What is Stoicism? How has Stoicism changed you? What kind of person would find Stoicism useful? How do you see Stoicon-x growing? And more…
This year Stoic Week is taking place from the 7th to the 13th October 2019.
Stoic Week is a global online experiment trying to see if people can benefit from following the ancient philosophy of Stoicism. Since its inception in 2012, over 20,000 people have signed up and so far the results have been consistently positive – people do benefit from ‘living like a Stoic’. This is your opportunity to experience some of those benefits too.
The course is free and online, attracting participants from all over the world. There is a series of questionnaires to complete in advance, guided advice for each day of the week, and a second set of questionnaires at the end.
For some background information and reports from previous years in the media, visit:
- John Sellars, ‘Want to be happy? Then live like a Stoic for a week’, The Conversation (September 2018)
- Brigid Delany, ‘My week living as a Stoic: like a Buddhist with attitude, but hard to do when hungover’, The Guardian (October 2018)
- Victoria Lambert, ‘Don’t flap, Don’t rant, Do keep calm: Can a new course based on ancient philosophy really transform your life in just one week?’, The Daily Mail (January 2019)
Each year the organizers of Stoic Week also put on public events to coincide with the week. In 2019 the main event, Stoicon, will take place in Athens, on the 5th October. A series of smaller Stoicon-x events will take place at locations all over the world. Further information about all these events can be found on the Modern Stoicism website.
Stoic Week and Stoicon events are run by Modern Stoicism, a not-for-profit organization set up by a group of academics and psychotherapists.
So, what is Stoicism? Here are some key Stoic ideas:
- Acknowledge that you can’t control much of what goes on in your life.
- See that your emotions are the product of how you think about the world.
- Accept that bad things are bound to happen to you from time to time, just as they do to everyone else.
- See yourself as part of a larger whole, not an isolated individual; part of the human race, part of Nature.
- Think of everything you have as not your own, but simply on loan, that one day will be taken back.
A new Facebook group has been created by Alex MacLellan for discussion of research on Stoicism and related topics in psychology. We hope this will provide a way for researchers involved in this field to network and share resources. Everyone is welcome to join, as long as you have an interest in research on Stoicism.
Modern Stoicism collects research data from Stoic Week and SMRT using the SABS scale and publishes the findings each year in a free report online.
For three days only, until Tuesday 10th September, you can snap up tickets for Stoicon 2019 Athens at the special earlybird discount price! That’s almost half the standard ticket price.
There are already nearly 300 people attending . See the EventBrite listing for more information, including the full program of speakers, or to book your tickets now.
The highly popular Art of Manliness website has featured Stoicism several times. Our own Donald Robertson was recently interviewed by Brett McKay for the Art of Manliness podcast, which you can hear below.
The Art of Manliness have also interviewed Ryan Holiday and William Irvine about Stoicism in the past, and their website includes several interesting articles on Stoicism.
Also from The Art of Manliness
Just a quick reminder that earlybird discount tickets for Stoicon 2019 in Athens are only on sale for a short while longer, until the end of this month. So don’t miss out on the discount if you want to attend!
Tickets can be booked via the EventBrite listing below which also includes full details of the event and the program of speakers:
Looking forward to seeing you there!
Do you have some interesting ideas about Stoicism? Do you like talking? We’re looking for people who want to give short talks at Stoicon-x Athens. Stoicon-x is the mini-conference that runs on Sunday, following Saturday’s main Stoicon conference. It’s usually attended by about a hundred people.
- Stoicon-x takes place on Sunday 6th October in Cotsen Hall, the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.
- Anyone can put their name forward, although we only have ten slots available.
- Speakers will be given five minutes each to deliver a presentation on Stoicism, without slides.
- All speakers will be offered free tickets for both Stoicon and Stoicon-x in return for volunteering to give a presentation.
- You’ll have to cover your own expenses, including flight and accommodation.
My name is Frank and this is my experience with Alcoholic Anonymous and my recovery from alcoholism. I am not a spokesperson for AA nor do I hold a position in AA.
My last drunk was October 7, 2013, it was a boys’ night out. I was attempting to prove that I could handle my drinking like the other guys, so I took a cab so I didn’t have to worry about driving. I’d made it home with no consequences and was sitting in my La-Z-Boy in my tighty-whiteys, when the phone rang. It was the woman I was dating at the time. Apparently, I’d thought it would be a good idea to get into my car and drive over to her place, except that she lived 20 miles away, her exit was a cloverleaf and I could not get off the highway. I just kept getting on and off, on and off, until I ran out of gas.
The last thing I remember was sitting at home. When I woke up the next morning, she told me she’d found me on the side of the road and had brought me back to her place. We went to the gas station to fill up a gas can and when we got to my car, I saw that the driver’s side mirror had been sheared off. I must have hit something. Back home, I assumed the “Oh shit” position – my head in my hands, staring at the ground. I knew I had a problem but I didn’t know what to do.
I come from an Italian background and had grown up in the 1970s, in an average NYC household. Money was tight, religion was there but not forced, and drinking was the way I saw adults being happy and having fun. Making wine was a yearly event, and my first and fondest memory of alcohol and its effects were when I was around 10 or 11. My grandparents would come over and we would start by crushing the grapes, laughing and having fun. In 3-4 days, the aroma would waft up from the barrels in the garage. One of my chores was to churn the crushing, and when I did, the aroma would hit my lungs and I’d get lightheaded. I was never late for this chore. After 7-10 days, the sugar converted to alcohol and it was my job to scrape the crushing from the barrel after we took out the juice. My father and grandfather would put the barrel on its side so I could reach inside and scoop. The alcohol fumes were much stronger now, and I would be in the barrel up to my waist. It was beyond lightheadedness. The effervescence would fill my lungs and I would get the same feeling/sensation that I would chase until I made it into the rooms of AA.
