From Vol. 4, Issue 11, November 2022
How should a Stoic prepare for a hurricane?
“We realize with time that there’s more than enough within our control to keep us busy for the rest of our lives.”
We recently had hurricane Fiona come through the east coast of Canada where I live. These are quite common in the area, so it wasn’t much of a surprise. The locals understand the potential consequences of what is coming. As a Stoic, an incoming storm is a great example of how to deal with many things in life. It’s not as simple as it may initially seem. Storms are outside our control, after all, but does that mean that we are entirely powerless? How should a Stoic best conduct themselves with an incoming storm?
The Dichotomy of Control in Practice
Most students of Stoicism are wellacquainted with the dichotomy of control. Some things are up to us while others are not. It’s common for newcomers to the philosophy to focus their attention on what’s not up to us. For example, an incoming storm is entirely outside of our control.
However, we cannot separate what’s not up to us and what is up to us so simply. It’s a dichotomy, to be sure, but one can only Stoically declare that “the storm is outside of my control” after maximizing one’s agency on that which is within one’s control.
What this means in practice is preparing properly for the hurricane. Have you stocked up on essential supplies, like food and water? Are you prepared if the power goes out? Do you have flashlights, spare batteries, and (ideally) a generator? If it is cold, do you have a heat source? Did you close and lock all windows and doors? Do you have the means to communicate with the outside world in an emergency?
The list goes on and on, and this points to a very interesting realization upon digging deeper into Stoicism: initially, it appears that there are few things within our control. However, we realize with time that there’s more than enough within our control to keep us busy for the rest of our lives. Once we’ve maximized our agency, then we get to say, “the storm is outside of my control”.
The Prosocial and Cosmopolitan Aspects of Stoicism
There’s a very crucial and often overlooked aspect of Stoicism that is essential here, and that is the prosocial and cosmopolitan nature of the philosophy. You could read the above paragraphs on the dichotomy of control from an entirely selfish lens. You could prepare everything for yourself and bunker down alone when the storm comes. However, that is not necessarily the most Stoic thing to do.
Stoics are prosocial by nature. They care about their family, their community, and the cosmos. In such a situation as the example being used, it may not be practical to be overly concerned with the hurricane’s effects on the other side of the world, but it is certainly well within reach to be concerned about your local community and family.
Have you enough supplies for yourself and everyone else living with you? Have you offered a haven for someone that may be more affected by the storm? Do you have open communication lines with your friends and family? Have you paid a short visit to your neighbours to offer them support if they need it during the storm? Are there any homeless shelters available during the storm that you could offer a donation to?
Again, the list can get quite extensive.
It takes a whole lifetime
Maximizing your agency is no simple thing. It takes a lifetime to understand the full extent of that as well as to put it into practice. What never ceases to amaze me about Stoicism is just how deep and extensive the philosophy reaches. You can learn the gist of it in a week but then, after decades, you can still become wiser and more practical. As the storm approaches, do what you can to prepare. You do that in the days before, not during. Consider those around you, not just your friends and family but your broader community. And if you’ve done all of that properly, you can very Stoically declare that “the storm is outside of my control”.
Brandon is most well-known for his podcast, The Strong Stoic Podcast, where he discusses philosophical ideas both solo and with guests. He also coaches individuals to help them be their best selves, writes articles, plays music, manages projects, and several other things.