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Showing posts from 2019

Leave All Behind

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"On a voyage, when the ship is anchored, if you go on shore to get water, you may gather a small shellfish or cuttlefish along the way as a side issue for yourself, but your thoughts must be directed at the ship and you must be constantly watchful if not the captain calls. And if he calls, leave all of it behind, so you won’t be thrown into the ship bound like cattle. It is the same in life: if instead of a small shellfish and cuttlefish, you are given a wife and child, there is nothing against that. But if the captain calls, rush towards the ship and leave all behind without looking back. And if you are old, don’t even go far from the ship, so you won’t default when you are called."  (Epictetus)

Leave All Behind

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"On a voyage, when the ship is anchored, if you go on shore to get water, you may gather a small shellfish or cuttlefish along the way as a side issue for yourself, but your thoughts must be directed at the ship and you must be constantly watchful if not the captain calls. And if he calls, leave all of it behind, so you won’t be thrown into the ship bound like cattle. It is the same in life: if instead of a small shellfish and cuttlefish, you are given a wife and child, there is nothing against that. But if the captain calls, rush towards the ship and leave all behind without looking back. And if you are old, don’t even go far from the ship, so you won’t default when you are called."  (Epictetus)

"Deform To Form A Star"

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Beautiful

"Half Light"

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fascinating, captivating, magical, enchanting, entrancing, spellbinding, magnetic, irresistible, hypnotic gold

Pragmatic and Principled

"Wherever a person can live there one can also live well; life is also in the demands of the court, there too one can live well." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.16)

Room To Move

"Apply yourself to thinking through difficulties--hard times can be softened, tight squeezes widened, and heavy loads made lighter for those who can apply the right pressure."

(Seneca, On Tranquility Of Mind, 10.4b)

Strength in Silence

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Not all things need to be said and sometimes we learn that lesson by saying stupid things. "The inexperienced and fearful talk to reassure themselves. The ability to listen, to deliberately keep out of a conversation and subsist without its validity is rare." (Ryan Holiday)

The Artful Life

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Daily Practice Is The Philosophy

"In your actions, don't procrastinate. In your conversation, don't confuse. In your thoughts, don't wander. In your soul, don't be passive or aggressive. In your life, don't be all about business." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.51)

"Freedom Isn’t Free" by Ryan Holiday

"The fact that America exists is the ultimate argument that Stoicism is not apathy and that philosophy is not mere theory. Because without Stoicism, it’s possible there would have been no revolution, no Constitution, no Bill of Rights and no Fourth of July.

Thomas Jefferson kept a copy of Seneca on his nightstand. George Washington staged a reproduction of a play about Cato at Valley Forge in the winter of ‘77/’78 to inspire the troops (having first read the Stoics as a teenager). Patrick Henry cribbed lines from that same play which we now credit to him: “Give me Liberty or give me death!” John Adams, Ben Franklin—almost all the founders were well-versed in the works of the Stoics. It’s partly what gave them the courage to found a new nation against such incredible odds, and it’s partly what set up the principles that formed that nation and changed the world.

At the core of the American experiment was liberty. At the core of Stoicism we have not only a love of freedom, but the co…

Get To

"The task of a philosopher: we should bring our will into harmony with whatever happens so that nothing happens against our will and nothing that we wish for fails to happen." (Epictetus, Discourses, 2.14.7)

Ryan Holiday says the difference between a "to do" list and a "get to" list is privilege. I would add that the difference also includes "flexibility." This is why I no longer keep a "to do" list, but an "if nothing prevents me" list--things I get to do. Flexibility comes into play by giving myself the freedom to tackle list-items when I am free to do so.

How to Criticize

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Try The Opposite

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"What assistance can we find in the fight against habit? Try the opposite!" (Epictetus, Discourses, 1.27.4)

"The Stoic Art of Journaling"

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"Epictetus the slave. Marcus Aurelius the emperor. Seneca the power broker and playwright. These three radically different men led radically different lives. But they seemed to have one habit in common: Journaling.

