October 29, 2016 - Ancient Stoicism in Plain English
Tag(s): Book Excerpts ||

A Sixty-Second Introduction to Stoic Philosophy

You can be free, happy, and serene no matter what else is happening around you, if you understand this basic truth: some things in life are under your control, and others are not.

These things are under your control: what you believe, what you desire or hate, and what you are attracted to or avoid. You have complete control over these, so they are free, not subject to restraint or hindrance. They concern you because they are under your control.

These things are not under your control: your body, property, reputation, status, and the like. Because they are not under your total control they are weak, slavish, subject to restraint, and in the power of others. They do not concern you because they are outside your control. The window of control we have may appear small, but it is large enough to lead us to freedom, happiness, and serenity.

Everything that happens around you or to you is part of reality. You need to deal with reality using things that are under your control. When you try to deal with reality using things not under your control, you will be hindered and frustrated.
If you lead your life confining yourself only to things under your control, no one can stop you from being free, happy, and serene.

If you want these substantial rewards in life, you should be prepared to put in the effort. This means you may have to entirely give up some things and postpone others for now. If you attempt to get both what is under your control and what is not, you may end up getting neither. Therefore, you clearly need to distinguish the two.

How do you tell the difference? Start by challenging everything that appears disagreeable. “You are only an appearance. Let me fully understand what you are.” Then examine it to see if it is under your total control. If it is not within your control, it is nothing to you; there’s nothing to worry about.

Based on A Fortunate Storm: The Improbable Story of Stoicism and How it Came About.

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