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From Vol. 1, Issue 9, September 2019

Beyond the obvious: Seeing things differently


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Insects in amber 

When we look at our daily life, we see that we face an array of problems—financial, health, and our relationships. We “stoically” try solve them one by one, only to find even more of them. We are like hamsters on an activity wheel. The more we run, the faster the wheel turns. Most of us feel that life is passing us by and we live a life of “suffering,” as the Buddha put it, or “a life of quiet desperation’ “as Henry David Thoreau observed. 

Our lives are often punctuated by moments of happiness and joy of course, yet they remain mostly punctuations. Obviously, running faster hasn’t helped. Problems continue to crop up. We are annoyed by trivial things. We know our predicament but the way out is not clear. 

Is there a way out? Or, are we forever to struggle like insects in amber? 

Our solutions may be the problem 

Maybe trying to run faster is the problem. Maybe valuing things that are not of real value to us is the problem. This insight is not exclusive to Stoics. Here is an anecdote about the famous historian, Will Durant who pursued happiness for decades. 

[Will Durant] sought happiness in travel and found weariness; in wealth and found discord and worry. He looked for happiness in his writing and was only fatigued. One day he saw a woman waiting in a tiny car with a sleeping child in her arms. A man descended from a train and came over and gently kissed the woman and then the child, very softly so as not to waken him. The family drove off and left Durant with a stunning realization of the real nature of happiness. He relaxed and discovered that ‘every normal function of life holds some delight.’ 

June Callwood, Readers Digest (October 1974) 

Modern Stoics speak 

In this issue, some modern Stoics handle this issue and point to solutions. They discuss how the way we look at things creates problems in our life. Our relentless ambition, our preoccupation with consumption, our being constantly busy, our being disturbed by minor annoyances, and even our fear of death cost us a meaningful life. How do we go beyond all this? This question is the focus of this issue of THE STOIC. 

John Sellers discusses how we are trapped by our ambition at the cost of a life well-lived. Kai Whiting deals with our preoccupation with mindless consumption. Meredith Kunz tackles the related problem of always being busy and shows how we can get of the “busyness” cycle by being in the present, concentrating on the task at hand. 

Jonas Salzgeber points to the recurrence of large and small problems in our lives and how best to play the “game of equanimity” to achieve balance. Donald Robertson shows how to go beyond a child’s curiosity and Flora Bernard goes beyond thoughts of dying and urges us to live in the now. 

I hope you find the articles useful. Do let me know. I would like to know what you think and your comments and suggestions are always welcome. 

Dr. Chuck Chakrapani Editor-in-Chief