November 7, 2015
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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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April 18, 2015
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Over the course of chapter 4 of Stoic Serenity, we’ve examined the Stoic concepts of matter, God, and Fate. An (extremely) quick review:
matter – that which comprises the Universe. The Stoics were monists, believing that only one type of matter existed in the Universe. (God, Fate, myself, are all part of this matter that pervades the Universe).
God – the single matter, intelligence, reason that pervades the entire Universe. Individual people’s minds are simply “fragments of God.” Evident in everything from reason to nature itself.
Fate – one in the same with God, and therefore, with matter. Everything in the Universe is bound up and interrelated. Seen as a complex web that has been in the process of being spun since eternity, resulting in the current moment of who I am and what my life is like. “Prescribed” for me individually by the Universe.
These are pretty abstract ideas, but hopefully you’ve gotten a grasp of what the ancient Stoics believed in. Before we finish chapter 4, we have a couple of exercises to complete regarding the nature of the Universe. Today we read Letter 107 from Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic. In it, Lucilius’ slaves have apparently run away, and Lucilius is throwing himself a big pity party. Seneca writes him some words of advice, hopefully to knock some sense back into him. Read more of this post
April 6, 2015
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If you’ve been following along with a Stoic Serenity blog post per day, you should be writing Power Log #6 this evening. Tomorrow is the last Power Log for the course. Have you noticed any change? I personally haven’t gotten so far as to think through this stuff before an activity, but I have noticed that my responses have changed, and I’m beginning to identify more subtle emotions inside myself.
Seddon encourages us to remember that we are currently in the first steps of making Stoic progress. Yes, you’ve read all the lessons, you’ve done all the assignments. You know the answers to What is good? What is an indifferent? What is in my power? What is not in my power? How do I protect my equanimity while going about my daily affairs? You’ve read Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. But nothing is actually changing! We still go around pursuing what we know by definition are “indifferents,” yet we continue to treat them as if they were just as desired as the Values. Where’s the “Stoic serenity” that was promised? If we’re going through all this work to perfect our characters and live by the Virtues, what’s in it for us? What’s the benefit of it? Read more of this post
March 28, 2015
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If you’ve been following along in the order of things, the previous post had us complete an exercise where we took our Stoic teachings up until this point and applied them to our individual everyday lives. We identified our activities yesterday and divided them into interests and projects. Then we evaluated whether the projects were going well or poorly and identified our reactions to setbacks. Continue to keep a simple list of interests and projects each day, and continue to identify your reaction to the progress of each. Train yourself to be aware hour-by-hour of which project you are engaged in, and whether you are acting and responding with Virtue.
Today, we look at one of Seneca’s Letters. Letter 91, “On the Lesson to be Drawn from the Burning of Lyons.” Seneca hears the news of the destruction of the city of Lyon, and he feels compelled to write to Lucilius about dealing with misfortune. As previously, I will paraphrase the selection. This one’s a bit long, but has some good points:
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