21st Century Stoicism

November 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Part 1: Twenty-First Century Stoic — From Zen to Zeno: How I Became a Stoic
Part 2: Twenty-First Century Stoic — Insult Pacifism
Part 3: Twenty-First Century Stoic — Stoic Transformation

I have, on more than one occasion been described as being stoic. Meaning, I am able to bounce back from emotional trauma with speed. Of course this isn’t always the case. When things burn, they burn deeply inside of me and never want to let go. But for the most part, I endure many aspects of life “without hardship.”

But the above series of blog posts tells the story of one man (whose book I have yet to read…That’s going on the Wishlist this year for sure) who endeavors to “endure without hardship” the philosophy of the Stoics. He writes about three main aspects of living Stoically:

1. Negative Visualization, in which he contemplates the loss of the things in front of him. In doing so, you tend to appreciate what you have and especially who you have around you. No writing sappy songs about how you never told your loved ones how much you love them. Or, more simply, appreciate that your coffee maker made it one more day without breaking — you couldn’t say as much for the last one that died 6 months into its life.

2. Insult Pacifism, in which you don’t re-act when someone insults you. The cast of the Jersey Shore would surely fail at this one. Yet the funny thing about insult pacifism is how well it works. Your detractors will be taken far, far aback when their insults are ignored.

3. Greeting Life’s Curveballs with Glee. This one has mostly to do with #3, but is a non-social phenomenon. If we don’t react, one horrible traffic jam at a time, we’ll be better equipped to deal with genuinely bad news. (“Your headache is something a little more menacing, sir. I’m afraid we’ll have to operate.” This one might be the biggest lesson of them all.

So is it possible to live Stoically in the 21st century? William B. Irvine seems to think so. But if you follow his instructions, you may find the reactions of those around you to be a bit funny. What do you mean he doesn’t hate his beat-up ’97 Honda? Surely the author doesn’t mind these whispers. The transformations going on inside are good enough to make up for it.

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