In one form or another, each of them did it. It would be Epictetus who would admonish his students that philosophy was something they should “write down day by day,” that this writing was how they “should exercise themselves.” Seneca’s favorite time to journal was in the evenings. When darkness had fallen and his wife had gone asleep, he explained to a friend, “I examine my entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by.” Then he would go to bed, finding that “the sleep which follows this self-examination” was particularly sweet. And Marcus, he was the most prodigious of journalers, and we are lucky enough that his writings survive to us, appropriately titled, Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, Ta eis heauton, or “to himself.”"
Read…

Have Fewer Problems

"This is why we say that nothing happens to the wise person contrary to their expectations." (Seneca, Tranquility of Mind, 13.3)

1. Manage your expectations
2. Consider for the best and worst-case scenarios.
3. Be prepared for either and excel in virtue as you receive it.

Calm is Contagious

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"It's the pursuit of these things and your attempts to avoid them that leave you in such turmoil. And yet they aren't seeking you out; you are the one seeking them. Suspend judgment about them. And at once they will lie still and you will be freed from fleeing and pursuing." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 11.11)

Happy First Day of Summer!

"It is not good to be entirely without the experience of cold and heat, but one ought in some degree to feel the cold in winter and likewise the heat in summer and to seek shade as little as possible." (Musonius Rufus, Lecture 19)

"We should take wandering outdoor walks, so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing." (Seneca, Tranquility of Mind, 17.8)

Stay Focused

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“Observation and perception are two different things. The observing eye is stronger. The perceiving eye is weaker.” (Miyamoto Musashi, 1584-1645)

Say Less Than Necessary

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"To the youngster talking nonsense, Zeno said, 'The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is so we might listen more and talk less.'" (Diogenes Laertus, Lives, 7.1)

"The best treasure is a sparing tongue." (Hesiod)


Just Do The Right Thing

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“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart...I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals.” (Anne Frank)
“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn't matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honored. Dying...or busy with other assignments.” (Marcus Aurelius)

"If you find yourself in a hole . . .

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. . . stop digging."



"How much more harmful are the consequences of anger and grief than the circumstances that aroused them in us." (Marcus Aurelius, 11.18.8)

Can Do

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"If you find something very difficult to achieve yourself, don't imagine it impossible--for anything possible and proper for another person can be achieved as easily by you." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.19)

There are two kinds of people: the first says "Why them and why not me?" and the second says, "If that can do it, why can't I?"

Stress Is Normal

"It's normal to feel pain in your hands and feet if you're using your feet as feet and hands as hands. And for a human being to feel stress is normal--if he's living a normal human life. And if it's normal, how can it be bad?" (Marcus Aurelius, 6.32)

Aurelius and Wilson take "The View From Above"

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"Constantly reflect on how swiftly all that exists and is coming to be is swept past us and disappears from sight. For substance is like a river in perpetual flow, and its activities are ever changing, and its causes infinite in their variations, and hardly anything at all stands still; and ever at our side is the immeasurable span of the past and the yawning gulf of the future, into which all things vanish away. Then how is he not a fool who in the midst of all this is puffed up with pride, or tormented, or bewails his lot as though his troubles will endure for any great while? (Meditations, 5.23)



Think of substance in its entirety, of which you have the smallest of shares; and of time in its entirety, of which a brief and momentary span has been assigned to you; and of the works of destiny, and how very small is your part in them. (Meditations, 5.24)
For all things are swift to fade and become mere matter for tales, and swiftly too complete oblivion covers their every trace. A…

Blow Your Own Nose!

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"We cry to God Almighty, 'how can we escape this agony?' Fool, don’t you have hands? Or could it be God forgot to give you a pair? Sit and pray your nose doesn’t run! Or, rather just wipe your nose and stop seeking a scapegoat." (Epictetus, Discourses, 2.16.13)

In other words, stop complaining and take responsibility.

Thought, Light and Darkness

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“We speak of the sun’s light as 'pouring down on us,' as 'pouring over us' in all directions. Yet it’s never poured out. Because it doesn’t really pour; it extends. Its beams (ἀκτῖνες) get their name from their extension (ἐκτείνεσθαι). To see the nature of a sunbeam, look at light as it falls through a narrow opening into a dark room. It extends in a straight line, striking any solid object that stands in its way and blocks the space beyond it. There it remains—not vanishing, or falling away.

