As we lead up to Stoicon 2022, held online again this year on October 29 (don’t forget to save the date!), we continue our tradition of publishing interviews with the Stoicon speakers, workshop providers, panelists, and organizers. We begin with one of the Modern Stoicism team members, who will be presenting at the Stoicon conference, Brittany Polat!
To see the schedule for Stoicon, or to get your ticket for this event – donations for tickets support the continued work of Modern Stoicism, Ltd – click here and you will be taken to the Stoicon 2022 Eventbrite site.
How would you like to introduce yourself to the readers of Stoicism Today, and to people who might be interested in Stoicon?
I’m a member of the Modern Stoicism steering committee, a board member of The Stoic Fellowship, and a co-founder of Stoicare, which offers resources on Stoicism as a philosophy of love and care. For the past two years I’ve worked with Kathryn Koromilas on the Stoicon Women conferences. And my new book Journal Like a Stoic is coming out in November, which might be of interest to people looking for practical Stoic exercises.
What are you most looking forward to about the Stoicon conference?
There are so many good sessions, I couldn’t pick just one. I’m very excited about the “Stoicism Around the World” panel, because it’s very noteworthy that Stoicism is flourishing in many countries and many languages. I love hearing how people in many different contexts are applying Stoic wisdom to their own lives and building Stoic communities. I’m also looking forward to Chris Gill’s plenary talk on care of oneself, others, and our world. Stoicism is one of the few philosophies equipped to help us flourish on each of these levels (self, other people, world), and it will be wonderful to hear Chris’s perspective on such an important topic.
What was your first encounter with Stoicism? What drew you into it early on?
I found Stoicism at a crossroads in my life, when I wasn’t sure how to live a good life for myself or my family. It immediately spoke to me in a way that other wisdom traditions and self-help books did not. Stoicism is both theoretical and practical, so it offers deep roots but also very handy daily advice. It’s easy to start putting Stoic ideas into practice immediately, but the philosophy is substantive enough to continue providing guidance for a whole lifetime.
What aspects of Stoicism have become more important or interesting to you as your studies deepened over time? Why did those aspects become more important or interesting?
Stoicism has a very rich perspective on human nature, especially the interaction between human psychology and the world around us. The more I study it, the more Stoic psychology impresses me. It’s fascinating (but not surprising) that many ancient Stoic insights have been validated by contemporary research in cognitive science, evolutionary psychology, and developmental psychology. We don’t necessarily need 21st century science to tell us that Stoicism works–we can discover that through our own experience–but at a theoretical level it’s nice to understand more about why it works. Stoic philosophy sits at the intersection of philosophy, psychology, and various cognitive sciences, and there will be always more to learn.
One of the questions we raise every year is: Have we reached peak Stoicism? What do you think? Has Stoicism reached its peak when it comes to contemporary interest in it?
I don’t see the interest slowing down anytime soon. Stoicism has proven its staying power since 300 BC, and while interest certainly ebbs and flows over time, I think it’s compelling enough to stick around for a while longer. So many lives have been positively impacted by this philosophy. Even if people set Stoicism aside for a little while to explore other interests, they will come back to it when they need it. If there’s one guarantee in the world, it’s that life will be hard sometimes! And whenever life gets difficult, people will be interested in Stoicism.