Street Stoicism II: When You Are Too 'Busy' to Notice the Child who Wants Your Attention by Marcin Fabjanski

In the second of our examples from ‘Street Stoicism’ (published in Polish as ‘Stoicyzm Uliczny‘, but not yet in English), Marcin Fabjanski considers the Stoic response to take when you ever become too ‘busy’ to notice a child who wants your attention.

As with all 41 examples in Marcin’s book, he imagines the situation, before presenting a Stoic maxim that relates to the situation, drawing out the meaning of that maxim, and giving advice on how to tame the situation.

Watch out for our next example from Street Stoicism this Saturday!


Oh, what a nice picture, this flower’s really pretty. Oooh, it’s a house. Beautiful. Keep on drawing, I have to read this paper, it’s really important. No, I won’t draw with you. I’m busy, can’t you see?

What now? Building blocks? Stop bothering me, have you got ADHD or what? I don’t know exactly what ADHD means. It’s something really bad and you have it.

The poet Słonimski was right when he wrote that children are disgrace to human race. How much nicer would the world be without them. Nobody would bother me. I could simply… Don’t take this paper. Careful, you’ll tear up the sports section.

That’s enough! You’re going to bed!

Oh come on, don’t start crying now…

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Street Stoicism I – 'Rudeness!' by Marcin Fabjanski

In our first example from ‘Street Stoicism’ (published in Poland as Stoicyzm Uliczny), Marcin Fabjanski applies Stoic philosophy to responding to rudeness. In this particular case, he uses the example of a rude shop assistant….

The Situation

“Step aside will you, you’re blocking the queue!”. The shop assistant at the grocery store has no mercy on my attempts to unstick the plastic bag so that I can open it. Opening those bags has been my nightmare for years.

“Not everybody has such long nails, young lady, painted red during working hours…”. I bite my tongue right before saying it out loud.

Nonetheless, the situation develops as usual – badly. The people standing behind me in the queue immediately catch the shop assistant’s words. I can hear some ahems behind my back and then, obviously, a reproachful remark of another guy in the queue: ‘well this man doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry!’


This kind of behavior will not affect the speed of my packing the groceries in a positive way. Now I will unstick my bag slowly and ineffectively. Flauntingly slowly. All of you will stand in this queue for a while!


‘If a person gave your body to any stranger he met on his way, you would certainly be angry. And do you feel no shame in handing over your own mind to be confused and mystified by anyone who happens to verbally attack you?’

Epictetus (trans. Elizabeth Carter)

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'Street Stoicism': A New Series of Articles for Stoicism Today

From tomorrow, we’ll be releasing an excerpt every three or four days, from a book called ‘Street Stoicism’ by Marcin Fabjanski. At the moment, the book is only published in Polish (‘Stoicyzm Uliczny‘), but Marcin has kindly provided some translated excerpts from his work for readers of Stoicism Today.

Marcin’s book takes 41 common situations, from seeing the dentist to having a quarrel, to having a computer which won’t work to having too many things to do at once, and applies Stoic philosophy to each scenario. Each example starts with imagining the problem situation, before then presenting a Stoic maxim which relates to that situation, and then reflects on the implications of that maxim for action.

Marcin has given a TEDx talk in Warsaw, ‘Do Not Fall in Love with a Sparrow Flying By’, which takes its inspiration from a passage in Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.

A little bit more about Marcin….

Dr. Marcin Fabjański has worked as an academic lecturer and researcher, as well as as a journalist and director of documentary films. He is also author of five books, several of which were for children, including Wędrówki filozoficzne [Travels in Philosophy] (2003), a book which combines fiction and facts in order to introduce the history of philosophy to children. The book is the basis for a programme used in several primary and secondary schools in Poland for introducing philosophy to children.

Marcin is a graduate of the University of York, UK and the Adam  Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. He received Ph.D. in Philosophy  (1998), on the basis of dissertation Criticism of the Metaphysical Constituent of Mind in Buddhism and in Schopenhauer’s Thought.

Marcin also runs the website, which includes an English version, and which focusses on his work in ‘Mind-Body Bridging’.

For a full biography, click here.

Perspectives: Stoicism on 'Why You Should Never Make a Promise'

This is a guest article, by Rohan Healey, author of Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism in the 21st CenturyIn this article, Rohan discusses the value of Stoic ideas for understanding the difference between making a ‘promise’, and making an ‘agreement’. Rohan also has a blog, which you can read here.

 Why You Should Never Make a Promise

One of the most important aspects of the Stoic Philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome was the importance of distinguishing between what is within our power and what is not. And once distinguished, the idea is to concern ourselves only with what we do control and to stop worrying about what we don’t. However you do not need to be a philosophy professor to see the benefits of thinking this way, all you need is a little common sense. When we make a promise to another human being we are essentially saying that we can control that which is actually outside of our power to control. If I were to organise a date and I say “I’ll see you at 2pm on Tuesday, this time I promise!” I am telling you that I have the power to be there at that time regardless of outside circumstances, this of course is a lie. Now let’s say that Tuesday comes around, I’m on my way to the date but there is a traffic accident some way up the road and I get stuck in traffic while the emergency services do their thing.

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An Evening of Stoic Meditation

N.B. This is reposted from our Ancient Healthcare: Modern Wellbeing blog.

“MA Student Patrick Ussher reports on the recent Medication event held at the University of Exeter:

On the 22nd February, 2012, the University of Exeter’s Meditation Society held an exploratory session with the theme

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius

‘Stoic Meditation: Learning from the Wisdom of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.’ The session was led by Prof. Christopher Gill, professor of Ancient Thought in the Classics department, and by Patrick Ussher, MA Classics student. It was  part of the University’s mental wellbeing day.

The session began with Prof. Gill outlining the core principles within Stoic psychology as well as a discussion on what Stoicism can offer today. On this, Prof. Gill put forward that Stoicism has ‘…a coherent and powerful philosophy of life, based on a connected framework for correlating ethics with psychology and our study of the natural universe.’ We then turned our attention to Marcus Aurelius and the meditative nature of his ongoing philosophical dialogue with himself, as well as the specific principles within those dialogues. As an example, Continue reading “An Evening of Stoic Meditation”