That’s what the outpouring—the diffusion—of thought should be like: not emptied out, but extended. And not striking at obstacles with fury and violence, or falling away before them, but holding its ground and illuminating what receives it. What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.” 
(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.57)

Summer Reading

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The "triumvirate" of books for summer reading has arrived! Doctoral studies start in the Fall with the focus of my work in the book on the far left, Hays translation of Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations." The middle book is part of critical analysis and the book on the right is for contextual analysis. Precedent research starts officially in August and my bibliography is already filling up!  

Problem Solving

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“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.” (Edgar Mitchell, Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 14)
“How beautifully Plato put it. Whenever you want to talk about people, it’s best to take a birds-eye view and see everything all at once—of gatherings, armies, farms, weddings and divorces, births and deaths, noisy courtrooms or silent spaces, every foreign people, holidays, memorials, markets—all blended together and arranged in a pairing of opposites.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.48)

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

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"For this reason, I cannot call the man industrious, if I hear this only, that he reads and writes; and even if a man adds that he reads all night, I cannot say so, if he knows not to what he should refer his reading. For neither do you say that a man is industrious if he keeps awake for a girl; nor do I. But if he does it for reputation, I say that he is a lover of reputation. And if he does it for money, I say that he is a lover of money, not a lover of labor; and if he does it through the love of learning, I say that he is a lover of learning. But if he refers his labor to his own ruling power, that he may keep it in a state conformable to nature and pass his life in that state, then only do I say that he is industrious."
(Epictetus, Discourses, 4.4.41.43)

Work Therapy

"Work nourishes noble minds." 
(Seneca, Moral Letters, 31.5)
God worked six days then rested, but not because He ran out of energy or grew tired. God is always at work. God rested to show us that work is good and rest is good. Rest is not a requirement, but you need it. God blessed one day out of seven for rest, a time to separate from "the grind" and reconnect with ourselves, with others, and with Him. 
Man does not live by rest alone, for you get restless, bored, doughy, irritable, claustrophobic, frustrated. This is not how you are meant to live. Be refreshed with rest, but be fed, nurture and grow with work. Contribute to the world in which you live and feel better by it.

Decision-making

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"The first thing to do--don't get worked up. For everything happens according to the nature of all things, and in a short time you'll be nobody and nowhere, even as the great emperors Hadrian and Augustus are now. The next thing to do--consider carefully the task at hand for what it is, while remembering that your purpose is to be a good human being. Get straight to doing what nature requires of you, and speak as you see most just and fitting--with kindness, modesty, and sincerity."

(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.5)

Join The Ranks

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Carpe Diem

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Let us therefore set out wholeheartedly, leaving aside our many distractions and exert ourselves in this single purpose, before we realize too late the swift and unstoppable flight of time and are left behind. As each day arises, welcome it as the very best day of all, and make it your own possession. We must seize what flees.”   (--Seneca, Moral Letters, 108)

Make life extraordinary.

How To Have A Good Day

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"Where is good? In our reasoned choices. Where is evil? In our reasoned choices. Where is that which is neither good or evil? In the things outside of our own reasoned choice." (Epictetus, Discourses 2.16)

"God laid down this law, saying: if you want some good, get if from yourself." (Epictetus, Discourses 1.29)

Be good. Do good.

Make a good day for yourself. You'll know you've done well when you've made a day good for someone else, too.


Righteousness is Beautiful

“Then what makes a beautiful human being? Isn’t it the presence of human excellence? Young friend, if you wish to be beautiful, then work diligently at human excellence. And what is that? Observe those whom you praise without prejudice. The just or the unjust? The just. The even-tempered or the undisciplined? The even-tempered. The self-controlled or the uncontrolled? The self-controlled. In making yourself that kind of person, you will become beautiful—but to the extent you ignore these qualities, you’ll be ugly, even if you use every trick in the book to appear beautiful.”

