From Vol. 5, Issue 3, March 2023
Stoic Reflections || Chuck Chakrapani
For more than a month now, I have been living in Portugal. Prior to that, I spent some time in India. A friend of mine in Mumbai, whom I had known for a long time, asked me if I was still publishing THE STOIC magazine. When I said yes, he said “Once you have talked about Stoic principles, what more is left to say? Why are you still running the magazine?”
On the one hand he was right. He had a point that I hadn’t thought about until he posed the question. After all, Stoic ethics can be fairly compact and can be explained in a relatively short time. When I started thinking about his question I realized that, once we start applying the principles, our questions multiply. Often we don’t know where exactly to look for an answer. For example, we may wonder,
- How do I handle my fears?
- How do I think about death?
- Does it really matter where I live?
- Are good intentions enough?
- Why be a citizen of the world?
Answers to questions like these are scattered in Stoic literature, but it is not always easy to find them when you need them. Some answers are also a matter of interpretation of Stoic principles. With that in mind, we have decided to let our regular contributors answer some of the more often asked questions.
Whether we run corporations or wonder where our next meal is coming from, we all have fears. How should we handle them? Seneca says that most of our fears never come to pass and we fear more in imagination than in reality. We exaggerate, or imagine, or anticipate sorrow. So his advice on how to get rid of fear is to ignore your fears (which may never come to pass) and heed the advice of Epicurus: “The fool, with all his other faults, has this as well: He is always getting ready to live.” Most of your fears are meaningless. Ignore them and start living now.
How about our ultimate fear – the fear of death? Enda Harte has some suggestions to offer but even more importantly he reminds us that we should not just remember death (memento mori) but remember to live (memento vivere). Remembering that we only have one chance at life should help us focus on being engaged, present, and aware of our natural surroundings. That’s the way to live and that’s the way to die.
But while we are still living, does it matter where we live? Can our life be better if we lived some place else? The standard Stoic answer is that the place you live is irrelevant, only how you live matters. Without challenging this view, our newest contributor, Tanner Campbell, says our place of residence is a Stoic indifferent and there are occasions where it might make sense to change the location.
Because Stoicism purports that we don’t have control over the results of most our actions, what really matters is our intention when we act. In his lively analysis, Brandon Tumblin agrees with this view and says if you continue to aim up, using the wisdom gained from all your failures to make yourself better, and fully engage in that process of death and rebirth, that is what allows your redemption no matter where you started or currently are.
Cosmopolitanism is one of the basic ideas pursued by the Stoics. Sharon Lebell explains why it is particualry important right now. She says “By seeking to be citizens of the world, we free ourselves from the tyranny of selfinvolvement. This is a crucial source of inner freedom.”