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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.

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.

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?