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Facebook & Being a Stoic?

Social Media has a lot to give to our lives, but it can also take much away. I am certainly conscious of the many hours I spend, mindlessly scrolling my days away on Facebook and Twitter. I comment, reply, ‘like, and share, and not much gets done, or changed or saved.

There are other ways of course, to be. I feel that a website and blog such as this one leads me to producing more considered words, requiring much more thought on my part. Thinking about truths as I see them, can bring further discussion, and the give and take of that process is, or at least can be a valuable thing, for those involved in the discussion.

I have a number of website/blogs, quite a few, actually, on different topics. My first one has been around for many years, and only has new information put on it for a particular yearly event, to help promote a poetry competition I am involved with. This is linked to the writing group I began back in 2005, and it is very dear to my heart, giving the chance for other poets in Australia to write poems that may win them good money, if they are good enough, in the way they address the particular theme/topic for the year.

I am the President and Competition Secretary of this group, and I feel what I am doing for others is a chance I have received myself in the past. Giving my time to my broader community in this way feels like a good thing to do, and given that it makes me happy as well, it’s difficult to see any reason why I should not do this. The time I spend every year, when the poetry entries begin arriving, is time I may otherwise waste by scrolling through Social Media, as I mentioned earlier. Writing up poetry entries is a far better way to spend my time.

The money that poets pay to enter this competition goes straight to costs in running the competition, and to the award winners, and I try to have judges who will appreciate performing this role. Judging the poetry of others is a great way to gain a better understanding on what makes a good poem, a winning poem.

The thing about Social Media though, that can be a good and Stoic thing to do, is the sharing of words with others. Good and inspiring words can help a person to find reasons for making good decisions. I have shared a few of these over the years, and I love it when others feel my words are useful ones. Here are a couple of my recent ones:

Be rich in your heart, and other riches become far less important.

Living your life well relates not to things, but to feelings and thoughts.

Do you feel these are useful words for the Stoic to bear in mind? As I have indicated elsewhere on this blog, I am in my early stages of my Stoic life, and I welcome any feedback from others which may assist me as I travel my path in Stoicism.

I didn’t put my name to those words on Facebook, when I posted them, although they were on my own Facebook page. I felt the sharing of the words there was a good thing, but claiming them outright as my own felt too prideful. Is that going to far, or is it the best way to go? The Stoics back 2000 years ago were often writing their words in private, but they spoke about these things with others. It’s an interesting conundrum, be ‘out there’ or be enclosed. Be humble is the Stoic way, I write these things for the getting of understanding for both myself and for interested others.

Again, any thoughts on this are most welcome. Thank you.

Virtues and Stoics

What Is Stoicism All About?

First of all, the most important thing to sort out is to throw out the idea that Stoicism is all about having a stiff upper lip, and being cold, unemotional and uncaring. The Greeks and then Romans who put much into, and in fact in the case of the Greeks, began the Stoic philosophy.

Wisdom, Temperance, Justice, and Courage – these are the four cardinal virtues of a Stoic life. The Stoic wishes to go through their life, working at these four virtues to achieve their best possible life.

And to a Stoic, their best possible life is one that is lived in accordance with these four virtues. There are particular ways of considering these four virtues, with an emphasis on doing the best thing for themselves, and also for their family, friends and their wider community.

Going on a chocolate binge, while being very tasty, would not meet the virtue of temperance, and so would not be considered a good thing, by a Stoic. And if one had a heart problem and perhaps other health problems, then that’s certainly going to mean no chocolate, or perhaps only the smallest amount, as long as there have been no other dietary indiscretions.

Is it fair? This is an important question for a Stoic to remember and avoid. Life is made up of many things, and to rail against thing;s being ‘fair’ simply because they didn’t go your way is not a wise thing. As in Mindfulness, things that happen are, and it is up to all to deal with them in the best way possible.

And by the ‘best way’ one is not referring to gaining lots of money, or getting the biggest slice of cake. The ‘best way’ is the way that leads to improvements in your life, as it accords to your better understanding, and indeed embodiment of the four cardinal virtues.

I hope this brief look at stoicism has been of interest. If I have got anything wrong, please let me know. I am new at this Stoic life, and I wish to adhere to the proper way.

Change of Mind? It’s not Weakness!

Some people think poorly of people who change their mind about things, but I say the ones who will not change their mind, no matter what, they are the stupid ones. Keeping an open mind, and being willing to change your mind, when new facts become available, this is what wise people do.

