Thank you to everyone in the Stoic community who helped make the first Stoics Care conference a great success! On April 23 we came together to spotlight the social side of Stoicism with over 2,000 registered attendees. (See the full conference recording here.) We had participants from all over the world and contributors from Modern Stoicism, The Stoic Fellowship, Stoicare, and The Aurelius Foundation. It was truly a community effort. Many participants came away with not only a better theoretical understanding of Stoic care, but inspiration and practical advice for caring wisely in their everyday lives.
In our introduction to the conference, my co-host Adam Piercey and I discussed the importance of care in contemporary Stoicism. Caring about others is not something we do because we have to; we do it because it’s part of being human. The ancient Stoics identified the social aspect of our nature as one of the key characteristics of humanity. If we want to flourish and find meaning and contentment in our lives, we must learn how to care effectively for other people and the world around us.
Rather than offering a synopsis of each talk—which you can find on our archived conference website—I’d like to draw out some themes that were prominent throughout the event as a whole. Based on the excellent talks by our speakers and video contributors, as well as insightful questions and comments from attendees, here are five themes that received a lot of Stoic attention.
Cosmopolitanism. Will Johncock kicked off the conference by highlighting the Stoic idea that we care for ourselves by caring for others. Will’s talk took us through the ancient Stoic conception of the universe to the famous circles of concern from Roman Stoic Hierocles, describing how self-preservation equates to living in service of what we share. Kai Whiting later explained how we in the 21st century can expand Hierocles’s circles of concern to include the environment, and how Stoic care naturally extends to the plants, animals, and natural resources of our planet.
Compassion. There is a clear need for greater discussion of compassion and related positive attitudes in Stoicism. Meredith Kunz presented compassion as fully compatible with Stoic theory, a view that resonated with many conference attendees. Compassion was also evident in a talk by David Press, who discussed the self-compassion needed to navigate the world as a neurodiverse individual, as well as the compassion he provides to autistic clients as a skills trainer. Paul Wilson offered a compatible perspective on self-compassion, outlining a self-care framework of self-awareness, self-compassion, self-control, self-esteem, and self-transcendence.
Community. A major theme of Stoics Care was the need for community, in the dual sense of both our international Stoic community and our local communities. Kellys Rodriguez shared how Stoa Madrid implements principles of cosmopolitanism in their local community by assisting a homeless migrant. And for conference attendees who participated in the post-event meet and greet, community was both a request (more please!) and a motivating factor for attending the event. We discussed ways to incorporate more opportunities for the interaction and mutual support that the Stoic community can provide.
Action. Many speakers emphasized the need not just for caring talk but for caring action. Prison officer Andy Small was inspired toward Stoicism by the death of a friend, and he brings Stoicism into the lives of prisoners through an active concern for their wellbeing. Attorney Kevin Murphy described how Stoicism helps him care for his clients and deal with the stresses of the legal profession, while StoicDan offered a meditative collection of quotes to inspire us toward action in our everyday lives.
Teaching and mentoring. We were fortunate to have multiple teachers and mentors sharing their wisdom at the conference. Teacher Ryan Racine offered helpful tips for staying calm in the classroom and practicing good self-care as an educator. Nona Maiorano, who instructs and mentors young women in the graceful art of dressage (horseback riding), explained how Stoicism keeps her grounded and grateful as she works with both humans and horses. And philosopher Leah Goldrick described how speaking the language of the Stoic virtues helps her guide her children with wisdom and justice.
Kindness. In his keynote talk, Donald Robertson highlighted how important kindness was in ancient Stoicism, particularly in the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Kindness is not only a virtue and a healthy emotion, it is also the antidote to anger. Donald’s talk brought together themes we heard throughout the day: love, natural affection, hospitality, and the strongly pro-social emotions at the heart of Stoicism.
Overall, conference attendees felt the Stoics Care conference was an energizing and welcome addition to the Stoic landscape. Attendees called it “a fabulous initiative” and “a real battery recharger,” praising all the speakers, organizers, and tech support (Modern Stoicism’s Phil Yanov) for an “outstanding” and inspirational day.
Several participants also noted how helpful it was to talk with other conference attendees:
- “Excellent, grateful for this experience, speakers and dialogue in chat!”
- “ [This was] a perspective that really contributes to the Stoic discourse 🙂 And a shout out to all the people in the chat, so many great contributions (pro tip: save the chat)”
We hope to continue the momentum of Stoics gathering to focus on pro-social aspects of the philosophy. For example, the new nonprofit organization Stoicare will be hosting a coffee hour in June and workshops later this year to continue the conversation about Stoicism and care.
For those of you looking for more participation in the Stoic community, there may be an in-person or online Stoic group near you (check out The Stoic Fellowship). Also stay tuned to this blog for announcements about participating in the growing Modern Stoicism community. Once again, I’d like to thank everyone who helped out behind the scenes to create a memorable and inspirational Stoics Care conference. And thank you to all of you reading this blog who have the potential to demonstrate how Stoics care in everyday life.
If you missed the conference or would like to view it again, the complete recording is available on Modern Stoicism’s YouTube channel. Please feel free to reach out to me or the Modern Stoicism team with questions, comments, or suggestions. We hope to see all of you again soon!
Brittany Polat writes about Stoic psychology, development, and motivation at Living in Agreement. She is a member of the Modern Stoicism team, the cofounder of Stoicare, and a board member of the Stoic Fellowship, and holds a Ph.D. in applied linguistics. You can also find and follow her on Twitter.