Stoicism and Celebration
by Helen Rudd
A lady in the village where I live wrote a poem about how we need to celebrate more which I agree with. So what I do is, every day at 10am I celebrate something. It could be something major or something small, for example I could be at home on a lovely sunny day and at 10am I could go into the garden and listen to the birds singing and celebrate that. Or I may have just had a lovely phone call from a friend which is something to celebrate. I’ve been thinking a lot about Stoicism recently and because my daily celebration has helped me so much I wondered if I could relate it to modern day Stoicism.
I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve found that Stoicism has been a huge help in my recovery from a traumatic brain injury and I’ve become really interested in learning about how it can be applied to modern day life through the excellent ‘Stoicism Today’ website, the people who run it, and the Stoic weeks that are organised.
So this is my own view on the celebration idea. One of the activities in Stoic Week was to take time out in the middle of the day to meditate. I did find it ever so effective but it didn’t necessarily fit in with my day, so this is a way of reflecting to fit in with what I’m doing. I’ve come to the conclusion that adapting is a way of being Stoic so by reflecting on something in a way that suits what you’re doing at that moment seems quite appropriate. Celebrating doesn’t have to be done in a big way, it can just be done quietly in your own mind.
In my own way I’ve had to adapt since my accident. One of the things I used to do was running in my local half marathon but because of my balance and spatial awareness problems I can’t do this any more. I’ve discovered though that I can run on the spot indoors so that’s what I do now as cardio vascular exercise. Perhaps I could do it at 10 o’clock one morning and celebrate that! Stoicism is about accepting that there are some things you can’t change; it’s the way you deal with it that matters. I can’t change the fact that part of my brain has been damaged so I have to adapt.
A lot of people see Stoicism as ‘stiff upper lip’ but by celebrating something once a day I don’t see it as that. I think it’s recognising that yes, there are problems, so you go out of your way to just think of something good. I’ll never forget the kindness of one lady who posted a reply to one of my early blogs when I was trying to get my head round what had happened to me and find a way to cope. She said ‘Be like the headland, with wave after wave breaking against it, which yet stands firm’. I now read one of the Marcus Aurelius meditations each day and I was really pleased to see that this is one of his meditations. I often find myself thinking of it because it’s such a strong image (and I live round the corner from the sea!). So I got to thinking how the celebration idea could fit in with it, and I see all the problems going on both personally and globally as the breaking waves and the headland as the celebration.
So I’d recommend celebrating something every day at a time to suit yourself, and do something physical or just reflect quietly just as it suits you at the time. It means that you don’t take things for granted, perhaps it may be something as simple as enjoying a nice cup of coffee. I know myself that tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock I’ll be able to look back on writing this blog and see how far I’ve come since my accident 10 years ago and how terrible I felt when I was just starting to learn about Stoicism.
About the author: After Helen Rudd’s traumatic brain injury in 2006 she was in a coma for three weeks and was severely depressed when she realised how much her life had changed, mainly because she was no longer able-bodied. Through stoicism her life has opened up and she now makes the most of every day.
You can read more of Helen’s reflections on living the Stoic Life:
Reflection One; Reflection Two; Reflection Three
Helen: you seem to be on the right track. I find an effective general approach is to fix what I can fix and ignore (as far as I can) what I cannot. Trying to change what cannot be changed leads to distress and achieves nothing.
You have my sympathy regarding your brain injury. My late brother, aged 19, crashed his motor bike and was not wearing a crash helmet. He was in a coma for six weeks and only brilliant neuro surgery saved him. However, the lively, challenging, reckless youth had gone, never to return. He remained passive, flat and contented to the end of his life. Witnessing this has made me ever since ponder on the reality of the self. To what extent is it an illusion?
Good luck and thanks for the interesting comments.
Helen, I really admire your pluck. You’ve got a great attitude.
Lovely to hear from you again. Your past reflections were really inspirational and it is great to know that you continue to progress and embrace Stoicism for Today!
My husband died suddenly 5 years ago and together we celebrated everything – every Friday night he would get a bottle of bubbly, cook a special meal and just celebrate being together.
I had to buy three new roses for my garden and decided to plant them in memory of my Mother, Father and Husband. My Mothers is called “Mum in a Million”; Father’s is “Remember Me” & My Husbands “Celebration”.
Like you I make time each day for Reflection & if the weather is nice this usually takes place in the garden with a cup of coffee.
Stoicism is such a wonderful philosophy to teach us to live in the Present Moment. Thank you so much for this great sharing.
Hello Helen, it is so good to read your article and learn how you use 10 o’clock every day to celebrate. Knowing that Marcus’s words helped you to adapt will cause me to celebrate at 10 o’clock tomorrow as I think of the waves gently rolling towards the shore . This led me to the words of Musonius Rufus, from Lectures & Sayings, translated by Cynthia King, Chapter 4, (3) –
‘Someone might say that courage is an appropriate characteristic for men only, but this is not so. It is also necessary for a woman – at least for a noble one – to be courageous and free from cowardice so that she is overcome neither by pain nor by fear……Indeed women must also be ready to put up a fight, unless, by Zeus, they don’t mind appearing inferior to hens and other female birds, which fight with animals much bigger than they are on behalf of their chicks……So if some women lack courage, it is from lack of practice rather than from courage not being an innate quality.’