Day 7 of Living the Stoic Life!

As our Stoic week now draws to a close, post here anything related to living the Stoic life over the last week.
What were your overall impressions of the Stoic life?
Will you continue on ‘living like a Stoic’?
What would you like to see in the Stoic Fortnight of Spring 2013?

19 thoughts on Day 7 of Living the Stoic Life!

  1. double doubt - says:

    I rather find the descriptions of nature – depressing and oppressive – though that may be the way reality is –

    • gillgarratt says:

      ‘Go forth into the light of things, let nature be your guide ‘ ? Wordsworth, quite uplifting ?
      ‘I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
      ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
      I know these aren’t strictly from the Stoic writings, but I think the philosophy is heartening.
      Hope you like them too

      • double doubt - says:

        I think the Wordsworth’s idea of nature is infused with Neo-Platonism – not that it is not up lifting but the Stoic view of nature – seemed to me closer to the term fate.

        • Do you mean that you find the notion of Fate (or determinism) in Stoicism “oppressive” and “depressing”? I think the Stoic concept of Nature includes that but it’s also broader. I can see why someone would find that idea troubling. I’ve always found it appealing and been drawn to that perspective but that’s not everyone’s reaction. It probably needs further justification than we could easily enter into here.

          • double doubt - says:

            Thank you I will have to do some reading – then – when I have time would like to come back to this –

    • I don’t want to assume how much or little you’ve read already about Stoicism. If you’re relatively new to the subject, though, short of a full-scale philosophical defence (which isn’t really possible in these brief comments) the best thing is perhaps to clarify that the Stoics themselves were adamant that their view of Nature was particularly joyful rather than depressing. They believed that following nature was the basis of flourishing and objective “happiness” (eudaimonia) but also naturally led to feelings of rational joy (chara) and natural (philanthropic) love and affection toward mankind. Of course, others might disagree with their conclusions but that’s certainly the (rather optimistic) position they’re trying to defend.

      • double doubt - says:

        There is much in Stoicism that is appealing – but one must remember the standard ancient retort – about a Stoic caught in a storm at sea – clinging panic stricken to the mast of a boat

        • Are you familiar with this fragment of Epictetus’ lost Fifth Discourse reported by Aulus Gellius?
          “Impressions (which philosophers call φαντασίαι), by which man’s mind is struck at first sight of anything that reaches his intellect, are not under his will or control, but thrust themselves on the recognition of men by a certain force of their own; but the assents (which they call συγκαταθέσεις) by which these impressions are recognized are voluntary and depend on man’s control. Therefore when some fearful sound of thunder or a falling house or sudden news of some danger or other, or something else of this sort happens, even the wise man is bound to be moved for a while and shrink and grow pale, not from anticipation of any evil, but from rapid and unconsidered movements forestalling the action of the rational mind. Presently, however, the wise man does not assent to such impressions (that is, these appearances which terrify his mind), he does not approve or confirm them by his opinion, but rejects and repels them and does not think that there is anything formidable in them; and this they say is the difference between the wise man and the fool, that the fool thinks that the impressions which at first strike him as harsh and cruel are really such, and as they go on approves them with his own assent and confirms them by his opinion as if they were really formidable (προσεπιδοξάζει is the phrase the Stoics use in discussing this), while the wise man, after showing emotion in colour and complexion for a brief moment, does not give his assent, but keeps the opinions which he has always held about such impressions, firm and strong, as of things which do not really deserve to be feared at all, but only inspire an empty and fictitious terror.”

  2. Jordan says:

    I have only just found out about Stoic Week, but have been regularly reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations for the last 18 months. It consoled me through a difficult time and has since had a huge influence on the way I live my life. Over the last year I have become so much more aware of myself and others, have become more charitable, more selfless and less concerned with material possessions. Although I wouldn’t call myself a Stoic, I certainly find many of the principles to be relevant and helpful in living my life. Being able to reflect and distance oneself from situations is very important in dealing with adversity, although it’s also very difficult and takes practice. I feel I have a long way to go before I am living a life free from stress and anxiety, but this book has certainly guided me in the right direction to a more fulfilling life.
    In response to the previous article (Day 6), where the author observes a lack of compassion in Stoic philosophy, I personally feel that reading Marcus Aurelius has encouraged me to be more compassionate in my every day life, and I now think nothing of sacrificing my time or money for another person, even a stranger. In fact I frequently stop and talk to homeless people, and sometimes give them enough money to stay in a hostel for a few days. Something I had never done previously. I find I am much better at consoling friends when they need it too. I suppose the texts are subjective and you take from it what you will, but I found so much of Meditations to be about equality, kindliness, helping others, and loving mankind. Although I agree the emphasis seems to be on self control in much of the writing, but compassion is certainly there. I think this sums up Stoicism rather well:
    “A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for. He was made to show goodwill to his kind, to rise above the promptings of his senses, to distinguish appearances from realities, and to pursue the study of universal Nature and her works.” (7, 26)
    I think there are many correlations between Stoicism and Buddhism as well, which I find comforting. The two work quite well together. And I agree with the author of Day 6 that reading Stoicism in conjunction with other philosophies would certainly help create a fuller, richer, world view. I believe we are all constantly creating a jigsaw puzzle of values, principles, ambitions, behaviours, traits – and for me Stoicism has taken up a few important pieces of my puzzle, but there are still many more pieces to find and explore!

    • Alkyone says:

      I wrote my comment below before reading yours but very interesting that we expressed similar reflections!

      • Jordan says:

        Absolutely! I completely agree with your comment below, very eloquently put. I was actually going to write in my comment how interesting it is that people from thousands of years ago can have such a profound understanding of people that it is still relevant today. As you rightly point out, there are real universal truths in these philosophies and those from other cultures. It is wonderful, really.

  3. Alkyone says:

    One observation from my reading this week – of Stoic material and other writing on the workings of the mind – is often how similar ideas are across time and place. This may be the result of the impact of ancient philosophy or just that Stoic ideas are based on good common sense for how to approach life. This is not meant to take anything away from the specifics of Stoic philosophy – as the usefulness of it seems to be its comprehensive approach to life and situations (rather than just a couple of useful mottos, for e.g.) but I find it very helpful and comforting to hear the same idea expressed in different ways by very different people/cultures and with different emphasis as its universality is persuasive of its success.

  4. CRegal says:

    Considerations of philosophy are inherently important in any era. Unfortunately Stoicism has lost the popularity it once possessed. Making this social media experiment, if you will, available is a small useful step in renewing philosophy as a vibrant and worthwhile endeavour. I enjoyed participating and will continue pursuing & implementing Stoic content. It is a difficult route to take since strict self monitoring requires much effort. In the end, the jagged edges of living lose their sharpness. That’s enough reason to go on with it.
    Thank you for your efforts. They are much appreciated.

  5. Joe Callahan says:

    I found it valuable though interesting in ways I hadn’t planned.

    • Patrick Ussher says:

      Joe, your account is inspiring. I wish you all the best with continuing recovery and returning to full strength.

  6. Jules Evans says:

    Very encouraging to read the comments above. I did fairly well at sticking to my goals on Stoic Week…not brilliantly, but not too bad. Made me think about how much to demand of myself. One can beat oneself up in the wrong way (about externals) but one can also be a bit too easy on oneself…I wonder if I am too easy on myself?

  7. Sam Hayes says:

    I had a great time. Thank you everyone for organising it and giving a real sense of community. My last video for Stoic Week can be found here when it’s finished uploading:

  8. Chris says:

    I found my Stoic week a thoroughly useful experience….
    Thanks for a fun week — looking forward to the next installment in 2013

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