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Epictetus: Discourses 1.3

Today’s discourse throws out a phrase that rings a bell for Christians. Whenever I run into these familiar phrases in Stoicism, I get excited. Why? Because without getting into how much exactly Christianity pulled from ancient Stoic philosophy, the fact remains that there are these “uncanny” similarities you run into. And I love these, because they widen my understanding of Christianity actually. Where Christian teachings during my youth may have fallen short at times, they suddenly make so much more sense in light of Stoic philosophy. Don’t know what I mean? Read the discourse and see for yourself. Read more of this post

Epictetus: Discourses 1.2

We just finished covering Discourses 1.1 – Things that are in your power, and things that are not within your power. Epictetus clearly laid out that the mind is distinguished from the body (among other things):

Body Mind
Not completely in your power Completely in your power
Clay, earth Portion of the divine
Subject to setbacks, hindrances Invincible
Small, “poor little body” Capable of expanding as large as the cosmos

He also alluded to a sort of human superpower, called reason, that helps us unlock these properties of the mind and deal with obstacles.

He talked about perceptions, and the concept that humans assign value to objects and events. (Remember, quotes like “What else tells us that gold is beautiful? Gold itself doesn’t tell us that,” and “I must go into exile; can anyone prevent me from going into exile with a smile, cheerfully and serenely?”

Today, Epictetus addresses the fact that “rational” and “irrational” can mean different things to different people, depending on what you value and what you consider your ultimate aim. He also talks about what it means to stay true to your character, and just how much weight that can have once you decide to adhere to it. Let’s get started.

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A Morning Contemplation

It’s Sunday, and I woke up at 6:00am for fun.

Actually, I’m trying to add some intention to my daily life. So I did wake up early. I woke up to watch the sunrise, and it was awesome.

At 6:00am, I pulled on a sweater and shoes, made a latte in the kitchen, and headed out in the dark to my front porch, to sit, observe, and contemplate the sunrise. I was apprehensive at first. Since I had decided last night to do this, I thought, Am I crazy for waking up early on the weekend? This is my last day to sleep in, since work starts again tomorrow. But as soon as I stepped out the door into the darkness, I was immersed in the cool air and a sea of crickets and robins singing. That’s when I got excited. Read more of this post

Stoic Week 2015: Day 7: Nature

Here we are; the final day of Stoic Week 2015. Have you learned something? Are you inspired? Are you curious and hungry for more? Read more of this post

Stoic Week 2015: Day 6: Resilience

Resilience and Preparation for Adversity

Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s already Day 6. Stoic Week has been significantly more successful for me than last year. Last year, Stoic Week was held the same week as American Thanksgiving. My family traveled over 1500 miles to see me, and although I tried making an effort to take my bite of philosophy each day, it simply wasn’t working. Not to mention I also had to bear witness at a court trial, and had something very painful and unexpected happen that week. Here we are a year later. My own life is looking up compared to where I was a year ago. It has taken lots of courage and support, but quite seriously, Stoic philosophy has made a significant impact.

A year ago, I was submerged in depression. I had lost my job, and was in a really difficult point in my relationship with my Signifiant Other. You can read my “About Me” stuff for more details. But the truth is, I couldn’t get out of bed. If you’ve never experienced depression, I’m not referring to a “I’m sad and don’t feel like getting out of my bed and facing the world” type of attitude. I mean, quite physically, I could not get out of bed. In fact, it was difficult enough for me to even wake up. I would struggle to open my eyes in the morning and quickly drift off again, continuing until 3:00pm. Not. Normal. If I did finally manage to wake up and get out of bed, I was quickly drained of energy and would collapse on the couch in the living room.

I stopped eating. If I ate, it was one biscuit each day. Like I said, in summary, I was enveloped by depression. But Stoicism is largely responsible for pulling me out of that place. Stoic philosophy spoke to my character. You might be depressed, Kirsten, but at the heart of everything, you truly do want to be a good person. Stoic texts encouraged me, inspired me, gave me ground to stand on. Stoicism isn’t a magic philosophy that will fix the problems in your life. Those same problems will still be there. In fact, Stoicism won’t fix a damn thing outside of yourself. It won’t always bring you the news you were hoping for, and it won’t be easy. But Stoicism will bring you to reality, and it will give you the tools to deal with reality. Stoicism is a philosophy of empowerment.

