Here is the 4-step Stoic way to live the The Middle Way:
- Enjoy the finer things in life
- But not too much (Live in Moderation)
- Remember that these things are temporary
- Do not desire these things
As I have mentioned previously here, those who choose to live a completely deprived life, like the Ascetics can certainly obtain virtue. However, this life of deprivation is inferior to the Stoic way (IMHO) because:
- You will miss out on some of the finer things in life.
- It is just a tough sell to the average person (and I am average) to reject all niceties simply to find virtue.
- A virtuous life is one that should be lived in harmony with my world…not one in which I reject it.
So that’s great, most of us are cool with that: No deprivation, hooray! Having a little luxury now and again is just fine with me. In fact, I would say that most of us have more of a problem with THIS end of the spectrum; let’s call it the luxury side. Most of us are just fine not living a life of deprivation; our real problem is that we desire a life of excess and luxury.
Our antidote, I think is to return to the 4-step process of Stoic living I suggested above. Above all, step 4 is the most critical. When it comes to obtaining virtue, on a scale of 1 to 10, here is how these steps rate.
- (1) Enjoy the finer things in life
- (4) But not too much (Live in Moderation)
- (7) Remember that these things are temporary
- (10) Do not desire these things
Step 1 is basically neutral in the pursuit of virtue, and could be a hindrance to living the good life. Then, as I proceed through the steps, I work my way in the direction of virtue. So, all of the steps are permissible, but each becomes more and more critical. There are no easy answers to virtue, you have to use your judgment about what is excessive and your discipline to avoid excess. Judgment and Discipline.
In this discipline there is freedom.