Leading up to Stoic Week this year – which runs from Monday, October 1 to Sunday, October 7 – we are publishing a series of shorter weekday posts, focused on the theme of “Happiness”. Are you interested in writing a 300-600 word post, well-informed by Stoicism, on that topic? Email your draft to me, the editor of Stoicism Today. And now, Anthony’s post!
If any be unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone. For God hath made all men to enjoy felicity and constancy of good. (Epictetus Discourses book 2: Chapter 24).
It would appear we are both the prisoner and the one holding the keys.
If we are indeed made for happiness, why do we so often miss the mark?
The Stoics tell us that it is because we are aiming at the wrong target.
In Enchiridion 1 we are acquainted with that core theme of Epictetus, that we are to focus on what is “up to us,” to live a life of Virtue by following Nature.
We are told that Virtue is the only Good, but where can we find it?
Everywhere strength, everywhere victory waits your conviction! (Golden Sayings 99)
This is the beauty of Stoic Physics.
The quest for happiness is not an Easter egg hunt and it is even less like finding your lost car keys.
We are literally immersed in Virtue, drowning in Joy.
The Good to a fish is the bait on the hook (that which would ensnare us), whereas the wise fish recognizes the Good in the ocean all around it.
…will you not be elated at knowing that you are the son of God?” (Discourses 1:3)
Our bodies and all things around us, both animate and inanimate, are held together and empowered by the Logos.
Our minds are enlightened by the same Reason which governs the Cosmos.
We are able to observe, study, and learn the ways of Nature, to have communion with the Divine.
Happiness, a life of Virtue, isn’t trying to be something we are not, a stretching out our hand toward the unattainable.
It is something we already have, yet do not perceive, being “blind to the Giver” (Discourses 1:6).
Take hold of this truth. Open your eyes to the beauty of Nature. See the Logos at work and know that wherever you are, there is cause for Joy. An overwhelming and all-encompassing Joy.
Anthony Maletich is the moderator of the Stoic Christian Facebook group, which explores the relationship between Stoicism and Christianity (as well as other faith traditions). He works as a guidance counselor and coach and enjoys playing the banjo and spending time outdoors enjoying Nature.<