For Father’s Day, I thought I would contemplate 10 lessons that I learned from my father. My relationship with him is good, and he is still alive and kicking. Like many sons, I generally don’t convey those things I appreciate about him often enough and tend to focus on the negatives far too often. The negatives are minor things, annoyances really, which means that I’ve been quite lucky to have a dad like him. So here they are. Continue reading
In your preparation for taking on life, there are three facets of your training that are key. You’ve heard them before, as they are nothing new. They are Body, Mind, and Spirit. A Stoic Hero, of course has his own spin on these three aspects. I know these seem kind of cliche. I tried to be more original but there really is no other way to break it down. To be ready, to be virtuous (which means to be happy), I have to work on all three. They are not independent of each other…no way! Your physical health is affected by your mind and spirit, your mind is connected to your body is connected to your emotional well being, and on and on. Interestingly, each of these aspects fit quite nicely with the buoys on my philosophical raft. Continue reading
“Adorn thyself with simplicity and modesty and with indifference towards the things which lie between virtue and vice. Love mankind. Follow God.” –Marcus’ Meditations Book 7
In this case, Marcus Aurelius wants to stress to himself that to be simple and modest is best. As for the things which “lie between virtue and vice,” maybe we really don’t know it all. Maybe we don’t know the answer. We all have our judgments of right and wrong, but maybe we should stop judging, at least a little bit. Sometimes, we might just be better to just breathe…to just “be.” Don’t judge, like we always do as humans…just exist, take a breath, take several breaths. Be like the stone at the bottom of the river and let the water flow over you, and just be there and exist…not judging.
When you’ve mastered that, then love everything around you (especially “mankind”). Sometimes this is hard to do, no? ALL of mankind? Really, really try. Don’t hold back. Love all of mankind. All that is happening now, is meant to happen. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It is all under the auspices of the cosmos, our divine existence.
Be good to yourself, be good to those close, be good to those beyond (me, we, they…).
In my post “How Should I Go,” I likened our life to a trip to Disney World: regardless of what you may want to do next, eventually the trip must end. Part of what makes a vacation so special is that one gets to experience joyful things that they never have before, and might not experience again…maybe forever, maybe not for a long time. Life can be like that, too. In a vacation world, each day has something to offer us, and every moment has something special in it, but again, it won’t last forever.
However, I am talking about externals here, aren’t I? And, when we talk about externals not all of them are so pleasant. For many, the conditions of life are not like a vacation, but as prison or as a gulag. For many, there are great struggles that face them. For most of us, the reality lies somewhere in between vacation and gulag, but let’s discuss our worst case condition.
Indeed, some of us are experiencing external struggles: hunger, unemployment, sickness or death of loved ones, or poverty. Others are engaged in a great internal personal struggle: depression, grief, personal sickness, injury. Let’s face it, for many of us, life is not Disney World…hardly. Life may be a place we would rather leave as soon as possible. Most who endure these struggles do not leave. For most, the will to survive is innate. Certainly, humankind would not have been around for all of these years if this desire to survive wasn’t built into our code.
Many who endure their struggles can be described as enduring “stoically.” In modern usage, the term “stoic” refers to a person who grits his teeth and endures existence, never complaining about the pain and tribulation that he must endure. Unfortunately, this modern interpretation is only half-right. The Stoic, as referred to by me, is more than just indifferent to the negative pressure around her, but in addition she is also aware that happiness is found internally, through our reason. Through our own deduction of what is true, we live as a Stoic not only to endure but to be at peace.
This peace, this tranquility is found in being aware of the good, by using reason to know what is in my control and what is not. In that there is tranquility. So, even if life has given us an inordinate amount of burden to bear, that goodness is still within. Even if we are not at Disney World, we can find great happiness in our virtue. Moreover, even in prison there can be things to be grateful for. First and foremost is our thought…which no one can and nothing should penetrate.
“Tribunal and prison are distinct places, one high, the other low; but your will, if you choose to keep it the same in both, may be kept the same. So we shall emulate Socrates, but only when we can write songs of triumph in prison.” Epictetus Discourses Book 2 Chapter 6
Simply, put my attitude is where I begin to find my own tranquility. But how do I change my attitude? Well, that requires another post, doesn’t it? Probably several.