Becoming a Stoic isn’t like taking up a new religion, and going to the appropriate church, synagogue, or whatever, once a week, or however often is appropriate. You meet up with others of the same religion, listen to the appropriate person – priest, reverend etc, and perhaps go for a cup of tea with some of those attending afterwards.
Then you go home, and perhaps think on the learnings your heard at the service, and maybe do some good works, in accordance with those learnings. Then you probably go back to living your life in a manner much like everyone else, whatever their particular religious, or secular leanings.
Becoming a Stoic is something different though. A Stoic is, or tries to be constantly learning, thinking, and doing their Stoic thing, being a good and virtuous person, the best they can possibly be, for that is what being a Stoic is all about. “Gaining fulfillment in life through living a good and virtuous life in accordance with Nature.”
Living a ‘good’ life doesn’t refer to getting all of the best things in life, the good things that having lots of money, for instance may bring. No, good refers to acting with wisdom, choosing the best thing for self, community, and everything else.
Stoicism tells us that the only thing we can actually control is ourselves, and to get angry at the actions of others is a waste of time, and causes us unnecessary grief. This is because we are only able to control our own actions and reactions, anything else is beyond our abilities to control.
The actions of others, then, can be seen as good or bad, but we cannot do anything about them, but, if they are bad things, be sorry for the person doing them, for they are harming themselves, as well as perhaps harming others, and nothing really good can come of their bad actions.
Thinking about such matters is not an immediately easy thing to do, seeing other people who look to be living a great life, when we are living a quieter life, living in a moderate way, neither going without what we need, to live, nor to have more than we actually need, to live. Moderate lives, lived in accordance with what is natural to us, being brave, cheerful, courageous, high-minded, accepting, these lead to the Stoic way.
If we feel resentful at what someone else has, are we doing ourselves any good, in that resentment? No, we are not. If we wish for things we can’t afford, or don’t need, are we going ourselves any good? No, the things Nature tells us we need, food, shelter, companionship perhaps, wanting and having these things is a good thing, not bad, as long as no-one is harmed in the process of us getting them.
Some things are difficult, and require hard work to achieve, so we will need to knuckle down and get on with the necessary hard work. This is a good thing. This is courageous, brave, accepting of the reality. But to want for more than we need, is none of these things.
A further issue needs to be considered, the idea of things ‘being in accordance with nature’, refers to acting in accordance of our humanity, the thing that makes us higher than animals. Humans have the ability to reason, and to be rational. And we are born to be social, and to watch out for each other and to work together for the good for all.
Humans can think, and to think about thinking, which is what makes us different from animals, which simply do things, with no further thought on what they have done. Rationality and reason must be the guides we hold to in life, and in holding to them, we can live a life more in accordance with nature, and so a life that strives for the the best life for all, not just ourselves.
Selflessness, rationality, reason, these can lead to that best world for all. I think on these and am aware of the failings of others, but also of my own failings, and I am humbled. I perhaps know things others don’t realise, I understand more, and if they fail, due to ignorance, who am I who fail, even in knowledge of my failings?
Life goes on, I think on where I have failed, and strive do better, be better, achieve higher, and fulfilled life, acting in accordance to what is rational and reasonable. But more than that, I will live a life that adds to the world, and does good for all, not just myself. In doing so, I will be living a wise and fulfilled life, as we all could do …