— Epictetus, Discourses, 3.1.6b–9

The Better Man

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You Are The Project

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(from The Daily Stoic)

Stoicism and Asthma

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Springtime gives me no blooming choice. I'm convinced that allergies are like people: they exist to test your philosophy. 
"But I have been consigned, so to speak, to one special ailment. I do not know why I should call it by its Greek name; for it is well enough described as “shortness of breath.” Its attack is of very brief duration, like that of a squall at sea; it usually ends within an hour. Who indeed could breathe his last for long? I have passed through all the ills and dangers of the flesh, but nothing seems to me more troublesome than this. And naturally so; for anything else may be called illness, but this is a sort of continued “last gasp.” Hence physicians call it “practicing how to die.” (Seneca, Moral Letter 54, On Asthma and Death)

"If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining,” he said. “If it’s unendurable . . . then stop complaining." (Marcus Aurelius)

The Uninvited Guest

"Drama, combat, terror, numbness and subservience--every day these things wipe out your sacred principles whenever your mind entertains them uncritically or lets them slip in." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

Uninvited guests might arrive at your home but you don't have to ask them to stay for dinner.

Moral Philosophy: Affectation

It's an old word, "affectation." We would say simply, "fake." Designed to impress.

Don't put up a false front in what you do, what you say, even how you say it. You were created a certain way to fulfill a specific purpose. Your purpose is not to be artificial. Posing gets you nowhere.

Don't try to be brilliant because you really don't know.
Don't try to be popular because you are not.
Don't try to be magnetic or impose yourself on others.

No two people are alike so there is no need to be like someone else. There is something better, with that in mind. God never intended us to be someone else.

" . . . the first and greatest task of the philosopher is to test and separate appearances, and to act on nothing that is untested." (Epictetus)

Moral Philosophy: Abstinence

Withhold.
Impose forbearance.
Refrain.
You don't have to.

Want to test your will-power? Deny yourself something meaningful.
Ceasing the small stuff is easy. Holding off something precious can be painful.

Abstinence does not mean to quit, as in changing habits, but abstinence might lead to it. Abstinence can be a useful tool.

It can be a way to prepare for hardship, in parting with something comfortable for a while.

Try missing a meal. Or two meals. Or a whole day's worth of meals.
Try taking a cold shower, or going out in the cold without a coat.
Other people do it. Daily.

So now you have to ask yourself: what do those people have that I do not?
This is what abstinence will reveal.

Summum Bonum: The Highest Good (Virtue)

A few days ago there was posted a list of Seven Tenets of Stoicism, the first of which was to seek  "summum bonum" or "the highest good," summed into word, "virtue." How does one seek to be virtuous except through philosophy, the love of wisdom? While it may not be possible to compile an exhaustive list of virtues, one may be able to catalog, think on and reflect on those he finds through wisdom-study. Moral Philosophy is an ideal realm to explore for virtues.

As much as possible over the next few days, weeks, perhaps months, we will fill an undetermined number of blog posts related to the nurture of our personal "summum bonum," with the view of making a contribution to the people in our lives and the world in which we live.

Never Shrink From Doing Right

"When you do anything from a clear judgment that it ought to be done, never shrink from being seen to do it, even though the world should misunderstand it; for if you are not acting rightly, shun the action itself; if you are, why fear those who wrongly censure you?"

- The Enchiridion by Epictetus, XXXV

Seven Stoic Tenets For Daily Practice

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SUMMUM BONUM: "The Highest Good" (Virtue)

“Indeed, if you find anything in human life better than justice, truth, self-control, courage— in short, anything better than the sufficiency of your own mind, which keeps you acting according to the demands of true reason and accepting what fate gives you outside of your own power of choice— I tell you, if you can see anything better than this, turn to it heart and soul and take full advantage of this greater good you’ve found.” 
“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honored. Dying…or busy with other assignments.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

AMOR FATI: Love Your Fate

Something happened that we wish had not. Which of these is easiest to change: our opinion or the event that is past?
“Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will— then your life will flow well.” (Epictetus, Enchiridion, 8)

“It …

The First Rule

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Colored

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(Marcus Aurelius)

Take one minute to listen to Dr. Maxwell on this subject:

Perspective Matters (video)

