It’s Election Day
We live in a turbulent time, politically and in relation to one another. Facts are shaded to the edge of lies, tribalism trumps character, and narratives seem more important than finding the truth. Trust in institutions and the media are at, or near, all time lows, leading some to ask if the center can hold. Is it any wonder that some have come to doubt the humanity of their fellow citizens? Scratch the surface though, and just below you’ll find something edifying – the efforts of the Stoic community. And if you consider yourself part of the Stoic community, you can help.
The Stoic Fellowship, in its own way, aims to counter the negative tide and inspire with virtue. In 2017 it established April as the annual Month of Service in honor of Marcus Aurelius, born April 26, 121 A.D., for whom kindness was at the core of his being and philosophy:
“… show true love to the fellow-mortals with whom destiny has surrounded you.” Meditations, Book 6, chapter 39
In the early years of this endeavor, an invitation was sent out to all the Fellowship members asking them to share an act of service, good deed, or general caring with their neighbors during the month. Flyers were created to promote the month’s activities and intrepid individuals stepped forward to create sparks of kindness and goodwill in their communities. As these sparks grew into a warm and gentle flame, events became more coordinated, drew more participants and afterward those involved began looking forward to this special time of the year and imagining their next service activities.
Building on this momentum, the “1000 Stoics Challenge” was created in 2021. The idea was simple: inspire participation in the activity by putting forth a collective challenge that no one stoa could accomplish alone. With little fanfare, the Challenge was launched and action was ignited around the world. The good deeds included feeding birds, writing friends, volunteering at foodbanks, mentoring, and so much more. There were 95 good deeds in total. A marked increase from previous years, but still leaving room to grow towards the aim of 1000.
In 2022 the challenge returned with some innovations. A way was added to upload photos, regular posts were made on social media, and new flyers were created in English and Spanish. The 16 Regions of The Stoic Fellowship got involved in a friendly competition, encouraging their members to participate and share their kind actions. The result was an overall 75% increase in activity, with almost every continent involved, and a victory for Region 9 (New England) with 30 participants.
Also in 2022, Stoicare (Stoicare.com) held their groundbreaking Stoics Care Conference. This event celebrated the idea of caring as an important part of being human and the idea that ‘when we care for others, we care for ourselves.’ Highlights from the conference included: cosmopolitanism, compassion, community, action, teaching/mentoring, kindness and more. For conference recordings please visit Modern Stoicism’s YouTube channel. The Stoic Fellowship was happy to support Stoicare and Modern Stoicism in this effort, and they, along with Stoics in Action were invaluable partners in spreading the word.
Our 1000 Stoics Challenge
It is now 2023 and in the environment we find ourselves in, nationally and globally, it has never been more important to highlight the good side of human nature, to elect to be benefactors and vote for smiles, hugs, laughter, understanding and reason; to embrace discussion and persuasion over intimidation and violence; to bridge the differences and find compassion and friendship with those of differing opinions.
From large to small there are so many ways to shine, to:
Mend what is broken;
Lift up the weary;
Reconcile with the past;
Bring home the lost;
Care for the living;
Nourish the soul;
Bring light where there is darkness.
In just a few weeks the Month of Service will arrive. A small team has been preparing for it since May of last year and we’re delighted to offer a program focused on Oikeiosis and an effort to draw in the circles. Oikeiosis begins with the individual: caring for one’s own physical and mental well-being, which is the theme of week one. In the subsequent weeks the challenge is to find opportunities to help, one’s family, friends, community, humanity, the world and nature. Along with the themes, there will be ways to share your efforts, note your activity and participate in a weekly drawing.
We invite you to view the program booklet.
Helping the Human Polis
As we are interconnected with the whole our actions touch more than we see. So as we act we also elect the world we wish to live in. There’s evidence that the impact of kindness isn’t limited to the one act. By nature, people tend to feel good when helping others and are grateful for helpful thoughts and actions when in need. It turns out that, just like Seneca said about vice, virtue also grows by example.
As Cheavens and Feldman note in The Science and Application of Positive Psychology (Cambridge University Press, 2022), the data suggests that happiness and positive affect may be contagious, in the sense that you can catch it from others in your social network. Happiness tends to spread over time, such that if you have a friend who becomes happy, you are more likely to become happy as well. This effect can extend up to three degrees within social networks.
These deeds during April, large and small, will live on in an inspirational cascade and afterglow, making the world a little better for those who participate and even for those not directly involved. This is the power of Stoic service. Kindled from sparks, we now have a campfire’s warm glow and a shining beacon born of the divine spark within each one of us that shines in a weary world in need of peace.
You are hereby invited to join the 1000 Stoics Challenge and to cast a vote for virtue. Together we can.
Join Today: TSF 1000 Stoics Challenge
James, Brittany, Kellys, Marc and Siggy
The Stoic Fellowship Month of Service Team