I’m sure the term stoic has a clear meaning these days, something along the lines of being expressionless in the face of misfortune. Aloof, unemotional, and matter-of-fact are a few things that can cross your mind if you heard the word stoic. For anyone who’s actually searched the word, I’m sure most are a bit confused to see almost two-thirds of the results speak to the Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium around 300 BC.
Yeah! Being cool, calm and collected has been a thing for QUITE a while.
Philosophies, and just the idea of knowing or creating one’s own body of knowledge to guide and inform one’s perspective.
“ Philosophy does not promise to secure anything external for man, otherwise it would be admitting something that lies beyond its proper subject-matter. For as the material of the carpenter is wood, and that of statuary bronze, so the subject-matter of the art of living is each person’s own life. ”
— Epictetus, Discourses 1.15.2, Robin Hard revised translation
What I’m more interested in is the moral and metaphysical sides of philosophy – ethics, and logos, to put names to it – where we can navigate through right and wrong, virtue, causation, existence; and all the other abstract constructs our lives are plagued by.
Don’t worry, I’m not gonna bore you with a whole philosophy lesson. Feel free to flesh your thoughts in the comments section, though.
With Stoicism, it is to be understood that as humans (and more importantly as social beings), finding your way to happiness begins when you accept everything that life has given us, i.e. we need to not allow ourselves to be controlled by emotional sensations such as our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain. It teaches us to also use our minds to understand the world around us and to do our part in nature’s plan, and by working together and exercising fairness and treating others in a just manner. Basically, once we come to know what we are and what the world around us is really like, especially the nature of value, we will be utterly transformed. Enlightened, even.
One facet of the philosophy is understanding and acknowledging that emotions resulted in errors of judgment which were destructive. Remember that they think of philosophy not as an interesting pastime or even a particular body of knowledge, but as a way of life. This isn’t to say that that I or anyone else, should feel obligated to fully indulge in the practice although it’s quite compelling to imagine a lifestyle of sole level-headedness and continuous understanding that theoretically guarantees contentment.
At the center of it all is self-control as a means of overcoming destructive emotions. The Stoic ethic supports a deterministic perspective. Cleanthes compared those who lack Stoic virtue to the wicked man that is “like a dog tied to a cart, and compelled to go wherever it goes.”
Despite Stoicism’s being synonymous with emotionlessness, it seems to be viable enough to be integrated into daily life.
For someone exploring and evolving their own reasoning bank, Stoicism is a philosophy for minimizing the negative and harmful emotions in your life and maximizing your gratitude. It includes mindfulness practices and value-based living (a well-rounded moral compass in my opinion). It is an avenue to amplify your human experience, through an internal readjustment of external symbols. It could be done, or at least be slowly introduced in a pseudo I’m-trying-a-thing sorta way.
What do you think?