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How to be with the world we live in
You’ve probably heard of VUCA before, to describe the kind of world we are living in - Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous. Considering what we’re going through now with the pandemic, these words are taking on new meaning and it is becoming increasingly difficult to see clearly, clarify our thoughts and decisionmaking. This is why we urgently need philosophy.
Two types of holidays
There are at least two types of holidays we can experience. One consists of maintaining the usual activity that we have during the year, replacing work with leisure. But the spirit is the same: filling the day with things to do or social relationships.
Dear friend,. this is a message of peace for you. You may be young or old, a woman or a man, poor or rich…
Things will “never be the same again”?
Losing our freedom
It looks as if we have lost our freedom (temporarily at least). In France, lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic means we can go out to shop for food or for a short stroll around the house, but we cannot visit friends or family or go on the holiday we had scheduled.
Compulsory shut downs
Within the past few days, the French government announced the closing of all schools, restaurants, and all places of social and cultural gathering, as well as full isolation at home for the population. Companies that can are implementing distance working, and those who can’t are exploring temporary unemployment measures.
I recently rediscovered the first chapter of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, ‘Debts and lessons’. Marcus lists a number of character traits and attitudes he inherited from members of his family, acquaintances, teachers, friends. From his father, integrity and manliness, from Sextus, kindness, from Fronto, the ability to recognize the hypocrisy that power produces.
I’ve taken up a philosophy course this year and every three weeks, we spend a whole day with a group of twelve fellow adult students and our teacher.
I’ve been very busy lately. Getting up early, facilitating philosophical workshops and training sessions, preparing proposals, net-working. After the children are in bed, I’ve been getting back to work to finish all the things I couldn’t do during the day. I am now in the situation in which most of my corporate clients are: snowed under, or as we say in French “under water”, “head in the handlebar.”
Just before summer, my 16-year old daughter Zoe decided she wanted to change schools. She was an average student, in an average school, surrounded by teenagers not particularly motivated by schoolwork or giving their best. She wasn’t frustrated with the situation but had a wake-up call in the spring and decided she wanted to change for a better school, one she had asked for the previous year, but hadn’t got into.
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?
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.
Not being here
Does it often happen to you that as you are doing something, you also wished you were somewhere else, doing something else?
WHAT WOULD A STOIC DO?
We tend to be self-centred. We constantly wonder what I should do if I fall ill, if I get angry, if someone is angry at me, if I don’t have enough money, if my coworkers are jerks, if my boss embarrasses me in front of others, if I fail to get the job I want … But while we are busy thinking about ourselves, life presents us with situations that we are not prepared for. Now what? Modern Stoics respond to our last month’s picture, the burning image of the Notre Dame Cathedral.
“What do the Stoics have to say about climate change?” A friend recently asked me. The question would have seemed crazy to Stoics like Seneca or Epictetus, but since then, human beings have changed nature in such a way that the question is now more relevant than ever.