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"For there are two rules to keep at ready: that there is nothing good or bad outside my own reasoned choice and that we shouldn't try to lead events but to follow them." (Epictetus, Discourses 3.10)

"The cause of my irritation is not in this person but in me." (Anthony DeMello, Jesuit Priest)

Beware the Voice in Your Head

Seneca tells the story of the philosopher Crates, who was walking in Athens when he saw a young man talking to no one around. “What are you doing?” Crates asked. “I am talking to myself,” the man replied. “Be careful,” Crates told him, “for you are communing with a bad man!”
Whether this young man was in fact a bad kid or not, Seneca doesn’t say. One suspects Crates was joking—unless it was his practice to go around insulting complete strangers. Or it may have been that Crates was referring less to the quality of that stranger’s soul and was instead making a more general point about the dialogues we are all prone to having with ourselves—conversations that are hardly productive or healthy.
The writer Anne Lamott spoke of a radio station, KFKD (K-Fucked) which plays in far too many our heads:
"Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowi…

Escape

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Marcus Aurelius

Beautiful

“You are not your body and hair-style, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.” (Epictetus)

Luminol

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True art in this perfect melting pot of Rush/Pink Floyd/Doors/Kansas/jazz-style prog masterpiece. How they keep it together after the 2:00 mark is pure magic:

Life Is My Personal Trainer

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Readily Gracious

“Whenever someone has done wrong by you, immediately consider what notion of good or evil they had in doing it. For when you see that, you’ll feel compassion, instead of astonishment or rage. For you may yourself have the same notions of good and evil, or similar ones, in which case you’ll make an allowance for what they’ve done. But if you no longer hold the same notions, you’ll be more readily gracious for their error.”

(MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 7.26)

What I Tell Myself At The End Of Every WOD

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"I have to die. If it is now, well then I die now; if later, then now I will take my lunch, since the hour for lunch has arrived – and dying I will tend to later." (Epictetus, Discourses I, 1.32)

Mentor

"The soul should have someone it can respect, by whose example it can make its inner sanctum more inviolable. Happy is the person who can improve others, not only when present, but even when in their thoughts!" (Seneca, Moral Letters, 11.9)

Good Fortune

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Cut Back On The Costly

“So, concerning the things we pursue, and for which we vigorously exert ourselves, we owe this consideration either there is nothing useful in them, or most aren’t useful. Some of them are superfluous, while others aren’t worth that much. But we don’t discern this and see them as free, when they cost us dearly.” (Seneca, Moral Letters, 42.6)
Those who accumulate do not count the cost. Not the material cost but the personal cost. Some people have the talent to get things free of charge and a cost still remains. Whatever you store in your closet, shed, attic or heart, ask yourself:  Do I really need this?What is this actually worth? What is it costing me to keep?  If you let go for peace of mind, then you do what is right.

Freedom and Some Questions for Self-Assessment

"He is free who lives as he wishes to live; who is neither subject to compulsion nor to hindrance, nor to force; whose movements to action are not impeded, whose desires attain their purpose, and who does not fall into that which he would avoid. Who, then, chooses to live in error? No man. Who chooses to live deceived, liable to mistake, unjust, unrestrained, discontented, mean? No man. Not one then of the bad lives as he wishes; nor is he, then, free. And who chooses to live in sorrow, fear, envy, pity, desiring and failing in his desires, attempting to avoid something and falling into it? Not one. Do we then find any of the bad free from sorrow, free from fear, who does not fall into that which he would avoid, and does not obtain that which he wishes? Not one; nor then do we find any bad man free. What, then, is that which makes a man free from hindrance and makes him his own master? For wealth does not do it, nor consulship, nor provincial government, nor royal power; but some…

Lead The Way

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On Peace of Mind (or "Accurate Self Assessment")

"We ought, however, first to examine our own selves, next the business which we propose to transact, next those for whose sake or in whose company we transact it.