Facts are facts, and just because you don’t like something, that does not give you the right to declare this new thing to be wrong, unbelievable. It is a stupid person indeed, who closes their mind to the truth.

Science is always bringing out new interpretations on things that occur, and it is a fool who refuses to accept what the scientists are saying. And yes, scientists will sometimes say another scientist was wrong, but most of the time, the original minds are more than willing to adjust their thinking, based on the new understanding coming from the new facts or interpretations.

The world was once thought to be flat, and in fact there are still some Flat-Earth believers, but they have few believers. People in the past have believed in a great many things we would scoff at now, because we have the facts. Climate change is one of the big things around at the moment, where some believe in it, and some don’t.

I am quite prepared to believe the overwhelming number of scientists and others who believe in the truth of Climate Change. The rapid changes and the overwhelming number of catastrophic Weather Events seems to be the sign of something.

If I were a religious person, I may feel/believe that the End Times are coming, with the unusual and destructive weather that has been happening around the world. But I am a non-believer, and am more than willing to believe that these awful things going on, have come from Climate Change. Floods, earthquakes, fires that burn hotter than they ever have, these can all be explained by science.

And yes, some of these things have certainly happened before, but it is the speed of them happening that is unusual. Will things calm down again, and return to ‘normal’? Or is the kind of weather we’re having around the world at the moment the new normal?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I’m certainly going to keep keeping my eye on the weather bureau forecasts, to ensure I don’t get washed away. Will the people who don’t believe that Climate Change is real, change their minds? Or will they remain stubbornly and stupidly convinced that cost of the scientists are lying?

The evidence seems to be in favour of my belief that climate change is occurring. It seems to be a Stoic thing to look at the truth of what is happening in my life, and to do all I can to try to help things to go along in better ways. And if that is too big a task for just me, what do I do? I keep on doing the best I can, because I know in my mind and my heart that is the right thing to do. I will keep on trying to focus on reusing, recycling and not wasting things, in the interest of the greater community.

I’m not entirely sure on that ideal, is it a thing I can change, and am I looking to far from what is possible? Well I won’t know, will I, but I can work at not making things actively worse. That is a thing that is within my own power.

What do you think? Is Climate Change real, or is it a global con job? I believe the Climate is Changing, and I don’t think I’m going to change my mind on that one! If you have thoughts on any of this, please leave a comment.

“You Don’t Make Friends With Salad”

Those words came from the famous Homer Simpson, of the well known animated comedy The Simpsons. If you are a fan of the Simpsons, you probably remember the words and the episode they occurred in, and even if you’re not a fan, you may well have heard the phrase.

  • This is Lahde, a dear friend, now gone, and he sure liked salad!

I can’t remember Homer’s point, with this curious proclamation, and it’s not one I necessarily agree with. I can certainly imagine a friendship that could begin with salad. Friendships are curious things, that can happen when you meet someone, and just ‘click’, feeling that finally here is a person who ‘gets’ you.

Another famous person, the philosopher Seneca, over two thousand years ago, said this about friendship:
“Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve.”

I’d never heard or read this thought, until earlier today. I have been thinking about Facebook and friendship off and on for quite a long time, really. I have real ‘see often’ friends who are also Facebook friends, and I have ‘see often’ real friends who aren’t on Facebook. I have a ridiculously large number of Facebook Friends, some of whom I don’t even remember ‘Friending’ in the first place.

I delete these occasionally, when I am having clear out in the interest of hmm, I don’t know what. Greater clarity? I’m not sure. On Facebook, the majority of my not actually true friends, FB Friends, are usually writers, or friends of friends. With some of those friends, I keep them as Friends, for the former reason, as stated by Seneca. I associate with them. These are people who have interesting things to say, or who may help to make me a better person, in some way.

The concept of being able to ‘improve’ a person is a curious one, because I’m not sure knowing me will ‘improve’ all others, but I certainly welcome into my friendship group, people who are interested in the things I’m interested in, writing, mostly. I have many writing related friends, and I welcome these are real friends, on the basis that we can actually ‘improve’ each other through our ideas, and connections.

Seneca’s words seem very sterile to me, and word has it that the man was quite the party goer, so I wonder how much improving was going on? I have no way of really knowing that, without a lot more research. Anyway, I certainly know that true friendships are far from sterile things. I have many friends I care deeply about, and love to catch up with them for coffee, chats, and hugs!