There was plenty of debauchery, fear, pain, misery, shame, and guilt. Drinking cost me my marriage. I knew nothing about AA, or recovery but a couple of months before, a friend had given me a book called The Golden Book of Resentments. I’d never looked at it, until that day. I read Step One and said, “That will do it.”
I white-knuckled it for 3 months, but nothing got better. There was still plenty of fear and shame, and the thought of a drink ran through my head constantly. One day, I was talking to a friend and said, “I don’t drink anymore.” “I don’t drink, either,” she said. “What meetings do you go to?” “What do you mean, meetings?” “You don’t go to meetings?” she said. “Do you think you might want to go to one?” “Okay.” At this point I would try anything to feel better.
Funny, how the cosmos work. I hadn’t even known she was in AA. So, I called the friend who’d giving me the book, and said it was suggested that I go to a meeting. He said, “I think that’s a good idea,” and took me. At my first meeting I raised my hand and said, “My name is Frank. I’m an alcoholic.” Something shifted; I cried and felt a sense of relief. The obsession to drink lifted. I went to meetings and got a sponsor, who took me through the steps using the BB, and the 12 & 12. (BB is short for Big Book which is the basic text used by Alcoholics Anonymous.)
In the rooms of AA with the Twelve Steps and my sponsor I built the archway that I walked through a free man, and which led me to the Stoics. On my journey I was searching for anything that might help me spiritually because my childhood faith did not help nor did I want it. Then I found some old quotes and everything changed. They fell in line with what I was learning from going through the Twelve Steps. I read in The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: “Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.” I identified with these sayings and realized that they were along the same lines as the principles I was learning in AA. So I looked up Marcus Aurelius and discovered he was an emperor of Rome. The words “Stoic philosopher” appeared next to his name. So I began reading up on the Stoics.
I’d found out later in life that I was born with only one kidney, which led me to believe I was inadequate and not the same as everyone else. I felt abandoned by everyone, including the god of my childhood. When the doctor informed me about my kidney, he explained to me the importance of taking care of it. So, what did I do? Just what the BB describes as the alcoholic. I could not moderate or stop my drinking, even for a good reason. I made this realization early in my sobriety. It gave me the acceptance of being an Alcoholic, and the drive I needed to dive into AA.
As I looked to enhance my spirituality, I found the Stoics. The foreword of the 12 & 12 states that the basic AA principles were borrowed from religion and medicine. With that, I found some old quotes and everything changed. They fell in line with the basic principles of AA, and they also mentioned God, a God of my understanding.
This one got me: “Resentment, bitterness, and holding a grudge prevent us from seeing and hearing and tasting and delighting” (Marcus Aurelius). So, I looked up the Marcus Aurelius, learned he was Emperor of Rome and the words Stoic Philosopher appeared next to his name. I then looked up the Stoic Philosophy and found the stoics are pantheist, which is:
- A doctrine that identifies God as part of the universe or the universe is a manifestation of God.
- Worship that admits or tolerate all gods.
That hit me. I was reminded of when Ebby told Bill in the kitchen “Why not choose your own conception of God?” or when Bill uses the word cosmos or universe throughout the book.
When I read the quote from Marcus Aurelius on resentment, I realized the BB has a whole chapter on them and on pg. 64 is the statement, “Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.” I had plenty of Resentments and realized they were holding me back.
Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.Marcus Aurelius
Brought me right to the BB pg. 23, There is a Solution. “Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body.” I now understood that my mind & body were very sick.
Stoicism and the Art of Happiness by Donald Robertson explained Stoicism in the way the BB explained how to recover from Alcoholism, so I kept going forward with my AA and Stoic schooling. In they are my defects and my assets of character so I read books, took courses and learned more about the Stoics and the 12 steps. I use some Stoic principals in my AA program, first and foremost Gratitude.
I look for gratitude in everything that happens, good or bad. Marcus Aurelius and the Stoics have many different views on gratitude, including amor fati translated “Love of one’s fate”, or the Stoic “Reserve Clause” meaning Fate Permitting. The BB pg. 53 tells me the gratitude I have for my new found belief is correct, and this quote reminds me to keep gratitude in my attitude: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all the others” (Cicero).
AA has keeping your side of the street clean or doing the next right thing. The Stoics have what is called the “reasoned thought or mind” and makes huge emphasis on humility. Marcus Aurelius wrote a journal to himself called The Meditations while he was emperor of Rome and they speak to his humility.
Persuade me or prove to me that I am mistaken in thought or deed, and I will gladly change-for it is the truth I seek , and the truth never harmed anyone. Harm comes from persisting in error and clinging to ignorance.Marcus Aurelius
In the mind of a disciplined and pure man, you will find no sign of infection, no running sores, no wounds that have not healed. It will not be this man fate quit life unfulfilled like the actor who fails to complete his lines and walks offstage before the play is ended. What is more, there is nothing obsequious or conceited about him; he neither depends on others nor is afraid to ask for help; he answers to no man for who he is and for what he does, yet he hides nothing.Marcus Aurelius
Let your face shine with simplicity, modesty and indifference to whatever is neither virtue nor vice. Love your fellow man. Walk with God. All things are governed by laws, said Democritus.
It is enough to remember that there are but two laws: the moral laws of the gods and the physical laws of the atoms. These two are sufficient.Marcus Aurelius
I had no idea what gratitude was, let alone how it worked. I’d actually never heard the words gratitude or grateful until I came in the rooms of AA. AA brought me gratitude, restored my relationship with my higher-power and put me on the path of being happy, joyous and free!
Frank, a very grateful alcoholic.