Recent Stoic Meditations, #12

When Fortuna allows, I publish a short morning meditation based on a short quote from a Stoic writer, seeking to apply that ancient wisdom to life in the 21st century. Here are the most recent entries:

Marcus Aurelius takes the long view of things in order to remind himself that whatever troubles us so much right now will soon be over, one way or another. This isn’t nihilism, but rather the conscious adoption of a healthier perspective on human affairs. (listen here)

Epictetus bluntly tells us that if we have not been affected by philosophy and have not changed our mind about something important as a result of it, we are simply playing a game. So, has philosophy changed your mind yet? (listen here)

Seneca says that being able to do without luxuries is but a small and easy step toward virtue. And yet so many of us have much trouble taking that  step. Have you? (listen here)

Seneca advises Lucilius to think, but not to worry, about the future. It is reasonable to plan for things to come and to act in the best way possible. So long as we don’t delude ourselves into thinking that we actually control outcomes. (listen here)

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Recent Stoic Meditations, #11

When Fortuna allows, I publish a short morning meditation based on a short quote from a Stoic writer, seeking to apply that ancient wisdom to life in the 21st century. Here are the most recent entries:

Cicero explains a classic Stoic paradox: only the wise person is free, while everyone else is a slave. To what? To externals that they think are indispensable for their happiness, and yet lay outside of their control. (listen here)

Think of practicing philosophy as going to the gym: sure, you can do a lot on your own. But if you choose a good partner to keep you focused on the task, you’ll see more steady improvement. So, who’s your virtue buddy? (listen here)

Seneca says that some people are interested in studying philosophy not to improve their souls, but to sharpen their wits. Time to reflect on what, exactly, we are doing and why. (listen here)

Seneca says that we have enough sustenance without resorting to blood, and that a habit of cruelty is formed whenever butchery is practiced for pleasure. Something to meditate on a bit. (listen here)

Seneca and Epictetus agree: the best way to resist temptation is to avoid it altogether, because it’s hard to practice temperance, at least initially. Modern cognitive science agrees. (listen here)

Recent Stoic Meditations, #10

When Fortuna allows, I publish a short morning meditation based on a short quote from a Stoic writer, seeking to apply that ancient wisdom to life in the 21st century. Here are the most recent entries:

Seneca briefly tells us both how to approach philosophy, and how not to. Are you a passive consumer of the stuff, or are you looking to become a better human being? (listen here)

Seneca says that associating ourselves with a philosopher we cannot help but learning something that may change our lives. So today try to get a friend or relative into philosophy. You’ll be doing some good for the whole human cosmopolis. (listen here)

Is Stoicism about going through life with a stiff upper lip? No, but enduring what cannot be changed is part of the philosophy. Modern Stoic Larry Becker called it the “axiom of futility.” (listen here)

Seneca reminds us that, regardless of how terrible a problem or event appears to be right now, plenty of others have gone through something similar before. They can be an inspiration to us to overcome whatever is happening in the same way. (listen here)

Recent Stoic Meditations, #9

When Fortuna allows, I publish a short morning meditation based on a short quote from a Stoic writer, seeking to apply that ancient wisdom to life in the 21st century. Here are the most recent entries:

Seneca anticipates modern social psychological research in arguing that keeping oneself busy for the sake of being busy does not lead to happiness. On the contrary. (listen here)

Without knowing about modern psychological research, Epictetus figured out that we all too easily fool ourselves. Here are three Stoic techniques to at least partially remedy the problem. (listen here)

Cicero explains that we may lose any external good, because it isn’t truly ours, but rather on loan from the universe. However, our judgments, considered opinions, and consciously embraced values are truly ours and cannot be taken away. (listen here)

Seneca talks about the premeditatio malorum, an exercise that allows us to be mentally prepared for possible negative outcomes of our action. The key to it is to engage your reasoning faculty, not your emotional reactions. (listen here)

Seneca uses a metaphor of life as a journey, or as a trip to the thermal baths, to make the point that obstacles will be thrown our way, either on purpose or by accident. The question is: how do we deal with them? (listen here)

Recent Stoic Meditations, #8

When Fortuna allows, I publish a short morning meditation based on a short quote from a Stoic writer, seeking to apply that ancient wisdom to life in the 21st century. Here are the most recent entries:

Even in ordinary life we can be courageous and just, if we pay attention to what we are doing and why. (listen here)

Marcus Aurelius joins Seneca in his rejection of anger as a valid or effective motivator of human action. (listen here)

Seneca explains why not doing wrong is your best bet toward achieving serenity of mind. (listen here)

Seneca gives a disturbing list of reasons why we kill each other. Most of them are precisely the kind of negative emotions that Stoic training is attempting to move away from. (listen here)

Recent Stoic Meditations, #7

When Fortuna allows, I publish a short morning meditation based on a short quote from a Stoic writer, seeking to apply that ancient wisdom to life in the 21st century. Here are the most recent entries:

Seneca dispels the stereotype of Stoics going through life with a stiff upper lip by explicitly advocating suffering for those we love. What marks the Stoic is not that she doesn’t suffer, but how she handles suffering. (listen here)

Cicero reminds us that in virtue ethics the answer to moral questions is always going to depend on circumstances, a striking contrast with modern – and arguably less useful – universalist frameworks like deontology and consequentialism. (listen here)

Want to become a better person? Forget about traveling, since you will bring with you the same problems you are trying to flee. Read a good book instead, enter in conversation with the best minds humanity has produced across time. (listen here)

Seneca continues his analysis of the relationship between traveling and self-improvement. While there are good reasons to travel (leisure and learning), self-improvement isn’t one of them, because that requires critical reflection, wherever one happens to be. (listen here)

As Socrates said to someone who was complaining that traveling brought him no benefits: “It serves you right! You travelled in your own company!” (listen here)

Recent Stoic Meditations, #6

When Fortuna allows, I publish a short morning meditation based on a short quote from a Stoic writer, seeking to apply that ancient wisdom to life in the 21st century. Here are the most recent entries:

Cicero talks about one of the classic Stoic paradoxes: virtue is all-or-nothing, and yet one can make progress toward it. How is this possible? In this episode we explain, by way of a geometrical analogy. (listen here)

Epictetus complains about something that hasn’t changed much in two millennia: people who are happy to discuss the fine logical points of ethical dilemmas, but are apparently not that interested in becoming better human beings. (listen here)

Seneca reminds us how to behave with fellow human beings, but also that, from a Stoic perspective, what is and is not to be valued (one’s good and bad judgments) is not quite what most people value, focused as they often are on externals. (listen here)

Seneca reminds us that our fellow human beings aren’t always trustworthy or well intentioned. Nevertheless, we have a duty to treat others, and ourselves, with forgiveness, to be helpful when we can, and to endure when we cannot. (listen here)

In which I compare my adoptive grandfather to Cato the Younger. Not because he fought battles against tyrants, but because he was a decent and kind human being. (listen here)