It is above all things necessary to form a true estimate of oneself, because as a rule we think that we can do more than we are able: one man is led too far through confidence in his eloquence, another demands more from his estate than it can produce, another burdens a weakly body with some toilsome duty. Some men are too shamefaced for the conduct of public affairs, which require an unblushing front: some men's obstinate pride renders them unfit for courts: some cannot control their anger, and break into unguarded language on the slightest provocation: some cannot rein in their wit or resist making risky jokes: for all these men leisure is better than employment: a bold, haughty and impatient nature ought to avoid anything that may lead it to use a freedom of speech which will bring it to ruin. 
Next we must form a…

Don't Set Your Heart On So Many Things

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"When children stick their hand down a narrow goody jar they can’t get their full fist out and start crying. Drop a few treats and you will get it out! Curb your desire — don’t set your heart on so many things and you will get what you need." (Epictetus, Discourses 3.9.22)

"You can't always (be) get(ting) what you want." (Ryan Holiday)

Like Water

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“The soul is like the bowl of water, with the soul's impressions like the rays of light that strike the water. Now, if the water is disturbed, the light appears to be disturbed together with it — though of course it is not. So when someone loses consciousness [composure], it is not the person's knowledge and virtues that are impaired, it is the breath that contains them [the spirit in which they exist]. Once the breath [spirit] returns to normal, knowledge and the virtues are restored to normal also.” (Epictetus, Discourses and Selected Writings)
The beauty of wisdom and loving it, the art of philosophy, is that wisdom never changes. One either does what is right or does what is not right -- wisdom never changes. One is shown to be wise by right and is shown to be foolish by what is not right. One may abandon wisdom, but wisdom will never abandon you. If the soul is disturbed by some minor distraction or flagrant foolishness, wisdom is not disturbed. When the soul is calmed, i…

I'm not sick

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I've decided I'm not sick with a cold. I'm four days into a marathon Ragnar Lothbrok imitation (from the show "Vikings"):


"Sickness is a hindrance to the body, but not to your ability to choose, unless that is your choice. Lameness is a hindrance to the leg, but not to your ability to choose. Say this to yourself with regard to everything that happens, then you will see such obstacles as hindrances to something else, but not to yourself." (Epictetus, Enchiridion 9)

“If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. If it’s unendurable . . . then stop complaining. Your destruction will mean its end as well.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

Summum Bonum

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Summum Bonum is an expression from Cicero, Rome’s greatest orator. In Latin, it means “the highest good.”

“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn't matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honored. Dying...or busy with other assignments.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

Friends of Poverty

"Poverty will keep for you your true and tried friends; you will be rid of the men who were not seeking you for yourself, but for something which you have." (Seneca, Moral Letter 20: "Practicing What You Preach")

"Whom" not "What"

“You must reflect carefully beforehand with whom you are to eat and drink, rather than what you are to eat and drink. For a dinner of meats without the company of a friend is like the life of a lion or a wolf.” (Seneca, quoting Epicurus in Moral Letter 19: "On Worldliness and Retirement")

Moral Letter 18: On Festivals and Fasting

"It shows much more courage to remain dry and sober when the mob is drunk and vomiting; but it shows greater self-control to refuse to withdraw oneself and to do what the crowd does, but in a different way, – thus neither making oneself conspicuous nor becoming one of the crowd. For one may keep holiday without extravagance. . . .

Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: 'Is this the condition that I feared?' It is precisely in times of immunity from care that the soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress, and it is while Fortune is kind that it should fortify itself against her violence. In days of peace the soldier performs manoeuvres, throws up earthworks with no enemy in sight, and wearies himself by gratuitous toil, in order that he may be equal to unavoidable toil. If you would not have a man flinch when the crisi…

Moral Letter 17: On Philosophy and Riches

"Why, then, should you reject Philosophy as a comrade? 
Even the rich man copies her ways when he is in his senses. If you wish to have leisure for your mind, either be a poor man, or resemble a poor man. Study cannot be helpful unless you take pains to live simply; and living simply is voluntary poverty. Away, then, with all excuses like: 'I have not yet enough; when I have gained the desired amount, then I shall devote myself wholly to philosophy.' And yet this ideal, which you are putting off and placing second to other interests, should be secured first of all; you should begin with it. You retort: 'I wish to acquire something to live on.' Yes, but learn while you are acquiring it; for if anything forbids you to live nobly, nothing forbids you to die nobly. 
There is no reason why poverty should call us away from philosophy, – no, nor even actual want. For when hastening after wisdom, we must endure even hunger. Men have endured hunger when their towns were b…

