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We all face many uncertain times in our lives. But the current pandemic is a time of collective uncertainty, the like of which most of us have never experienced. What has Stoicism got to say in coping with a situation that is so uncertain? Our contributing editor Meredith A. Kunz offers a three-step plan based on Stoic principles to cope with uncertainty.
Chuck Chakrapani, Editor
In this issue, Greg Sadler poses an interesting question. Why is it, in many Stoic forums, people ask questions like
- Is Batman Stoic?
- Is Donald Trump Stoic?
- Is Mickey Mouse Stoic?
- Is feminism Stoic?
- Is traveling around the world Stoic?
We are the same as we always have been
You read a book on Stoicism. Or listen to a lecture, read a blog, or see a post on social media. You are inspired. You are going to practice Stoicism. You are going to be happy, virtuous, and invincible.
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly.
I know, I know, it is not good form to be pleased with yourself. Even less so to announce it to others. But today I am pleased with myself and I am not hiding it. Let me explain why.
Traveling is a good learning experience
Growing up, I thought that traveling somewhere else would turn me into a different person—a more interesting, cooler person.
The concept of a "Stoic sage" in an intriguing one. According to Stoicism, only a Stoic sage is virtuous and happy. Yet none of us is a sage. Not just that, no one can ever be a sage. Since one is either virtuous or vicious, happy or unhappy, we are all vicious and unhappy. (There is no intermediate state between happiness and unhappiness, virtue and vice in Stoicism.)
Growing up, I was never a fan of habits. I tried to organize my life so that I wouldn’t be beholden to the daily movement of the clock. I rebelled against habits as basic as waking up early enough to get to school on time.
Stoic principles can be used to solve our problems, big and small. But they can also be seen as a way of life, so it is always with us, warding off problems before they arise and offering us help if they still arise.
We are all physically vulnerable
Humans have always been physically vulnerable. We are not born with huge teeth, curving tusks, or thick horns. We don’t have the advantage of size or strength compared with other creatures on Earth. And yet, through the use of our flexible brains, we have become the planet’s dominant species. It’s our mental fortitude that carried the day.
I seldom call myself a Stoic. Although I have been helped by Stoic principles all my life (I first stumbled on to Stoicism in my teens), no one close to me—not even my family or friends—knew that I had anything to do with Stoicism. I never talked about it. When I wrote my first book on Stoicism, Unshakable Freedom, they all wanted to know how I had known about Stoicism.
If anyone can refute me—show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective—I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, VI, 21
Insects in amber
When we look at our daily life, we see that we face an array of problems—financial, health, and our relationships.
Everyone hurries his life on and suffers from a yearning for the future and a weariness of the present. But he who bestows all of his time on his own needs, who plans out every day as if it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the morrow.
Seneca, On the Shortness of Life