How Stoicism Might Help

Writing about things, looking at them, and thinking about how they affect my life, and the lives of others. Then looking for ways to make life better, both for myself, and for other people too, these are important things in my life.

Stoicism has helped me to work on this, my life has become one of considered action, more than it may have been in the past, to some extent anyway. I have written about some of this in another of my blogs, my biggest one, here, which is my blog about my writing life.

Writing helps me to think more deeply about ‘things’, and by thinking more deeply, making better decisions. Life can be a crazy roller coaster life, if you let things get out of hand, but if you keep a firm hand on the reins, you can stop things from getting out of control.

Stoicism helps, writing helps, family and friends help, working for the betterment of my community helps. The life of a Stoic can be a combination of these things, all working for Good.

I feel no need for God in my life, as long as I pay heed to Good, things go well. Others feel differently, and that is fine, we all have our own ways, and as long as all realise those differences, and don’t get in each others way, life can continue, religious, secular, something in between. Stoicism can be a thread that ties it all together!

What would Marcus have done

I am not a learned person, in terms of further education. I have a Certificate Four in Community Service work, and I have my lived experience that has brought me the knowledge I currently have.

Since I began looking into living the Stoic Life, I often think to myself, ‘how would Marcus have handled this?’. The Marcus I refer to is, of course, Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor, two thousand years ago. Marcus was a learned chap, who thought deeply on the ideals of Stoicism.

I, though nowhere near as learned, also think on the ideals of Stoicism. Not as deeply as Marcus did, I am sure, but I certainly think on what the best response is, to a variety of things that happen in life. Life gives you many opportunities to further your understanding of what Stoicism is, and can be.

Something happened on Facebook recently, where someone wrote something, and I, rather than immediately rushing in with a possibly ill considered opinion, stepped back to consider the thing more deeply. Did it seem important? Yes, OK, was it something I could do something about? Something useful, that is, that could improve things, at all?

The answer to that question definitely seemed to be no, it was beyond my capabilities to do anything to change the end result, and thinking further, I wondered whether any one of us could actually do anything useful. The answer to that, again was no, unless you think having a good whinge useful, which I don’t. Others may think differently. I am not those others.

And now, a few days later, I can’t remember what that thing even was, the world hasn’t ended, and life goes on as before … So Stoicism has saved me from some useless whinging and whining, thus giving more time for more useful things. Life is like that, things boil up suddenly and seem to overflow. Stepping back, and doing nothing can help to turn down the temperature, and we can all calm down again …

Photo by Rafa Beladiez on Pexels.com

Stress is often a major cause of health problems, particularly the kind of stress caused by the things we can’t do anything about. I say, instead of getting hot under the collar, step back, and think. Your body, and your mind will thank you for it!

Accepting What Is

There are many options in life, a sometimes confusing number of things. Do you do this, or do you do that? How to decide from one thing to the next? Thinking about these things can sometimes feel like just too much to work through, and so you just don’t think, merely bumble and fumble from one thing to the next.

The trees reach up and out and down, to take what is given, by Nature …

There are many things, yes but you are the one in control of your own life, and if you want your best possible results, it is up to you to think on, and work toward your best possible options.

As the trees reach for what they need to live their best possible lives, so we must reach for what we need. Some of our needs are the same as the trees – water food, sunshine. And some of our needs are more complex. But as the trees don’t try to grow apples, if that is not in their nature, so we will do best to work toward what is on our nature, and not things that are alien, and not good for us.

This doesn’t mean we should go for an easy life, and not reach out for bigger and more than the basics, but we should consider what is there that will aid us to become the best we can be, given our circumstances.

When times are good, revel in what is available, that is useful to you, give back to others when and if you can, challenge yourself. And then if things change, and the bad times arrive, know you have met challenges, and can meet more, follow your best path to bring on the good times again, work to learn from what you have done to survive, and managed to get through the challenges faced, and met.

The tree sends its roots down, and out, to find water, in dry times, as we must all send our minds out into the world to find the help we need, and to realise sometimes we may go thirsty from time to time, but that if we have put aside, or pay for our water, we will manage, as long as we don’t waste our resources.