Moral Letter 16: On Philosophy, The Guide of Life

"Philosophy is no trick to catch the public; it is not devised for show. It is a matter, not of words, but of facts. It is not pursued in order that the day may yield some amusement before it is spent, or that our leisure may be relieved of a tedium that irks us. It moulds and constructs the soul; it orders our life, guides our conduct, shows us what we should do and what we should leave undone; it sits at the helm and directs our course as we waver amid uncertainties. Without it, no one can live fearlessly or in peace of mind. Countless things that happen every hour call for advice; and such advice is to be sought in philosophy." (Seneca)

Thoughts on Anxiety, Sadness, Anger and Fear

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"When I see a man in a state of anxiety, I say, 'What can this man want? If he did not want something which is not in his power, how could he still be anxious?'" (Epictetus, Discourses 13)
This thought provides a simple readiness against anxiety, pointing that that one who is anxious wants something--what is it? Resolving anxiety involves two questions:  "What is wanted?""Is the object of want withing one's power?"  This simple lesson might be coupled with another learned just this weekend, touching on Sadness and Anger. 
In times of sadness we could ask, "what is missing?" This is different than anxiety. No attempt should be made to cheer unless one requests cheer; instead, one must process sadness starting with coming to grips with what is lost. 
Anger is never handled well with encouragements to "calm down." This response to anger communicates the idea that the anger one feels is wrong, that it disturbs your peace. Instea…

Moral Letter 15: On Brain and Brawn

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"Now there are short and simple exercises which tire the body rapidly, and so save our time; and time is something of which we ought to keep strict account. These exercises are running, brandishing weights, and jumping—high-jumping or broadjumping, or the kind which I may call, “the Priest’s dance,” or, in slighting terms, “the clothes-cleaner’s jump.” [the washer cleaned clothes by jumping and stamping on them in the tub] Select for practice any one of these, and you will find it plain and easy.

But whatever you do, come back soon from body to mind. The mind must be exercised both day and night, for it is nourished by moderate labour. and this form of exercise need not be hampered by cold or hot weather, or even by old age. Cultivate that good which improves with the years."  (Seneca)

Daily Practice for February

The end of a month is exciting for it represents a time of transition, the chance to review days gone by and make changes for personal growth in the days that lay ahead. The rubric for February looks something like a daily check-list and is presented in no particular order. This will become daily practice for the month until it is mastered . . . if nothing prevents me:

ASK: "What would _____ do?" "Cherish some man of high character, and keep him ever before your eyes, living as if he were watching you, and ordering all your actions as if he beheld them." (Epicurius)
PREPARE: "What could go wrong?"  Think ahead, plan for contingencies. Don't let yourself be ambushed, taken by surprise.
TRAIN: Practice voluntary discomfort.  Skip a meal, take a cold shower, "forget" your coat. Get out of your comfort zone.

RESOLVE: "If nothing prevents me .  . ." The new "to do" list. AMOR FATI Accept what is outside your control and love it. PR…

Moral Letter 14: On The Reasons For Withdrawing From The World

" . . . we must follow the old adage and avoid three things with special care: hatred, jealousy, and scorn. And wisdom alone can show you how this may be done. It is hard to observe a mean; we must be chary of letting the fear of jealousy lead us into becoming objects of scorn, lest, when we choose not to stamp others down, we let them think that they can stamp us down. The power to inspire fear has caused many men to be in fear. Let us withdraw ourselves in every way; for it is as harmful to be scorned as to be admired.

One must therefore take refuge in philosophy; this pursuit, not only in the eyes of good men, but also in the eyes of those who are even moderately bad, is a sort of protecting emblem. For speechmaking at the bar, or any other pursuit that claims the people’s attention, wins enemies for a man; but philosophy is peaceful and minds her own business. Men cannot scorn her; she is honoured by every profession, even the vilest among them. Evil can never grow so stron…

Moral Letter 13: "On Groundless Fears" and the Rule For Discerning Real or Imaginary Fears

"There are more things, Lucilius, likely to frighten us than there are to crush us ; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality. . . What I advise you to do is, not to be unhappy before the crisis comes . . .  some things torment us more than they ought ; some torment us before they ought ; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow. . . .

