Stoic Meditations

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15 Apr 2018 18:25 #320439 by Reacher
Replied by Reacher on topic Stoic Meditations
April 15th
Less Is More

"Don't act grudgingly, selfishly, without due diligence, or to be a contrarian. Don't overdress your thought in fine language. Don't be a person of too many words and too many deeds... Be cheerful, not wanting outside help or the relief others might bring. A person needs to stand on their own, not be propped up."
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 3.5

In most areas of life, the saying "Less is more" stands true. For instance, the writers we admire tend to be masters of economy, brevity, and meaning. What they leave out is just as important - sometimes more important - than what they leave in. There is a poem by Philip Levine titled "He Would Never Use One Word Where None Would Do." And from Hamlet, the best of all - the retort from Queen Gertrude after a long, rhetorical speech from Polonius: "More matter with less art," she tells him. Get to the point!

Imagine the emperor of Rome, with his captive audience and unlimited power, telling himself not be a person of "too many words and too many deeds." Let that be a reminder the next time you feel self-indulgent or a little full of yourself.

Jedi Knight

The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.
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19 Apr 2018 19:43 #320601 by Reacher
Replied by Reacher on topic Stoic Meditations
April 19th
Becoming An Expert On What Matters

"Believe me, it's better to produce the balance-sheet of your own life than that of the grain market."
Seneca, On The Brevity Of Life, 18.3b

The things that some people manage to be experts in: fantasy sports, celebrity trivia, derivatives and commodities markets, thirteenth-century hygiene habits of the clergy.

We can get very good at what we're paid to do, or adept at a hobby we wish we could be paid to do. Yet our own lives, habits, and tendencies might be a mystery to us.

Seneca was writing this important reminder to his father-in-law, who, as it happened, was for a time in charge of Rome's granary. But then his position was revoked for political reasons. Who really cares, Seneca was saying, now you can focus that energy on the inner life.

At the end of your time on this planet, what expertise is going to be more valuable - your understanding of matters of living and dying or your knowledge of the '87 bears? Which will help your children more - your insight into happiness and meaning, or that you followed breaking political news every day for thirty years? That isn't to say you have to avoid all those things, but be aware of your focus and what it could cost.

Jedi Knight

The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.
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05 Nov 2018 02:50 #328778 by Reacher
Replied by Reacher on topic Stoic Meditations
November 4th
Not Good, Nor Bad

"There is no evil in things changing, just as there is no good in persisting in a new state."
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.42

When people say change is good, they're usually trying to reassure someone (or perhaps themselves). Instinctively, many view change as bad - or at least we're suspicious of it and experience anxiety because of it.

The Stoics want you to do away with those labels altogether. Change isn't good. The status quo isn't bad. They just are.

Consider the parallels in an eastern Zen parable :

There lived an old farmer who had worked in his fields for many, many years. One day, his horse bolted away. His neighbors dropped in to commiserate with him. “What awful luck,” they tut-tutted sympathetically, to which the farmer only replied, “We’ll see.”

Next morning, to everyone’s surprise, the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How amazing is that!” they exclaimed in excitement. The old man replied, “We’ll see.”

A day later, the farmer’s son tried to mount one of the wild horses. He was thrown on the ground and broke his leg. Once more, the neighbors came by to express their sympathies for this stroke of bad luck. “We’ll see,” said the farmer politely.

The next day, the village had some visitors – military officers who had come with the purpose of drafting young men into the army. They passed over the farmer’s son, thanks to his broken leg. The neighbors patted the farmer on his back – how lucky he was to not have his son join the army! “We’ll see,” was all that the farmer said!


Remember, events are objective. It's only our opinion that says something is good or bad (and thus worth fighting against or fighting for).

A better attitude?

To decide to make the most of everything.

Jedi Knight

The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Karn, Rex, Twigga, Uzima Moto

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06 Nov 2018 15:12 #328810 by Reacher
Replied by Reacher on topic Stoic Meditations
November 6th
A Mantra Of Mutual Interdependence

"Meditate often on the interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of all things in the universe. For in a sense, all things are mutually woven together and therefore have an affinity for each other - for one thing follows after another according to their tension of movement, their sympathetic stirrings, and the unity of all substance."
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.38

Anne Lamott once observed that all writers "are little rivers running into one lake," all contributing to the same big project. The same is true in many industries - though sadly, even inside the same company, people selfishly forget they're working together. As human beings we all breathe the atoms that made up our ancestors and flow into the same earth when we die.

Over and over, the Stoics reminded themselves of the interconnectedness of all life. Perhaps that was because life in Greece and Rome was particularly harsh. Animals and people were slaughtered senselessly to amuse the masses in the Colosseum (events lamented in Stoic writings). Countries were conquered and its citizens sold into slavery to expand the empire (the futility of which the Stoics also lamented). This kind of cruelty is possible only when we forget how we're related to our fellow human beings and the environment.

Today, take a moment to remember that we are woven together and that each of us plays a role in this world.

Jedi Knight

The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.
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09 Nov 2018 04:10 #328911 by Reacher
Replied by Reacher on topic Stoic Meditations
November 8th
Protecting Our Inner Citadel From Fear

"No, it is events that give rise to fear - when another has power over them or can prevent them, that person becomes able to inspire fear. How is the fortress destroyed? Not by iron or fire, but by our own judgments...here is where we must begin, and it is from this front that we must seize our own fortress back and throw out the tyrants who would subdue us."
- Epictetus, Discourses, 4.1.85-86;87a

The Stoics give us a marvelous concept: The Inner Citadel. It is this intangible fortress, they believed, that protects our soul. Though we might be physically vulnerable, though we might be at the mercy of fate in many ways, our inner domain is impenetrable. As Marcus Aurelius put it (repeatedly, in fact), "stuff cannot touch the soul."

