My Stoic Life
The Philosophy of Stoic Living
When I was in college, many moons ago, my favorite class was philosophy. I could write for hours in the blue essay books after studying the ancient philosophers of our time and their opinions and authorities on subjects. I remember thinking, damn, I really would love to just sit down right now and ask their opinions and advice on the happenings of the world today. Well, fortunately they have left us with brilliant insight on how to live a more peaceful, harmonious life that we can appreciate and be honored to say we lived. Not necessarily a purpose in life, which could bring us added stress, thinking we are not properly fulfilling it, but more of a guideline of a better way to live and think. These are dark times for many in this world today, people are sick, people are lost, people are confused, people are fearful of the future, and more death is inevitable. I know I am going to die at some point, but does that affect the way I live and love today? As the world is changing and I am evolving, I find myself living more of the stoic life, taking the advice of these ancient philosophers. In this article I review what the philosophers said about stoicism and the five lessons learned from them.
1. Live Every Day As If It Were Your Last
“You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.” - Seneca
No one lives forever, we should enjoy the things we enjoy Today. I attended a Landmark forum last year and they made us think about this, they asked everyone in the room, "If we knew the world was gonna end in two days, what would we do?" It made me really think, hmm, I would want to be around my friends and family that I loved and cherished, I want too listen to my favorite music, love on my dog, be outside in nature, laugh out loud, dance, and most likely intoxicate myself with my favorite balancing chemical remedies. Then they said "Why don't you do that everyday?" We only live once, as the saying goes, why not live it like it will end soon. Do the things you love, be around the people you want to be around and do it all with a complete appreciation of that time. I guarantee your conversations with people will change, having more substance then just talk of the weather so to speak. Just ask my family, when we get together, and not just in a crisis. I get into much deeper conversations with them, that connects us more everyday.
2. Food Is The Best Test Of Self-Control
“That God who made man provided him food and drink for the sake of preserving his life and not for giving him pleasure, one can see very well from this: when food is performing its real function, it does not produce pleasure for man, that is in the process of digestion and assimilation" - Musonius Rufus
I wrote a whole article about food called "I have a new eating disorder - Is eating a burden?" where I talk about food and how I think about food. This philosopher did a 2-part discourse on the relationship with food and man as well. Although the pleasure of food is experienced on the tongue, and it is sometimes overwhelming how pleasurable it can be, it is clear that the purpose of food is revealed when it assimilates with the body through digestion.
The lesson learned here is similar to what Socrates once said which is that we should "Eat to Live, rather than, Live to Eat." Everyone is either one way or other, which one are you? To practice this principle, full heartedly, we can eat plain foods without excessive spices and sauces and also try intermittent fasting. Which in my research, I have found, it not only helps in weight loss and diet control it also helps build our immune systems. Right now, today, really look into how we view and think about food.
3. Failure Is Natural, Regret Is Foolish
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” - Marcus Aurelius
What he is saying here is that we can practice appreciation in everything good and bad. I try to always focus on the good and learn from my mistakes of the past, but most importantly move forward with more action.
Don’t be surprised when you fail, in fact, expect it, and embrace it, to a certain extent. Because there is always something else to learn from any situation or occurrence in our lives. In fact, we should seek out obstacles in our life that may seem uncomfortable and present a challenge. This is where our character will be tested and most importantly molded and developed through these challenges.
The moment we start to regret something in the past, we are fundamentally acting against something which is out of our control and so there’s no practical reward from doing so, it only leads to frustration and anger.
We should learn from our past and from our failures, but to regret, to ponder, and to revisit the past in distain is a crime to our overall character.
4. Focus On The Small Things
“Well-being is attained by little and little, and nevertheless is no little thing itself.” - Zeno of Citium
This is by far my most favorite and one of my friends, Sean, even wrote a song about the "Little things." We tend to take for granted the little things in life and how important they can be in our happiness and well being. The idea is basically that we should never underestimate the small things in life, because who’s to say that these small things don’t define some larger and more meaningful part of life? They do. Everything is worth paying attention to with all of our experiences and outcomes in life being interlinked in the rational system we call the universe. By focusing on the little things, we find more positives, wins, and successes in our overall dreams, goals and visions in life. A lot of little things can add up to big things and honestly our human "machine like" bodies don't require much to survive. Being more mindful of the present and appreciating something as simple as our breath, the colors of our surroundings, or a simple text from someone, can make all the difference in how we view every aspect of our lives.
5. Throw Away Vanity
"It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” - Epictetus
When we wish to pursue philosophy and therefore any subject of interest to us, we must throw away conceit and excessive pride before we begin.
My general philosophy of teaching, yes, I taught for 19 years, I liked to quote Aristotle “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Which means to me that there is always something more to learn and that learning never ceases in any subject and in all life experiences.
We must always be willing to learn, be willing to listen, be willing to leave our egos aside to learn, evolve and develop through the wisdom of others and through embracing the joy of ignorance, because we are all ignorant in some regards and we can all learn from each other. "I have no knowledge of that, YAY! Something more to learn!"
As the Socratic paradox goes: “I know that I know nothing”
From this day forward, even in this chaotic current world, I plan on living a more stoic life and I want to thank those who read this far and these philosophers for their wisdom of stoicism.
About the Creator
I am an early retired teacher now writing and performing on stage doing stand up comedy, performance poetry, hosting trivia and murder mysteries and performing sketch comedy as much as possible. I hope you enjoy my writing.
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