Drought, flood, in between times. Railing against what is there will never help us to deal with them. Setting our minds to managing what is there, and working with that in the best ways we can, that is how our lives can go the best way possible.

The seasons change, and we must change with them, expecting to be hot in summer, cold in winter, and manage ourselves, to thrive, and not swelter or freeze. Nature is there, doing its thing, as we too, must do our own thing, in accordance to what actually happens, not what we want to happen.

What Can I Do Right Now

Looking at the mess our world seems to be in right now, I could throw my arms up in the air, then tear out my hair, followed by crawling into a hole, and stay there.

I won’t do any of those things, no matter how tempting some of them may be, in particular the final one. If that hole had coffee available, and a blanket, lovely. But life requires things to happen, my volunteer roles, my family roles, my roles as a dog owner, these require things from me.

I am able to play my roles in these things, and I know what I need to do with each of them. I am certainly saddened by many of the things going down right now, the people getting sick, and dying. But there is not a thing I can do to stop those things from happening. I am keeping the required distance from others, and if I were to become sick, I would get tested.

My best things to do every day, are to care for myself, my loved ones, and my community, as and when I can. Railing against the government will not solve any of the problems around the world, it will only upset me, perhaps, and still those problems will be there. But being in ignorance of these global things is not the way to go either.

Knowing what is going on now, and remembering it when time comes to vote, and voting accordingly, that is certainly something within my possible actions. Caring about other people who are hurting, and looking for actual ways I can help, that is within my possible actions too.

Life, at its best, is a combination of stepping away and stepping forward. And understanding when to do each is my Stoic duty, to myself, and to others. I aim to live my best life possible, doing the best things possible. And by ‘best’ I mean in a global sense, not a greedy (all for me, only) sense.

I want good, not gold.

Stoicism in Troubled Times

So it’s mid April, 2020, and life has suddenly become completely weird. The coronavirus has taken over our lives, and none of are living our lives completely as before, even if you are trying to. Being ‘locked in’ is far from a normal life.

Having a job may no longer be possible, and you may have lost your fob. or you may have a job, but have to work from home. Or you may, like me, be on a disability support pension and weren’t working, but services have been cut, and shopping has become far more difficult.

If you are a Stoic, or exploring the idea of becoming one, what might that mean, now that we are fighting against an unseen enemy? I am not an expert in Stoicism, and I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about it. But I know my own life, better than anyone else does, and I know how I try to ‘do’ Stoicism, in this new world we have right now.

For me, Stoicism feels like it was helping me to be at peace with this strange world. There is little I can do to cure this disease, nothing in fact. But it is well within my power to stay relatively safe from ‘getting it’. I am helped in this by my husband, who is also my carer, to assist me in various daily things, shopping, housework, etc. I stay safely home, while he goes out to keep ensure we have all we need to eat, remain clean etc.

If ever there was a time to grow your own food, surely now is that time. If one is able to provide for themselves, that is so much safer, as long as you aren’t affected by the Covid 19 virus. And if you are, but are not badly affected, staying home is the only thing to do, apart from seeking medical help as needed. And if your are worse affected, it’s to hospital for you, no doubt about it.

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growing our own strawberries

There is little an ordinary person can do about this virus, and so trying to go beyond your abilities, is a senseless thing to try. And ignoring the word of experts, who know far more than others, well, that’s a path to stupidity, surely? The Stoic works at going what they are capable of doing, and affecting, and leaves alone the things they are not capable of doing.

That doesn’t mean not helping out, if something comes up, that you are in fact able to do, perhaps. Not being expert doesn’t mean you can do nothing. It just means you are wise to keep within your bounds of ability, not venturing too far beyond. Growing our own food? Yes we can do that, as proved by successes in previous seasons. Intubation of a patient suffering breathing problems? No, not within my abilities, so I wouldn’t go there, unless there was no other help, and I felt I could do it.

Knowing my own abilities, and understanding the extents of how far I may be capable of reaching, these are important. There are people who know about caring medically for others, and I am happy to leave such things in their hands. If I were to be in the position of being the only available person? Well, I’d give it a go, but understand (I hope) and forgive myself if what I managed wasn’t enough.