Social media opens up the entire world of possible friends, and FB Friends, as well as those on Twitter we follow and who follow us. We may never meet many of these people, but we may both, be made better by knowing them, and we may improve them. This friendship thing is truly a mixed up thing, and as I’ve seen in the past, it can go very wrong, very quickly.

But true friendships, such as the one I have with my husband, who I consider as my second best friend, these kinds of deeply committed friendships can withstand much, and still stay strong. I have been married to my husband for 33 years, and we’ve seen each other at our best, and at our worst. We both realise the importance of give and take …

Why second best friend. you may wonder, why not best friend, if our relationship is so strong? Well this is another thing – I consider myself to be my best friend. I care deeply about myself, and my best interests are an important focus of my life. I definitely believe that loving and caring about yourself helps you to become the kind of person who attracts good and caring people to your friendship group.

And yes, dogs have been great friends to me too, over the years. The dog in the photo above, Lahde, is the big brother of our current dog, Missy. Sharing our lives with dogs can show us how open and honest friendships can be. Dogs will come to you for food, yes, but they are also happy to just hang out with you, sharing your days, with no pressure, just casual ‘hanging around’ the way your best human friends can too.

So that’s it – some of my thoughts about friends. They can be tricky, they can be global, they can be in your face, and they can go wrong, but a true friend is one of the best, if not the best, thing to have in the world! Treasure your friends, they are priceless!

Step Away, Leave It!

In the past I have often stepped into other people’s discussions on Facebook, and sometimes suffered a little from things going bad, and being misunderstood, and being thought on as being wrong, ignorant, naive, or whatever the others may have thought about me and what I have said.

This is an unpleasant thing to have to face, but as I am trying to have a more Stoic mindset, I am finding myself stepping away from comments I might otherwise have spoken out about. Leave it! I tell myself, it’s not yours to fight, this one. As I do this, nowadays, I feel satisfied with myself, where in the past I may have derided myself for being a coward.

But if another person is saying something that I don’t agree with, is it my business to say they are wrong? I may not know their life experience, and the reasons why they may hold to something I don’t agree with. Even if I firmly believe I am right in how I feel, and they are wrong, is this the correct place to state my feelings?

In the particular situation that began my thoughts on writing this blog post, it was on Facebook, where many and varied things are said, proclaimed, agreed with, and argued over, every day. When I read this particular one, I felt saddened at something stupidly ignorant being said, but rather than possibly starting an argument, I said to myself, no, not here, not now, and I stepped back, back and away.

As the plant grows best when it grows away from the wind, so I will go best in my life when I learn to step away, if there is no real need for me to step into a discussion that may turn bad. What would I accomplish by stating my opinion, when it may not be agreed with, particularly when it’s a discussion on Facebook, between people who are probably never going to even meet each other in real life?

There’s no need to disagree with the people holding these beliefs, that quite likely come from their own lives, which are different to my own in some ways. They are not in good and strong relationships with one life partner, but have suffered recently at the hands of such a person, instead. So they’re views are their own, as my views are my own, and each of us looks at life through the lens of what life has given us. My view, and my life, give me positive things, their lives more negative things, and so this is perhaps what brings forward our thoughts.

Whether I am right, and them wrong, that is not the important thing, but simply that how I act is the best thing I can do, for myself and my best possible life. Pointless arguments, or discussions on things that won’t be changed, no matter what any of us think, these things are not worth the effort, not in that forum. I have strong opinions I can strongly push, if and when the need comes, but I will work at doing this only when I have a good understanding of the thing, and when it is the appropriate time for it.

Watering the plant on a hot summer day is a good thing, but doing it at the wrong time of day, may burn the leaves, and even kill the plant. And watering the plant in the middle of a heavy storm in winter is a waste of water, and unneeded anyway. I will work at using my words, my opinions, when they will do good, and so at appropriate times. We are not all at the same place in our thoughts on what is the best thing, some have yet to properly see truths, and of course, I am not the wisest one, all of the time, and may even be wrong in what I believe to be true.

Even in that situation, standing back and going on with thinking thoughts about relevant situations can lead to a deeper understanding. So, I step back, and leave it, it isn’t an argument I have to have, so why should I even think on it, unless it becomes relevant to me and my life.

The road, the trees, the clouds – all have their ways, and they have no care of what I do, and that is fine. I can appreciate them all, even as they ignore me. They have no need to get involved in my life, beyond simply existing.

