Roman Calendar

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"Of That Which Is In Our Control, & That Which Is Not" (from "Greeks to Geeks")

From Rohan Healey's Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism in the 21st Century -

"Epictetus: 'Some things are in our control and others are not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.'

OK, so let's think about that for a second. On first reading it may sound counter-intuitive, and certainly it is not something that is generally taught . . ."

Healey then goes on to examine some of the ways in which some things that seem to be under our own control, such as our bodies, are in fact subject to outside controls and influences, such as disease, old age, or simple physical constraint.

"One of the main objectives of Stoic philosophy is first of all to identify what lies within our full control all of the time and what does not, and secondly to then only concern ourselves with what we do control, and show apathy to that which we do not. Just imagine for a moment that you no longer cared about or worried about that which is not within your control. Imagine not caring about what others do, think, or say; imagine not worrying about the weather, or the traffic, or your wealth or reputation. The vast majority of what makes up the stress, discomfort, and unhappiness in the average human is caused by people imagining that they have control of that which they don't. If all you have to worry about is your own opinions, beliefs, actions, and perceptions, imagine the peace and contentment you could achieve."

Of course, one of the great problems we face is that most of us feel we must invest emotionally in things outside our own control.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stoicism Q&A in "Greeks to Geeks" - Stoicism and Religion

From Rohan Healey's Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism in the 21st Century -

"Question: What about God and all that stuff, do I have to have faith? Do I have to change my religious beliefs? Is there any praying or any other weird rituals I have to do? And what about an afterlife?

Answer: The original Stoics were Pantheists, believing that nature is God, that this 'God' pervades all the universe and is found in everything; however it is nor necessary to be a full-on Pantheist to enjoy practical benefits of Stoic philosophy. Everyone from the most devout religious practitioner to the most scientific of atheists and everyone in between can enjoy Stoicism. As the Stoics are fond of saying, 'be it God or atoms,' it matters not."

It is interesting to note that in a time when most people were polytheistic in their outlook, the Stoics tended toward Unitarian and Pantheist frameworks of understanding.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Bene Gesserit "Litany Against Fear" from "Dune"

From Frank Herbert's Dune, the Bene Gesserit "Litany Against Fear" - 

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
This sounds rather Stoic to me. Worth remembering.

Stoicism Q&A in "Greeks to Geeks" - Asceticism in Stoicism

From Rohan Healey's Greeks to Geeks: Practical Stoicism in the 21st Century:

"Question: Doesn't being a Stoic mean giving up all the fun stuff in life and living like a monk? The nice food, the sex, the drink, the death metal music?

Answer: No, not at all; nature is the Stoic god, it pervades everything, including our senses. By all means enjoy all that you can. The only thing the Stoics suggest is a certain modesty and balance to anything you do, and to not become attached to anything which you do not control, to not confuse the fruits of the world, and the material things in your possession, with your own self-worth. Moderation is the Stoic way; enjoy the good and pleasurable things that come into your life, but binging, greed, and gluttony would be looked down upon in Stoicism. At the same time, needless asceticism, fasting, chastity, and self-harming would also be seen as an excess."

     I can't really dispute Healey's response, except that one will find individual Stoics who urge differing levels of asceticism, and if the ancient Stoics tended to err in this regard, it tended to be on the side of caution. Some famous Stoics were given to bouts of "needless asceticism," mostly as a technique to prepare oneself to deal with unpreventable privation. Many ancient Stoics felt that they needed this kind of self-training to test themselves before they ran into the real thing.