I haven’t thought a whole lot about such things previously, because they haven’t seemed important or necessary things. But in this new world, we can’t know everything that might happen, there are not lessons written down in stone, on how to deal with what is here. So I am staying at home, most of the time. I’m eating a nutritionally sound diet, as always, and I am now doing more exercise, to assist my body to do what it needs to do.

I’m exposed to lots of ‘news’ – some true, some perhaps not true. But I am keeping my mind open, and staying with what seems the most likely, and what is sensible and understandable. I’m not a medical person, but I have a doctor who I trust, I will do as he thinks best, when it melds with what I believe to be true. (Which is almost all of the time)

I step back, or try to, from things that seem wrong, or fake, or just plain silly, and I stick with likely, and true things, things that make sense to me. Sure there are moments when I am less than serious, and there may be things I could do for my good, or the good of others, but do nothing. I am human, and like most humans, I go wrong sometimes. Such is the nature of being ‘only human’.  Sometimes a little bit of humour makes things go better.

So these are a few of my thoughts about living with a ‘killer disease’, and trying to look at them Stoically. If you have some thoughts or ideas about any of what I have written, I’d love to know about it, please leave a message here. Thank you. Or if you have any more ideas about Stoicism, I’m always keen to expand my knowledge, and welcome those thoughts and words too. Thank you.

Thinking About Reason

The reason of which I’m thinking is the ‘this is the reason why I can’t come to lunch’ meaning of the word. I’m thinking about the ‘Thinking about’, kind of reason. The kind of reason that separates human from beast. There is some debate about whether any ‘beasts’ actually do use reason, but that is something for a different blog post.

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Using reason, considering things more deeply, and moving beyond the obvious into much more, these are the things that help us to do better things, or to do things in a better way. Reason, consciously used, allows us to consider effects, and work to understand the things that occur in our lives. Reason, rather than emotion, is the logical way to get to the actual truth of matters.

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Not sleeping, thinking!

Reason allows us to consider ideas, and apply our own knowledge, and knowledge from other sources, to ascertain the actual truth of things. If we use reason, we will discard false ideas, and endeavour to correct ideas found to be untrue. Reason helps us to think about things, and arrive at responses based on truth, not falsity.

Intuition is often given by some people as the sole reason for a decision, but actions based only on intuition, may well give a totally wrong idea, when further thought and ‘reasoning’ would have taken that intuition, and shaped it into a more nuanced and true idea.  Emotion can also lead a person to false ideas. Wanting something to be true, will never actually make a thing true. But the wanting, connected to reason, can work toward a process that may well bring the wanted thing, into fruition.

Stoic thought goes very strongly toward reason, in fact reason, used properly, will lead to Wisdom, and the gaining of Wisdom, as applied to all in life, is the ultimate goal for all, to lead to the living of the truly Good Life. This is a basic aim of Stoicism. This is not a life where we have all of our wants fulfilled, but rather a life where all of our actions performed lead to the greater, rather than only personal, good.

The satisfaction of hunger, or any base or strictly animal needs, at the expense of higher needs, such as the need for deeper thought, are not going to lead to that greater Good, the Good Life that is or should be the ultimate aim for us all. Hunger is a need that should be fulfilled, yes, but how often to people go overboard with it, and have more than they need?

The consequences of this overindulgence are many, and if all chose to only have enough, instead of too much, what a wonderful thing that would be, for all. Moderation is a key to a better life, meeting needs, but not ‘wants’ …
What do you think about this? Does it seem relevant to living a Stoic life? I’d love to hear/read what you think about this. Please leave a comment!

Doing My Best, Or At Least Trying To …

When looked at in its most simple way, Stoicism could be looked at as doing the best you can, in terms of the best for yourself, and others. I don’t mean best in terms of money though, but in a virtue-related way. Recycling, giving to others, being kind to all, forgiving people, trying to help those who make bad choices to make better for themselves and others.

along-came-a-spider

This spider thought it wanted to come inside our house, I took it to a place that would be better for it, because if it came inside and my husband saw it, he would kill it. He’s a bit like that. I try to help these big huntsman spiders out of the house, if I spot them inside …

Saving the lives of spiders is the least I can do – they eat the flies I don’t want inside my home! I feel good to help these creatures, and helping people too, if and when I can. I am working at the idea of not deriding politicians who do what I consider to be bad things. I feel they are gravely mistaken sometimes, for sure. I have the power to let them know at election time ….