But history teaches us that impenetrable fortresses can still be breached, if betrayed from within. The citizens inside the walls - if they fall prey to fear, greed, or avarice - can open the gates and let the enemy in.

You've been granted a strong fortress. Don't betray it.

Jedi Knight

The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.
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10 Nov 2018 22:13 #328984 by Reacher
Replied by Reacher on topic Stoic Meditations
November 10th
All Is Fluid

"The universe is change. Life is opinion."
-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.3.4b

In Plutarch's Life of Theseus, he describes how the ship of Theseus, an Athenian hero, was preserved by the people of Athens in battle-ready condition for many centuries. Each time a board decayed, it would be replaced until eventually every stick of wood in it had been replaced. Plutarch asks: Is it still the ship of Theseus, or is a new one?

In Japan, a famous Shinto shrine is rebuilt every twenty-three years. It's gone through more than sixty of those cycles. Is it one shrine, 1,400 years old? Or sixty consecutive shrines? Even the U.S. Senate, given its staggered elections, could be said to have never been fully turned over. Is it the same body formed in the days of George Washington?

Our understanding of what something is is just a snapshot - an ephemeral opinion. The universe is in a constant state of change. Our nails grow and are cut and keep growing. New skin replaces dead skin. Old memories replace new memories. Are we still the same people? Are the people around us the same? Nothing is exempt from this fluidity, not even the things we hold most sacred.

Jedi Knight

The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.
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18 Nov 2018 18:33 #329295 by Reacher
Replied by Reacher on topic Stoic Meditations
November 18th
You Choose The Outcome's Meaning

"He was sent to prison. But the observation 'he has suffered evil,' is an addition coming from you."
-Epictetus, Discourses, 3.8.5b-6a

This is classic Stoic thinking, as you may have gathered by now. An event itself is objective. How we describe it - that it was unfair, or it's a great calamity, or that they did it on purpose - is on us.

Malcolm X (then Malcolm Little) went into prison a criminal, but left as an educated, religious, and motivated man who would help in the struggle for civil rights. Did he suffer an evil? Or did he choose to make his experience a positive one?

Acceptance isn't passive. It is the first step in an active process toward self-improvement.

Jedi Knight

The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.
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20 Nov 2018 08:04 #329374 by Reacher
Replied by Reacher on topic Stoic Meditations
November 20th
Progress of the Soul


"To what service is my soul committed? Constantly ask yourself this and thoroughly examine yourself by seeing how you relate to that part called the ruling principle. Whose soul do I have now? Do I have that of a child, a you...a tyrant, a pet, a wild animal, or a sage?"
-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.11

To what are you committed? What cause, what mission, what purpose? What are you doing? And more important, why are you doing it? How does what you do every day reflect, in some way, the values you claim to care about? Are you acting in a way that's consistent with something you value, or are you wandering, unmoored to anything other than your own ambition?

When you examine these questions, you might be uncomfortable with the answers. That's good. That means you've taken the first step to understanding your behavior and improving it - to being better than those wild creatures Marcus Aurelius mentions. It also means you're closer to discovering what your duty calls you to do in life. And once you discover it, you've moved a little bit closer to fulfilling it.

Jedi Knight

The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Karn, Twigga, Kasumi

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21 Nov 2018 06:03 #329441 by Reacher
Replied by Reacher on topic Stoic Meditations
November 21st
Reverence and Justice

"Leave the past behind, let the grand design take care of the future, and instead only rightly guide the present to reverence and justice. Reverence so that you'll love what you've been allotted, for nature brought you both to each other. Justice so that you'll speak the truth freely and without evasion, and so that you'll act only as the law and the value of things require."
-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.1

Aulus Gellius relates that Epictetus once said, "If anyone would take two words to heart and take pains to govern and watch over themselves by them, they will live an impeccable and immensely tranquil life. The two words are: persist and resist." That's great advice in that it lines out something to move toward and something to push away from - always in motion and evolving into better selves. But what principles should determine what we persist in and what we ought to resist?

Marcus supplies the answer for us: reverence and justice. Persist in the things you revere, and exercise justice to resist the behaviors wrought from enslaving fear.

Jedi Knight

The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.
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28 Nov 2018 05:23 #329773 by Reacher
Replied by Reacher on topic Stoic Meditations
November 27th
The Pleasure Of Tuning Out The Negative

"How satisfying is it to dismiss and block out any upsetting or foreign impression, and to immediately have peace in all things."
-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.2

The Stoics were mercifully spared the information overload endemic to today's society. They had no social media, no newspapers, no television chatter to rile them up. But even back then, an undisciplined person would have found plenty to be distracted and upset by.

Part of the Stoic mindset then was a sort of cultivated dismissiveness of the negative. Publilus Syrus' epigram expresses it well: "Always shun that which makes you angry." Meaning: Turn your mind away from things that provoke it. Or at least control your exposure to them in a way that is constructive for you vice destructively overloaded. If you find that discussing politics at the dinner table leads to fighting, why do you keep bringing it up? If your sibling's life choices bother you, why don't you stop picking at them and making them your concern? The same goes for so many other sources of aggravation. This is not a call to avoid frictions and challenges...only a call to rationally decide to take them on at a place and time of YOUR choosing.

It's not a sign of weakness to shut them out when needed. Instead, it's a sign of strong will because it demonstrates your ability to control the internal effects of an external stimulus. Try saying: "I know the reaction I typically take in these situations, and I'm not going to do it this time." And then follow it with: "I'm also going to remove this stimulus from my life in the future as well."

What follows is peace and serenity.

Jedi Knight

The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Karn, Avalon, Twigga

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