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On Christmas day 2009, al-Qaeda attempted unsuccessfully to bomb the North-western flight bound to Detroit from Amsterdam.
All of us are bothered by negative emotions—anger, rage, revenge, worry, sorrow and depression. In this article, psychiatrist Ron Pies reviews some solutions to these problems offered by the Stoics.
Chuck Chakrapani, Editor
Walking since the time of Socrates
Socrates was known for walking barefoot. His student Antisthenes, who inspired the Cynics and Stoics, likewise walked barefoot for miles to listen to him talk each day. It’s said they were both good friends with a shoe-maker called Simon. The Cynic philosopher Diogenes used to say that both mental and physical training are required to become a true philosopher. Constant physical exercise that is in accord with nature leads to a ful-filled life.
There’s is a growing reaction against the vapidity of modern life. A number of young Canadians have become disillusioned with the relentless march of social media, celebrity culture, consumerism, and other potentially soul-destroying forces. Many of them are turning to a surprising source of help and consolation: the ancient philosophy of Stoicism.
The fear of dying
Reflecting on one’s own death and the death of others, in particular those who are dear to us, is something that many people find depressing. This is one subject that we don’t want to think about. The sheer idea that we might not exist any more can fill us with anxiety, so we’d rather block the idea altogether.
Everyone hurries his life on and suffers from a yearning for the future and a weariness of the present. But he who bestows all of his time on his own needs, who plans out every day as if it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the morrow.
Seneca, On the Shortness of Life
The Stoics used their philosophy to correct their own faults, not to judge others for theirs. If anything, they tried to show kindness and forgiveness toward others, knowing that they’ve gone wrong themselves before. As Marcus Aurelius reminded himself:
Sunday, September 1st, 2019
Beyond ambition: Getting off the treadmill of desire
Downside to ambition
In one of his many memorable phrases, Seneca says that success is often won at the cost of life (Seneca, On the Shortness of life). By this he means that people work so hard in pursuit of success that they have no time left over for themselves, no time left over to do the things that really matter.
The Virtue of Becoming a Sustainable Stoic
Almost a year has gone by since I connected sustainability to the Stoic virtues of courage, justice, self-control and wisdom in my plenary talk at Stoicon8 2018. Since then, many of you have asked me for practical examples regarding the most effective ways to be a sustainable Stoic. Here are a few tips:
Sittting vigil at the bedside of a dying woman is where I’ve spent the past several months. I held her hand as she desperately cried out for “mama.” I did my clumsy best to soothe with reassuring whispers or a cool cloth a once gregarious matriarch now mute, writhing, and coiled inside herself.
If you go to the gym and ask your coach for quick-wins or a toolbox for rapid change - without too much effort please - what is she likely to say?
When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.11
Work with the material you are given.
Epictetus Discourse 2.5.22
Tuesday, October 1st, 2019