THE LOST ART OF STOICISM
“As a human being, you may have emotions, but these don’t need to affect your soul. The two are not one.” Daphne Guinness, British Artist
The car radio blared the CNN report of top news of the day and repeated it over and over again. Changing channels brought more of the same, but with the other sharp slant to things. The traffic around me thick, pushing and shoving. On each side of me, the sameness of unending strip malls. Waiting at the office, people with agendas and no appetite to hear other ideas. I felt surrounded by people with sharp edges, dug in attitudes and impatience.
It’s easy in today’s fast paced dense world to find yourself lost in it all, without the tools to find your own way. A good way to start is exploring the lost art of Stoicism. The Stoic philosophy dates back to ancient Greek times. It emphasizes wisdom derived from objective observation, reason and thought. The Stoic remained open minded to all views, drawing their own conclusions and actions from evaluation and reason.
Stoicism is nothing more than taking a step back from what we experience before we react or take a position. A stoic person clears away the emotion and outside influences to events in favor of having the courage to research and come to their own conclusions. All the while staying open to the arguments of all sides.
The person in business I always feared the most was the one able to hold the world out at arm’s length. They seemed above the crowd, capable of making objective decisions on the opportunities and obstacles they saw. You often did not like them, but respected how they always seemed to win.
A few strategies for becoming more Stoic include: 1) Recognizing that we are part of the universe of human kind. The fisherman on the Myanmar raft wakes up each morning under the same sky and has the same human feelings. 2) Dialing beyond US media. Listen to BBC and read foreign publications. You will discover there is a world out there beyond the narrow issues we hear about each day in our media. 2) Move and travel with no agenda in mind. It enables you to practice observing and evaluating the world and people. 3) Surround yourself with people who remain open to discussion and thought. 4) Observe and enjoy the moment. Look around when you are in any situation to take in all aspects of it. 5) Avoid being caught up in the small stuff of life and 6) Constantly challenge current thinking, even your own.
Humans are the only species on earth that have the power to change and creatively take on the future. It’s good not to have this taken away by the many outside forces and circumstances of everyday modern life.
Taking the simple step of remaining stoic and staying open to ideas reinforces the individual in us and often yields the best thinking and decisions in life.
Readings on Stoicism
“5 Stoic Principles for Modern Living” by Harley Monk
“Stoicism” by Jason Lewis
“Want an Unconquerable Mind? Try Stoic Philosophy” by Carrie Sheffield