Virtuous and Stoic Thoughts

These are some of my thoughts about the four virtues of the Stoics. The first is wisdom, the second courage, the third temperance, and the fourth is justice. These virtues, as outlined over two thousand years ago, come together to show how to live the life in a Stoic manner, to live a life that is worth living, and lived in a worthy & virtuous manner.

The wisdom referred to is practical wisdom, that which leads us to living our life in (ethically) good ways. Courage refers to more than just physical bravery, but instead refers more to have the courage to act in the most virtuous way, no matter the circumstances. Temperance leads to the Stoic to live a life not focused on getting the best of everything, and indulging oneself, but instead to appreciate good, if it can come in ways which do not harm self, or others. The final virtue, is the one of justice, which refers to acting in just and fair ways.

These four virtues work together, to create the way to live the good life, as the good Stoic aims to live, so they are continuing to work toward living their best possible life, with ‘best’ referring to living a life that closely adheres to living in accordance with the highest levels of the four virtues they strive to hold to. In Stoicsm, we are to live as a virtuous human being, one who rational (lifted to a higher than the level of animals), in living within our society in ways that are virtuous.

A person should heed to the virtues of Stoicism, then, and ask, is this the best thing to do, the wisest, most courageous, most temperate, and most just, thing to do. A person cannot live another person’s life, and so can only show others the best way to live, by living in that way themselves.

And if you feel others are treating you poorly, remember, it is only your perception that they are treating you poorly. If they hurt your feelings, then you have let your feelings be hurt, and you cannot blame another person for your own feelings. If you can think more wisely, and respond with kindness, then you can more easily heal, and the other person may realise their folly. And if they don’t then that is not your fault, but their own, and they are the ones who will suffer from it.

And if the rude person benefits from their behaviour, while you suffer? They are only seeming to benefit, and in their wrongness, are not really benefiting, as they and others will realise, if and when they look at the situation. They are not living their own best life, as you are, with your own kindness given, in the face of rudeness. Your example may be the thing that can change others, as it further strengthens you.

Food For Thought

Dining out is still OK for a Stoic, you just try to do it in an ethical manner.

Thinking on what life is for, I realise it isn’t for having mindless moments of mirth at the misfortune of others. It isn’t for purchasing more goods, when I still have plenty. It isn’t for dining out ‘in style’ consuming more food than I should eat in a week.

Having enough to eat is all I need. But denying myself the occasional pleasure is not something I should do either. But a good Stoic will take care to not overeat, to be mindful that those who serve you are not disadvantaged in their work, caring about where your food comes from, and so on.

There are more important things to life than eating, once you have had enough to fuel your body, eating is, or should be, thought on as nothing more than a way to feed the body that you need to do the most important things in your life. And if you are aiming at living a Stoic life, you will think on those ‘most important things’ more deeply than thinking on the food.

If one has suffered from want of food in their past, they may consider the importance of provisioning themselves more often than one who has access to much food. This is an understandable thing for sure, but even then, if times have changed for that person, having more than is needed now, to make up for that lack in the past, is an unhealthy way to go, not a wise one.

In this western society we live in, when food is there in abundance, it is a sad fact that disease linking with overeating is also in abundance. Eating well, should mean eating in a way that leads to wellness, not unhealthy overfullness. A vegetable heavy diet, with some fruits too, combined with some nuts and seeds, and some foods with grains, and perhaps a little meat, but not too much, this is a good way to eat.

Delicious home-grown purslane, healthy crunchy food!

The image above is of purslane, a herb that is considered a weed in many places, but a good and healthy food in others. I have been growing this at home for nearly a year now, and try to remember to go outside every morning to pick some to eat. It’s a healthy source of antioxidants, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and beneficial plant compounds. Calorie for calorie, purslane is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth.

Growing your own food can be a good and healthy way to go, because it gets you outside, communing with Nature, and it also gives you healthy food to eat! When growing your own, you certainly learn more about the benefits of giving just the best amount of good things – if you overwater, for instance, you can kill your crop!

Dining out, with friends, and perhaps family, is a fine way to go, every now and then, but surely the convivial conversation is the thing to have the most of, not the food, no matter how good the taste. A little bit of a fine flavoured dish is enough, surely, lest one be overfed, and feel uncomfortably full, leading to feelings of sadness, instead of happiness.

When we best consider our food, what it is, how it affects us, where it comes from, and its effect on the greater world, in terms of things such as ‘food miles’, treating the meat animals well, good diary animal treatment too, if one can know those details, these are possible things the ‘fine diner’ can think on, to evaluate just how ‘fine’ our dining truly is.

