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From Vol. 2, Issue 5, May 2020

The Stoic art of living


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Long ago, a thirty-something philosopher strode up the steps of a porch on the north end of the Athenian agora. It was the meeting place for all and sundry—jugglers, fire eaters, vendors, fishmongers, beggars, hawkers, and layabouts. The porch was decorated with beautiful paintings but it was also tainted with human blood. It was the site where hundreds had been executed. 

But that did not faze our philosopher friend—of course, I’m talking about Zeno. He started strolling up and down the porch and began talking about how to live the good life. It is significant for many reasons, the most important of which is that it gave birth to Stoicism. 

Personally though, I am fascinated by the symbolism of it. Probably for the first time ever, philosophers came looking for the common people rather than the other way around. They did not mind the crowded marketplace or the infamous porch. The Stoics believed they had something to share with anyone willing to listen about the art of living. 

The essence of Stoicism then is not in its theory but in its practice. If so, it cannot be beyond the grasp of people like us, who are not professional philosophers. Anyone who is interested in the art of living should be able to practice it. But how? If it is for everyone, where do we start? How do we apply it to different aspects of our lives? 

It can be a little complicated. To practice Stoicism, we need to translate our knowledge into practice. This is not always easy to do. We can all do with some guidance here. 

No worries. Our excellent team of modern Stoics shows us how. No aspect of life is too trivial. Here’s what we have for you in this issue. 

The art of living revolves around the question ‘what is the best thing for me to do right now? Stoicism asks us to practice virtue and avoid vice. But how do I apply this to the predicament I am in now? 

Stoicism says: Go figure it out. Kai Whiting shows us how to do this and how we can fend for ourselves. Sharon Lebell selects five specific Stoic principles for these uncertain times. 

At a time when we are “forced” to stay home, Flora Bernard poses the question, “What does it really mean to be free?” and provides an answer. Using the Stockdale paradox as an example, Greg Sadler asks us to balance our optimism with realism. 

And there is more. How should we eat? How should we listen? How should we handle uncertainty? These questions are handled by Donald Robertson, Jonas Salzgeber, and Meredith Kunz. 

Let us know how you like THE STOIC. We would love to hear from you. 

Chuck Chakrapani 

Dr. Chuck Chakrapani Editor-in-Chief