Recent Stoic Meditations, #5

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 argues that when we do something right we shouldn’t expect either recognition or a return. Otherwise, we are doing the right thing for the wrong reason. (listen here)

Seneca reminds us that we do not actually know when “the remorseless law of Fate” has fixed the time of our death. Therefore, we should prioritize what’s important, postpone nothing, and balance our life’s account every day. (listen here)

Seneca agrees with Epicurus: there is no sense in fearing what happens after death, since we won’t be there to experience it. Therefore, we should not allow religious and political authorities to manipulate us through that fear. (listen here)

Seneca talks to his friend Lucilius about how to console the bereaved, dispelling the stereotype of Stoics as individuals who go through life with a stiff upper lip. (listen here)

Seneca says that good and evil are not in the world per se, but in our judgments about the world, and the actions we take as a consequence of those judgments. Which is why training ourselves to arrive at better judgments is so crucial. (listen here)

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Recent Stoic Meditations, #4

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 reminds us that the future is not under our control, and that the best way to prepare for it is to act here and now, where we actually have causal efficacy. (listen here)

Epictetus tells us about a fundamental Stoic technique: never act on first impressions and implied judgments. Always pause, challenge your impressions, make the judgments explicit, and see whether they were on target or not. (listen here)

Here is Seneca’s version of an exercise most often associated with Marcus Aurelius: when you feel overwhelmed by your problems, take a minute to consider a broader perspective. When your mind is calmer, come back to earth and tackle the problems. (listen here)

Seneca suggests we pick a role model to help us become better persons. This ancient practice actually gets some empirical confirmation from modern psychology. So, who’s your model, and why? (listen here)

Seneca lists an impressive gallery of ancient Roman role models, who have done brave things to safeguard their ideals. Surely, then, we can find the courage to overcome our comparatively small problems in everyday life, no? (listen here)

Recent Stoic Meditations, #3

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 says that it is natural for us to be virtuous. Modern scientists say that it is natural for us to be prosocial. Either way, it is reason that allows us to expand our instinctive circles of ethical concern. (listen here)

Cicero uses a metaphor involving ship pilots and their cargo to remind us that a more or less valuable “cargo” doesn’t make us better or worse “pilots.” It is our skills, that is our virtue, that make the difference. (listen here)

Seneca, differing from Epictetus in a metaphysical sense, says that the universe is – as we would put it – morally neutral to us. What matters, then, is how we handle so-called “good” and “bad” things. (listen here)

Seneca uses a colorful analogy between life and a journey. Sure, we’d like to live longer, but when the journey is longer a number of unpleasant things are bound to happen, like rain and mud. Just bring good gear with you for the trip. (listen here)

Seneca uses an interesting economic analogy to remind us that the privilege of being alive comes with the tax of suffering setbacks and losses. Understanding this helps us to cope with problems and even to look forward to them as further exercises in virtue. (listen here)

Recent Stoic Meditations, #2

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 tells us something that may appear to be a no-brainer, and yet is difficult to apply: never believe that you can be happy through the unhappiness of another. (listen here)

Seneca writes words about the foolishness of war that were surprisingly modern for his time, and unfortunately very much still pertinent to us today. (listen here)

Continuing his criticism of the state’s war machine, Seneca exhorts us to prosecute our politicians and generals for the crimes they commit in our own name. (listen here)

Seneca echoes the advice of Musonius Rufus when he says that we don’t need to pay for extravagant meals with ingredients brought from all over the world. Every time we sit at the table to eat we have a chance to exercise temperance. (listen here)

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that we spend far too much time trying to change other people, which is outside of our control, and too little time attempting to improve ourselves, which we certainly have the power to do. (listen here)

Recent Stoic Meditations, #1

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 points out that it doesn’t matter if there is no continuation of life after death. Just like British comedian Ricky Gervais did recently in his series, aptly entitled “After Life.” (listen here)

Modern Stoic Larry Becker, building on Seneca, advises us to approach the problems we encounter not one at a time, but within the context of our life treated as a whole dynamic project. (listen here)

Seneca says that we should remind ourselves of things we know, because all too often we don’t pay attention to them. (listen here)

Seneca reminds us that it is important to associate with good people. Their goodness is both an inspiration and a guide to make ourselves better human beings. (listen here)

Cicero reminds us that happiness – meaning our satisfaction with our own life – is guaranteed if we don’t hitch it to external events, but only to our own reasoned judgments. (listen here)