You may retort with the question: "How am I to know whether my sufferings are real or imaginary?" Here is the rule for such matters: We are tormented either by things present, or by things to come, or by both. As to things present, the decision is easy. . . As to what may happen to it in the future, we shall see later on. To-day there is nothing wrong with it.

For it is more often the case that we are troubled by our apprehensions, and that we are mocked by that mocker, rumour, which is wont to settle wars, but much more often settl…

Remembering Mr. Douglas

Skinny old man, he was. Always out working in the yard in a light cotton shirt, his child-sized jeans secured in place by suspenders and those heavy boots. Puttering in the yard, there was never a time he did not wave to a neighbor walking or driving by. Sometimes we arrived at my grandparents house in the late afternoon and he was the first to greet me, giving a wave across the yard. If we arrived during the night, he was easily heard the very next day pushing a mower, or seen raking leaves, tending flower beds. When he saw me, he shared that wave he must have been saving just for me. I remember once going outside just to wave at Mr. Douglas.

One day we drove up and Mr. Douglas was not in the yard. He was not there the next day, either. The picture was all wrong. He was always there, but not today. The yard was still. "He's passed on," my grandmother said. I didn't know what that meant and the adults exchanged glances and prepared themselves for a cautionary explan…

Moral Letter 12: On Old Age

"Let us cherish and love old age ; for it is full of pleasure if one knows how to use it. . . .

. . . let us go to our sleep with joy and gladness ; let us say:

I have lived; the course which Fortune set for me is finished.
And if God is pleased to add another day, we should welcome it with glad hearts."

(Seneca, Moral Letter 12: On Old Age)

Moral Letter 11: On The Blush of Modesty

“'Cherish some man of high character, and keep him ever before your eyes, living as if he were watching you, and ordering all your actions as if he beheld them.'” Such, my dear Lucilius, is the counsel of Epicurus; he has quite properly given us a guardian and an attendant. We can get rid of most sins, if we have a witness who stands near us when we are likely to go wrong. The soul should have someone whom it can respect, – one by whose authority it may make even its inner shrine more hallowed.

Happy is the man who can make others better, not merely when he is in their company, but even when he is in their thoughts!

And happy also is he who can so revere a man as to calm and regulate himself by calling him to mind! One who can so revere another, will soon be himself worthy of reverence. Choose therefore a Cato; or, if Cato seems too severe a model, choose some Laelius, a gentler spirit.

Choose a master whose life, conversation, and soul-expressing face have satisfied you; pictu…

Loyal Friend

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"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."

(Albert Schweitzer)

Concentrate On What You Have To Do

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What Is Yours To Control

"Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.

The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered."
(Epictetus, Enchiridion 1)

Celebrating Amor Fati

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"All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

Love Wisdom For Life

“Of all the people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only they truly live. Not satisfied to merely keep good watch over their own days, they annex every age to their own. All the harvest of the past is added to their store. Only an ingrate would fail to see that these great architects of venerable thoughts were born for us and have designed a way of life for us.” (Seneca, "The Shortness of Life")

Life Sentence

“For the New Year . . . everyone takes the liberty of expressing his wish and his favorite thought: well, I also mean to tell what I have wished for myself today, and what thought first crossed my mind this year,—a thought which ought to be the basis, the pledge and the sweetening of all my future life! I want more and more to perceive the necessary characters in things as the beautiful:—I shall thus be one of those who beautify things. Amor fati: let that henceforth be my love! I do not want to wage war with the ugly. I do not want to accuse, I do not want even to accuse the accusers. Looking aside, let that be my sole negation! And all in all, to sum up: I wish to be at any time hereafter only a yea-sayer!” (Friedrich Nietzsche 1844-1900)

"Amor Fati" is to love your fate, to say "yes" to life. This does not mean to be a "yes man" to everything that comes along and never say "no" to anything. The idea is that one takes what comes as formative t…