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Stoic Week 2015: Day 5: Relationships

My apologies for the delay in yesterday’s post. Publishing a day late in a course that is time-sensitive and covers a topic each day and an entire philosophy in a week isn’t exactly ideal. It’s not that I forgot about the blog, or got lazy, or anything like that. All week I’ve been fighting a cold, and yesterday evening when I came home from work, I was just too congested and too sick to concentrate. So I loaded myself up with various medicines from yesterday’s doctor visit (indeed, it went well with Thursday’s theme, but that’s another story), and I forced myself to wait for sleep. Without further ado, I finally present to you…

“The Post that Should Have Been Published Yesterday”

Or rather…

Relationships with Other People and Society

Morning Reflection

Say to yourself first thing in the morning: I shall meet with people who are meddling, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, and unsociable. They are subject to these faults because of their ignorance of what is good and bad. But I have recognized the nature of the good and seen that it is right, and the nature of the bad and seen that it is  wrong, and the nature of the wrongdoer himself, and seen that he is related to me, not because he has the same blood or seed, but because he shares in the same mind and portion of divinity. So I cannot be harmed by any of them, as no one will involve me in what is wrong. Nor can I be angry with my relative or hate him. We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. So to work against each other is contrary to nature; and resentment and rejection count as working against someone.

(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 2.1)

Those are some powerful words, Marcus. He certainly calls it like it is. I actually had to open up this quote on Monday and read it to give me some strength to face the day. I think I will print this quote and keep it somewhere hidden at my desk for only myself to read. I work with people who are living in poverty. Working with some of the people can be really difficult. Someone who lives in poverty thinks differently than someone who does not face poverty on a daily basis. Poverty can direct a person’s way of thinking from being future-oriented, or planning, to being focused only on immediate concerns or needs. Read more of this post

Stoic Week 2015: Day 4: Virtue

Morning Reflection:

If you ever find anything better in life than justice, truthfulness, self-control, and courage…by all means, turn it it with all your heart and enjoy the supreme good that you have found… But if you find everything that, compared to Virtue, proves to be trivial and valueless, then give no room to it, because once you turn towards that and divert from your proper path, you will no longer be able to give the highest honor to that which is properly good without experiencing inner conflict. It’s not right to set up any rival to Virtue, such as popularity, powerful office, wealth, or enjoyment of pleasures.

(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 3.6)

I listened to the Morning Meditation Audio again this morning. Here are some of my favorite bits from it: Read more of this post

Stoic Week 2015: Day 3: Mindfulness

Stoic Mindfulness and Examining your Impressions

Morning Reflection:

People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills… And you too are especially inclined to feel this desire. But this is altogether unphilosophical, when it is possible for you to retreat into yourself at any time you wish. Nowhere can a person find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind; especially if he has within himself the kind of thoughts that let him dip into them and so at once gain complete ease of mind—and by ease of mind, I mean nothing but having one’s own mind in good order. Therefore, constantly give yourself this retreat and renew yourself. You should have concise and fundamental principles at hand. These will be enough, as soon as you encounter disturbances, to cleanse you from all distress and send you back without resentment at the activities to which you return.

(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 1.3.1-3)

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Stoic Week 2015: Day 2: Control

What is in our Control and Wishing with Reservation

 Morning Reflection:

Early in the morning, when you are finding it hard to wake up, hold this thought in your mind: “I am getting up to do the work of a human being. Do I still resent waking up, if I am going out to do the work which I was born for and for which I was brought into the world? Or was I designed for this, to lie under the blanket and keep myself warm?” “But this is more pleasant.” So were you born for pleasure? In general, were you born for feeling or affection? Don’t you see the plants, the little sparrows, the ants, the spiders, the bees, all doing their own work and playing their part in making up an ordered world? And yet you are unwilling to do the work of a human being? Won’t you race to do what is in line with your nature?

(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.1)

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Stoic Week 2015: Day 1: Life

Today is the first official day of Stoic Week 2015. The theme for the day is:

Life as a Project and Role Models

I kicked the day off with the morning reflection: Read more of this post

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