I’ve been pondering and wondering about Stoicism and Politics, and how or if the two can do good things, if joined with a poem. I don’t know the answer to this, and certainly would like input from others, poets, Stoics, politically minded people …
This is the poem:
Politician’s Free Speech? A Sonnet
Their words inspire bad ways, not good,
I wish to clench my ears to keep them out –
they sicken me, why listen? I know I should
cleanse my skin of them, scream and shout!
Though my pores refuse to let them in,
still the hate invades my troubled self.
To listen, to hear their filth, is it sin?
I’m complicit – ghoul, not goodly elf,
for though I rightly say I don’t agree,
what I do is clearly not enough –
the price we pay for democracy,
to be invaded by this vile stuff …
Unworthy lies portrayed as honesty –
the price we pay for speech is far from free.
So, does this poem speak of politics, and hint perhaps at Stoic thoughts? I think on such matters at times, and would appreciate discussing it further. If you have thoughts on this too, please leave a comment, and we can discuss it further.
Many people assume that Stoics are staid and cheerless people, never smiling or carousing, or ever having any kind of fun.
But that is misunderstanding what it really means, to be a Stoic. Stoicism is all about being satisfied with what one has, or in fact, being grateful for all we have. If we are alive and not in pain, we are so much better off than someone who is alive and in pain.
If we have shelter and food, we are better off than a homeless person with no access to anything to eat. If we have a job that we get paid for, even though we’d like a better, higher paid job, we are still better off than an unemployed person.
If you were to think on the good things in life you have, and imagine how you may be if you didn’t have all of those things, you will see that yes, you do indeed have a good life. And if there is someone who seems to be having a better life than you, what of it? There may be negative things happening for that other person of which you have no knowledge.
Life for me is good. I have a roof, a husband I love, who loves me. I have a fine son, and other family members I love, and who love me back. I have a dog who brings joy to my life. I have a garden with beautiful flowers, I have food growing in my garden too. And that blue sky in the photo is up there above me on most days. Beautiful!
I am a very fortunate person. I can honestly say that, and I believe. I can imagine many ways in which my life could have been worse, and indeed still could be worse. But there is no point in getting upset about those other ways, because the life I currently have is the only life I can have, the one I’m living right now.
My future life is truly unknowable. I could guess at how it may be, but I can’t live it, until it is here. The future is a myth, and while some things can be prepared for in the present, there is no point in getting so carried away doing that, you neglect to proper ‘be there’ in the now.
These thoughts are from my own personal understanding on what Stoicism is about, and if I don’t get it quite how another person sees Stoicism as being, so be it. We are all entitled to look on life how we consider it to be, and live accordingly.
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.
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. https://dailystoic.com/eating-well-according-stoics/
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.
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?