But I can’t like them, some of them. These things are works in progress, my Stoicism is too. I’m doing my best to do my best.

Think, Then Act, If Needed

The Stoic way is to think on matters, and act only if needed, not to react immediately without thought – that is the animal way, not the wise human way. If a person can take in an action, hold the thing in their mind, think on it, and then speak, or do, as is required, the end result will be a better one.

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Photo by Jonathan Andrew on Pexels.com

This process leads to wiser decisions, better decisions for self, for family and friends, for community, for the world … if a loved one does something stupid, don’t blast them with hate, settle down, think about why they may have done the stupid thing, and find ways to help them find remedies for the consequences of their stupidity.

The same with friends, others, governments, everything. Thoughtless reaction, unless it’s because your life is in immediate danger, is rarely if ever as useful or wise, as action taken after considered thought.

When reaction is immediate, you will rarely, if ever, have all of the necessary facts required to make the wisest decision. So heed to the thought – “Reasoned action, beats thoughtless reaction!”

 

 

In Life is Death

We, none of us, are going to live forever, not in the bodies we use, anyway. The best we can hope for is to live on in the minds of others, or in the history of what we did, and how we were remembered there.

If we do big and mighty deeds, there will be much written about is, and so we will retain a semblance of life, in books, magazines, perhaps television or films. If we are simple ordinary people, doing perhaps good, but still, ordinary things, the likelihood of the memories about us living more that a generation or two, narrow.

But if we live a good and worthy life, helping others, including people we know, communities we live in, and perhaps bigger towns, then the likelihood of thoughts about us living on is greater.

But we must always remember this – this life is our only chance to get it right, in death, comes the end of our ability to change anything, good, bad, or otherwise.

If if doubt, do the good thing, whether in company or alone. Good for others will always be the best decision.

From Marcus Aurelius – A Thought

“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”   Marcus Aurelius

I searched for and posted the thought above to a Facebook page of a friend. I like to find words that have relevance in the modern day, that have held onto the relevance they have held through the times since they were first spoken.
Marcus Aurelius was the emperor of Rome two thousand years ago, and he was also a philosopher, using Stoic thought as his guide to the travails of life. He seems to have been a wise leader, and his wisdom is definitely still relevant to us in these modern times. He would consider his actions coming for each day, in the morning, and then in the evening, think of what the day had brought, and how he had acted.
Thinking on our lives in such Stoic Philosopher makes very much sense. There are so many options to take, and decisions to make, but in reality, when one considers the decisions with wisdom and thought, the end results, in keeping with Stoic thought, will be wise ones. Putting aside the myriad things that one cannot change, and that actually are not yours to decide on anyway, will clear space for you, cutting away the unnecessary and unneeded thought.
If it seems difficult to work against your natural inclinations, it may well be your brain trying to tell you the truth, it is not your business to act, so why are you working so hard to do something … Doing the best you can, for the things that truly are yours to decide upon, that is your Natural business, and those things are the important things for you to thnk on, and do.

A tree doesn’t try to make apple crumble, that is not natural for a tree to do, a tree though, an apple tree, will work at growing the apples that go toward making apple crumble. And an apple tree will grow those apples at the correct time. It will bloom in Spring, bees will pollinate the blossom, and then the fruit will grow and be ready to harvest at the appropriate time.
If you were to say you will make apple crumble next year, using your own home grown apples, but don’t do any of the necessary things every day, to actually grow apples, it will be nonsense. So yes, you may have had a thought about something you wish to do in the future, but there is work to do.
You also have to consider there may not be any fruit to use, even if you do actually plant an apple tree. And apple trees take time to go from just planted, to bearing fruit. Spending time studying how to grow your own apples, or asking those who know about such things are wise things to do, if that is something you wish to do.
So thinking of the future is never a guarantee that what you want will ever happen. If you use your reason, and do all of the things that need to be done, to have the things you want or need to live a good life, (with apple crumble if that is what makes for a good life for you), then your reason will help you to perform all of your necessary tasks.

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Photo by Tom Swinnen on Pexels.com