When I interact with folks who read my blog, a few of them eventually ask me about Stoicism. It is either to know what Stoicism is or it is about resources related to it so they can also follow Stoicism. The funny thing is that I don’t have any formal training nor did I read any books on the topic. It just so happened that one day I chanced upon some videos on Stoicism and loved the concept. Then I started reading about it in a few blogs, listened to a few audio books and watched some videos. I never took any notes or kept the resources handy. So every time some one asks me for the resources, I just had to tell them that I don’t have any. I want to change that with this and some upcoming posts.
From now on I decided to keep track of at least some of the resources I come across. Here are some of them along with a small explanation of why I saved it. Since I rarely read books anymore for myself, most of the resources are just YouTube videos. Now my reading is mostly to my daughter and all the books I read for her are children books :). There are so many definitions of Stoicism, but the one that I like the most is – it is the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint.
This first video is a very brief introduction to Stoicism. It does not cover much of it, but if someone wanted a quick overview to test the waters, this could be a good start. It introduces the 4 cardinal virtues of Stoicism, namely wisdom, temperance, justice and courage.
Wisdom - the ability to navigate complex situations in a logical, informed and calm manner. Life throws a lots of interesting and difficult situations at us. Yet, we need to be able to navigate through them without getting overwhelmed, overworked, or displaying any feelings.
Temperance - the exercise of self restrain and moderation in all aspects of life. This one particularly applies in today’s materialistic world where we have too much of everything. Too much stress (think project deadline at work), too much fun (think electronics, vacations), too much food (think cookies, chocolates and pizzas) etc.
Justice - treating others with fairness even when they have done wrong. When we talk about people, we are actually constantly judging them. We should let go of that. Everyone who is doing something has a reason to do it and we can never be in their shoes to fully understand that.
Courage - facing daily challenges with clarity and integrity. Because sometimes, even to live is an act of courage. There is always the short cut of running away from problems. But to live and face the challenges also requires courage.
For today’s world
The next video is more of a practical application of Stoicism as applicable in today’s world. Some notes below, but there is more in the video that you might enjoy.
1. Ignore what others are doing
Don’t waste your time thinking about others, their personal life, or what they are thinking about us. Do what you are supposed to do in this life. In today’s world we are constantly curious about others, whether it be via social media apps like Facebook, Instagram or by looking out of the window and envying what others have in their possession like a fancy car, or a big house or swimming pool.
2. Your reality is just your opinion
Don’t interpret what others are saying in a negative light. For example, an insult from someone hurts us only if we are interpreting it as an insult. Anytime you feel hurt or sad, it is because we are interpreting the situation as such. If there was no interpretation and it just someone’s words or actions, then there is nothing to think about.
3. Do less
Less superfluous actions, words, thoughts and emotions, the more time you will have for the important things in life like spending time with family or working on your passion. Learn how to say no and say it often.
4. Death is knocking at your door
Death gives us focus. Live each day like it is the last and do what you would do if you knew today will be the last day to live because one day, it will be. May be you want to spend more time with family and less time on TV.
5. Never complain
We can’t change the external situations, but we can certainly ignore them and work on things that are in our control. If you cannot control something, there is no need to complain.
6. Help others
Share your gift, knowledge, or resources. Keep doing good even though they may hate us. Once you have helped others, forget it, in fact don’t even have the consciousness of helping others. Don’t expect praise or recognition of helping others.
7. Be happy with what you have
No matter how poor or unlucky you are, you can always find people who are poorer or more unlucky than you. They may have less things, or poor health or happiness. What ever you already have is quite a bit more than what you actually need. Just imagine if you don’t have all those things that you have now. How miserable would that feel.
This is one of my favorite videos. Many of us feel pain or sadness because we are unprepared for situations arising in life. Stoicism helps you prepare for the worst of the possibilities. When I wrote a post about visualizing death, I wrote about how my family would frown upon me for visualizing such negative thoughts. But it is an essential Stoic idea. We must always try to picture the worst that could happen and then remind ourselves that the worst is survivable. Hope for good, but prepare for the worst. You should be prepared for all kinds of eventualities including death of loved one, major accidents such as fire or earthquake and everything thing. Nothing ought to be unexpected by us.
And the best part about the video is that it explains how choosing death is a good option if it comes to it. Don’t be fearful of dying. If the pain is truly unbearable and after putting all the effort to avoid it, if you cannot still endure it, then you are in no obligation to continue living. A wise man lives as long as he ought, not as long as he can. One can set themselves free and the privilege is theirs. Do not approach death with fear, embrace it when the situation arises, whether self inflicted or natural.
There are a few more videos I’d like to share, but this is already a long post, so next time. I am not supporting or endorsing Stoicism. I like it and I am trying to follow it. Some of you may not like the concepts. This post is only to introduce Stoicism for those who don’t know and have asked me for some resources. I am sure whatever philosophy you are following has the same or better information. I try and follow Stoicism but I would never ask anyone to do the same. I understand that there are older, nicer, better, simpler, (insert your adjective here) philosophies out there, but I am not actively seeking or pursuing any of them. Also, I am just a beginner Stoic and don’t follow every Stoic idea to the T. Still learning and I know there is still a lot to learn. By the way, this does not change the fact that I am an atheist. I continue to be a non believer of god or any other super power.