It is possible to ascertain some of these details, and if one can do this easily enough, this is definitely a good and ethically wise thing to do. And if your research leads to the consumption of fewer animals, and more nutritionally sound foods, produced in more ethical ways, then the world can say thank you. Dining out can still be done, when you’re a Stoic, but it’s best to try to do it ethically.

And thinking about it all, who wouldn’t rather their actions result in having a more thankful world to live in, rather than a damaged one?

On Dealing with the Government

contemplation of plants, styled by both man and nature

When organising one’s own details, online, with a government website, one’s intentions to live a stoic life can be sorely tested. This morning has shown that to me again, after spending some time wresting with the task of proving I am who I am.

I put my Stoic sense into the matter, and, given I will be in the town where there are government workers, whose role it is to help people to deal with their government matters, I will simply deal with this in person, rather than online. Simple.

Life is good, I am arranging my affairs in good ways, and life is good.

Our old dog, Lahde, before he left this world. A stoic boy for sure.

Getting Started With Stoicism

So, today is officially my first day in My Stoic Life. This morning before getting out of bed, I thought on my tasks for the day, the things I wanted to get done that involved my personal connections with community life.

I am involved with my community, or in reality, communities, as most people are. There is family, friends, hobbies, habits, and the broader range of communities ‘out there’. So, I made a mental list of the most important tasks for today, involving family and ‘hobbies’ and for ‘hobbies’ I mean my writing community related things I need to do.

Jobs for today

1/ I will call my mom about things of interest to us both especially our next catch up

2/ I will finish my task for the community radio station I’m involved with

3/ I will write up all of the new entries for the poetry competition my writing group are running

4/ Do my homework for the main writing group I’m involved with

The Dog Buddha, from my latest book in the Buster the Dog series

Finding good things in my life …

It looks simple enough, and I feel I can get through these items, in fact as soon as I’ve finished this this blog post I will make the phone call to my mother. Sounds simple enough, except I’ve just been reminded (and encouraged) to get a move on, so we can both go to the library to take back library books, and borrow some more …

So off I go, to get on with this stoic day! I am hoping to report back tonight, to tell how my day went, and whether Stoicism won the day, or old habits of laziness, and doing not much at all did!

  1. Interesting concept, yet difficult with society pressures. Minimalism when it comes to material belongings is something to consider too. Great…

What Would Marcus Aurelius Do?

I have my own responsibilities to my community, and I work hard at meeting my tasks with them, because it is important we all do what we can to help our own community to go well, no matter the size of that community.

When having something that requires further ethical thought, some people think on the idea of “What would Jesus Do”. As an Atheist, a person looking to more secular assistance in looking on my life, and the best ways to go, I prefer to go more with the thoughts of philosopher, and in particular, the Stoics.

The man for me to consider is perhaps, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was a learned man, over two thousand years ago. He was a Stoic, hence my interest in his thoughts. And another of the things he did every morning and evening was to write about his thoughts and decisions, creating a book that was to be widely known as “The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus”.

When Marcus wrote this book, he was writing only for himself, and to assist in working through the many decisions he had to make in his life. Being the Emperor of Rome is a big job, that’s for sure. I’m certainly not ever going to have to deal with the decisions he had to deal with, life and death issues, and the massive affairs of state.

So I am looking at Stoicism to assist me in my life, my life scaled down from what Marcus ever had to deal with, but still important to me, and to my community nonetheless. I have my dog to look after, Missy – here she is –

And of course our plants require my assistance at times. I’m not the main person in charge of watering, but it is definitely a sometimes task for me, especially in summer, when lack of water could be the end of our plants, which would be a wasteful thing, after all of the care we have given them. These are some of our plants:

So Missy gets fed, and let inside and outside, as needed, and the plants get watered as needed. I do my share of the chores in our household, and my husband does his share. We do this sensibly, as we should, with no accusations of shirking, because the things that need to get done are more important than our egos.

I doubt Marcus Aurelius ever had to look after a dog, or do housework, but I extrapolate, and consider issues from my own point of view, more than two thousand years later. I have my own responsibilities to my community, and I work hard at meeting my tasks with them, because it is important we all do what we can to help our own community to go well, no matter the size of that community.

So no matter the issue, I will do my best to do the best, the best for others, the best for my own wisdom, the best thing I can to become the best person I can become, as Marcus Aurelius was also thinking about, and doing way back when he lived, ruled, and then died – doing the best he could to become the best person he could be.