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From Vol. 3, Issue 9, September 2021

On seeing clearly


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In A Scandal in Bohemia, a conversation between Sherelock Holmes and Watson goes like this:

Holmes: “You have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.”

Watson: “Frequently.”

“How often?”

“Well, some hundreds of times.”

“Then how many are there?”

“How many? I don’t know.”

“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen.

Most of us are like that. We see but do not observe. We don’t see clearly enough, whether it is observing physical objects or studying Stoicism. We can study Stoic books hundreds of times (like Watson’s hundreds of trips up the stairs) and yet not clearly see what exactly it is that we have learned.

This issue of THE STOIC is about seeing clearly. How do we avoid understanding Stoicism only superficially? What is it that we see and what is it that we fail to see? How do we relate our body to our mind? What is our connection to animals? What is the importance of virtue in solving our problems.?

What we see and what we don’t

Meredith Kunz points out that our seeing is highly selective. Sure we do see things, but we also fail to see things. Our impressions of things are unexamined. We need to pierce through our impressions to clearly see the nature of things.

How to see clearly

The cause of problems is our inability to see the world as it is, says Brittany Polat. She observes that once we understand the world as it is (not the world as we would wish it to be), we can have a good life despite pain, illness, bereavement, and other “misfortunes”. When we see clearly, good life is always at hand no matter what misfortune may come our way.

How to achieve true freedom

Stoicism teaches us that serene happiness arises from being free inside. But how does one achieve this? By consistently practicing virtue, says Sharon Lebell. In fact, virtue is the answer for just about any question you may have. Self scrutiny and humility are the prerequistites for seeing clearly.

Seeing the connections

While we are doing all this it also helps to see how our mind and body are interconnected. While health and strength are not essential for achieving eudaimonia, we should understand the connections between the two and cultivate both our body and mind, says Piotr Stankiewicz.

We should also see the connection between ourselves and the world we live in. We should not turn a blind eye to what is happening to animals and our role in their fate. Leo Konstantakos and Kai Whiting use poaching of elephants and its impact on our environment to illustrate our connection to the world outside of us.

Hope you find this issue of THE STOIC thought-provoking.

Chuck Chakrapani – Editor