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Humans are fallible. In fact, the Stoics thought that we are so fallible that none of us ever gets to be completely virtuous. They said only a sage can be virtuous and, for all practical purposes, no one ever gets to be a sage.
The portrait of a Stoic
Who is a Stoic?
As Covid-19 seems to be winding down, our return to normalcy is once again threatened, this time by the Russo-Ukranian war. What should a Stoic do? Where does a Stoic stand on this?
Stoics believe that one needs nothing outside of oneself to be happy and fulfilled. The moment we say we need something outside of ourselves to be happy – be it wealth, health, power, relationship or whatever – we become immediately dependent on others, on our circumstances, or on some external event happening in a way we would like.
The Stoics taught us to lead a virtuous life. But why? The purpose of virtue is presumably to enable us to lead the good life. However, it is quite easy to fall into the trap of feeling superior because one practices virtue, which may not be a virtuous thing to do. The temptation to let others know of one’s superiority can be irresistible.
Stoic literature, especially for a casual reader, is not brimming with joy. Probably because of that, over time, the word ‘stoic’ came to be associated with enduring hardship without complaining rather than with the joy of living.
Some aspects of Stoic philosophy can be blindingly obvious. For instance, who could possibly take issue with the basic tenet of Stoicism that some things in our life are up to us and others are not?
Morality is said to exude charisma. From Socrates to Gandhi, people who held no formal power exuded moral authority and have attracted people drawn by their moral charisma.
We cover in this issue some of the less commonly discussed themes of Stoicism. Our contributors in this issue argue that we are used to comforts, pity others who are less fortunate, find it hard to cope with situations like the pandemic, find it difficult to cope with transience and imperfection, and we are tired.
In A Scandal in Bohemia, a conversation between Sherelock Holmes and Watson goes like this:
Stoicism is a philosophy of life. Its path may be hard but it sets no traps. The Stoic traps we discuss in this issue are the traps we set for ourselves when we practice Stoicism. And such traps are many.
In this issue of THE STOIC, our contributors offer simple ways of practicing Stoicism.
Women and Stoicism
In the 5,000 year old epic Gilgamesh, the King of Uruk, Gilgamesh sets out to find the secret of immortality. He undertakes an ardous journey and faces many dangers in his quest. In the end, he comes to the understanding that humans cannot be immortals. All we can do is to live our lives well here on this earth.
It is commonly believed that Marcus Aurelius’ wife Faustina was unfaithful to him. Personally, such things don’t interest me. We read Marcus Aurelius because his thoughts are uplifitng. Little does it matter (except for him maybe) whether his wife was faithful to him or not.