Flourishing Scale
  2. Satisfaction with Life Scale
  3. SPANE Scale
  4. Stoic Attitudes and Behaviour Scale (SABS)
  5. Additional overall feedback survey on Stoic Week

Thanking you for your participation in Stoic Week.

Features: Stoicism and Christianity by Jules Evans

Jules Evans considers the the similarities and differences between Stoicism and Christianity, which was the theme of his workshop, with Mark Vernon, at the Stoicism for Everyday Life Event in London. Please chip in with your own reflections and observations too.


1) Serving God / the Logos

I think one of the main similarities, one of the ways in which Stoicism anticipated Christianity, is the idea of serving the will of God. Neither Stoicism or Christianity demand that God or the Gods do your will (and bless you with children, or a good harvest, or a good hunt etc), which is really a form of operational magic, but rather that you do God’s will, that you accept the will of God and try to serve it.

We should also note that the Stoics were monotheists – they followed Heraclitus in believing in one Logos. In this they can be compared to the evolving monotheism of Judaism, particularly that of Moses around two centuries earlier. Later Christians would draw on the Stoic concept of the Logos, particularly in the marvelous opening to the Gospel of St John. I wonder if one could argue that Stoicism is in some ways more monotheistic than Christianity, in that there is no opposing Enemy, no angels and demons, and no Trinity? There is just the Logos.

Anyway, back to this idea of giving up your will and serving the Logos. Cleanthes said: ‘Conduct me, Jove, and you, 0 Destiny, Wherever your decrees have fixed my station.’  Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus anticipates, I think, some of the noble sentiments of the Lord’s Prayer:

O God, without you nothing comes to be on earth,
neither in the region of the heavenly poles, nor in the sea,
except what evil men do in their folly.
But you know how to make extraordinary things suitable,
and how to bring order forth from chaos; and even that which is unlovely is lovely to you.
For thus you have joined all things, the good with the bad, into one,
so that the eternal Word of all came to be one.

Continue reading “Features: Stoicism and Christianity by Jules Evans”

Embrace Your Suffering by Zach Obront

 “Somewhere along the line we seem to have confused comfort with happiness.” – Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Man

The girl working the drive-thru once told me that life is just one long chain of suffering.

But that seems wrong, doesn’t it? I was too hungry to argue with her, but life is beautiful and interesting and playful and amazing. It’s all we’ve got. It can’t be all bad.

I will make one small concession, though: a fulfilling life does require some suffering.

It’s true for everyone, regardless of what your dreams and goals and ambitions are. The jock in the gym and the artist in front of her easel have to face the same reality.

 And that’s the cause of the kind of suffering I’m talking about: the enormous gap between your perception of the world and the world as it really is.

It’s called cognitive dissonance and it isn’t fun.

Continue reading “Embrace Your Suffering by Zach Obront”

Important: End of Week Questionnaires

Stoic Week 2013 T-Shirt

If you took part in Stoic Week, please now fill in the end of week questionnaires! The deadline for this is 17.00 this Sunday 8th December.

Please use the same email or pseudonym which you used at the start of the week. Please use these links for the post-study questionnaires:

  1. The Flourishing Scale
  2. Satisfaction with Life Scale
  3. SPANE Scale
  4. Stoic Attitudes and Behaviour Scale (SABS)
  5. Additional overall feedback survey on Stoic Week

The Stoic Mayor

Jules Evans on Sam Sullivan, mayor of Vancouver, and his inspirational strength of character which led him to enter politics…

At the age of 19, Sam Sullivan, a lanky, athletic teenager from Vancouver, British Columbia, broke his spine in a skiing accident, and lost the use of his arms, legs and body. For six years, he battled with depression and suicidal impulses. Then he managed to get a philosophical perspective on what had happened to him, so that his spirit wouldn’t be crushed along with his body. He says:

I played many different mind games to get a perspective on what had happened to me – I don’t mean games in a frivolous sense, but in the philosophical sense. For example, I imagined I was Job [the Old Testament prophet], and God was looking down on me and saying, ‘anyone can manoeuvre through modern society with two good arms and two good legs, but let’s take away the use of his arms, legs and body – now things are starting to get interesting,now let’s see what the guy’s made of’.

The young Sam displayed a typically Stoic approach to disaster, seeing adversity as an opportunity to test one’s powers of agency and
resilience. As Epictetus wrote:

Difficulties are the things that show what men are. Henceforth, when some difficulty befalls you, remember that God, like a wrestling master, has matched you with a rough young man. For what end? That you may become an Olympic victor, and that cannot be done without sweat.

Sam’s spiritual recovery from his injury involved a transformation from a passive victim of adversity to an active victor over it. He started to take control over the things he could take control over. He worked to regain the use of his biceps and interior deltoids. He contacted an engineering firm, and an engineer helped him devise technology to, for example, open the curtains, keep the freezer door open, cook TV dinners.

Continue reading “The Stoic Mayor”