Why is being a Stoic so cool right now? Chiara Sulprizio explains the renewed popularity of Stoicism in “Why Is Stoicism Having a Cultural Moment?”
Arthur Brooks explains in “Choose To Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.” that it’s up to you whether to be thankful and that you’ll be better off if you choose to do so. “… we are more than slaves to our feelings, circumstances and genes. Evidence suggests that we can actively choose to practice gratitude — and that doing so raises our happiness.”
In “How Philosophy Can Help Us Get Unstuck in Work and Life,” Jules Evans outlines seven pieces of practical advice from “one life-hack that a lot of entrepreneurs and business people have found useful” … ancient Greek philosophy and Stoicism in particular.
“One day I decided to stop lying. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been a big liar before in my life, but I decided to – to the best of my abilities – not lie at all. I defined some borderline case rules for myself, for example, it is ok to avoid or withhold the truth, when the effects of telling it would be harmful for myself or someone else (do I look pretty in this dress?), but not to tell a direct lie, however small.” Jacob Henricson gives the result of his experiment in “Honesty in Business – A Stoic Experiment.” Kant would approve.
Is your life driven by a fate governed by a wise and just providence? Or are you and everything else simply the chance movement of atoms? Unlike Chris Fisher who claims modern Stoicism requires a belief in providence, Donald Robertson claims you can be a modern Stoic even if you are an atheist or agnostic. One common interpretation of the choice between providence and atoms offered by Marcus Aurelius “is that he is reminding himself that whether a creator God exists, or whether the universe is simply ordered by blind chance, in either case the practical (ethical) principles of Stoicism should still be followed.” For example, “whether the universe is rule by a provident God or due to the random collision of atoms, either way it makes no sense to blame others for our actions.”
Is your life driven by a fate governed by a wise and just providence? Or are you and everything else simply the chance movement of atoms? In a defense of the Stoic worldview, Christopher Fisher says your psychological well-being may depend on how you answer these questions. “The chasm between the providentially ordered cosmos of the Stoics and the random atomic universe of the Epicureans was deep and wide, and it could not be bridged. Thus, as Marcus asserts, one must make a choice between them—either providence or atoms. … [W]e can choose to follow the cart of fate willingly, with gratitude for the life we have been given. We can take control of what is ‘up to us’ and leave the rest to providence. Or, we can continue to get dragged through life yelping all the way. The choice is ours and the choice is critically important to our psychological well-being.”
Would-be Stoics can begin by relaxing their upper lips. Massimo Pigliucci describes how he recently became a Stoic, how he practices a number of standard Stoic exercises daily, and how Stoicism might or might not fit in with his scientific and philosophical beliefs. “For my part, I’ve recently become a Stoic. I do not mean that I have started keeping a stiff upper lip and suppressing my emotions. As much as I love the ‘Star Trek’ character of Mr. Spock (which Gene Roddenberry actually modeled after his — mistaken — understanding of Stoicism), those are two of a number of misconceptions about what it means to be a Stoic. In reality, practicing Stoicism is not really that different from, say, practicing Buddhism (or even certain forms of modern Christianity): it is a mix of reflecting on theoretical precepts, reading inspirational texts, and engaging in meditation, mindfulness, and the like. … In the end … Stoicism is simply another path some people can try out in order to develop a more or less coherent view of the world, of who they are, and of how they fit in the broader scheme of things. The need for this sort of insight seems to be universal.”
According to Lary Wallace, Stoicism is eminently understandable but is grotesquely misunderstood. It’s misunderstood even by great philosophers like Nietzsche. It’s typically thought to be about remaining impassive. But in fact Stoicism promises “lasting transcendence and imperturbable tranquility.” It’s one of the best mind hacks ever.
Stoic Week 2014 is an online and international event taking place from Monday, November 24, to Sunday, November 30. This is its third year. Anyone can participate by following the daily instructions in the Stoic Week 2014 Handbook. You can follow the Stoic practices of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus, for seven days, and discuss your experience other participants. “The aims of the course are to introduce the philosophy so that you can see how it might be useful in your own life and to measure its potential therapeutic effectiveness.”