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Over the past several months, we have been redesigning our website in an effort to make it the single most useful website for Stoic practitioners. While the website does offer articles that relate to Stoic theory, our main emphasis is on practice: What can I do now to lead a better life?https://thestoicgym.com/
How do we react when unexpected things—such as a job loss or a health problem—happen to us? How do we react to predictable daily events? We often react to events in a way that causes more misery. Many people get depressed by they way they habitually react to things.
In 2018, Tonya Illman, walking around sand dunes on a remote beach in Western Australia, picked up a bottle, It contained a message written 132 years prior, thrown from a German ship called Paula. The note was still readable and was later confirmed authentic. That was the oldest message ever found in a bottle.
As I write this, more than 250,000 around the world have lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 3,500,000 have been diagnosed with it. Compared to the world’s population of 7.5 billion people these are small numbers.
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.
Stoicism in the Time of a Pandemic
Since the time of Hierocles, the Stoics suggested that we are a part of a larger community. Steeped in our self-centered everyday concerns, we ignore others and devote our lives to our selfish pursuits.
In this issue, Greg Sadler poses an interesting question. Why is it, in many Stoic forums, people ask questions like
- Is Batman Stoic?
- Is Donald Trump Stoic?
- Is Mickey Mouse Stoic?
- Is feminism Stoic?
- Is traveling around the world Stoic?
You read a book on Stoicism. Or listen to a lecture, read a blog, or see a post on social media. You are inspired. You are going to practice Stoicism. You are going to be happy, virtuous, and invincible.
I know, I know, it is not good form to be pleased with yourself. Even less so to announce it to others. But today I am pleased with myself and I am not hiding it. Let me explain why.
The concept of a "Stoic sage" in an intriguing one. According to Stoicism, only a Stoic sage is virtuous and happy. Yet none of us is a sage. Not just that, no one can ever be a sage. Since one is either virtuous or vicious, happy or unhappy, we are all vicious and unhappy. (There is no intermediate state between happiness and unhappiness, virtue and vice in Stoicism.)
Stoic principles can be used to solve our problems, big and small. But they can also be seen as a way of life, so it is always with us, warding off problems before they arise and offering us help if they still arise.
I seldom call myself a Stoic. Although I have been helped by Stoic principles all my life (I first stumbled on to Stoicism in my teens), no one close to me—not even my family or friends—knew that I had anything to do with Stoicism. I never talked about it. When I wrote my first book on Stoicism, Unshakable Freedom, they all wanted to know how I had known about Stoicism.
Insects in amber
When we look at our daily life, we see that we face an array of problems—financial, health, and our relationships.
In this issue there is an interesting article on Stoic walking by Donald Roberson.
Come again? “Stoic” walking? Is a Stoic supposed to walk differently?
Is Stoicism a self-centered philosophy?
Does Stoicism really teach us to care for others except in so far as it is in our own interest to do so? Why should we care for the community? Here is one explanation: