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Showing posts from 2019

Books

“Books are made to be broken in. They are quarries of gems to be mined, wells to be drawn from, sturdy posts to lean on, shoulders to cry on. Just as we never step in the same river twice, to paraphrase Marcus and Heraclitus, we never read a book the same way. That’s why we read and re-read, note and discuss, write and flag."

—from Daily Stoic's Tuesday email, "This Is How Reading Is Supposed to Go"

Thoughts for a New Year

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35 Pages Later . . .

Well, it's done. At least the first draft of one chapter is done. 35 pages later (includes all 79 works cited).

This is actually happening . . .

Can't Believe It

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Whelp, in three days I will submit a draft of one chapter of my dissertation to my professor. To date, I am approximately 2/3 through writing this one chapter. With Christmas practice, concerts, work, and other end-of-semester activities, it's becoming a wild ride. The chapter being written is actually Chapter 2, which covers precedent research on my topic. In other words, I am merely telling the story of the research I've done so far. In short, I am suffering from information overload and not enough time in the day.  But it's getting done.

The difficult part of all this is that, at this point, everything is a draft, so I'll be living in revision-land for the next couple of years. Each consecutive course adds another chapter into my dissertation, and so the revisions will just grow and grow! But that's part of the process. And I'm loving it.

Here's something I'm watching listening to while writing. Please enjoy this! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Lessons From Writing A Literature Review

The first and greatest lesson is less about the literature review, the data or the formation of the project. One learns more about himself, about dealing with presuppositions, adjusting expectations and goals. One learns patience as one learns to think differently, theologically and philosophically.

Another lesson in developing the review is the need to temper research. By this is meant that research has changed from using any and all available print resources found in a library (as in days-gone-by) to using the internet in addition to print resources. New material is published daily, weekly and one there runs the risk of information overload. This, in turn, brings constant revision to the outline and direction of the review. On one hand, the strongest section of the outline covers background material; on the other hand, the weakest section is found toward the end where the greatest consideration is given to the gaps in application, the area of greatest development.

The review is poi…

The Glass Is Already Broken

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“You see this goblet?” asks Achaan Chaa, the Thai meditation master. “For me, this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”____________
Epstein, Mark. 2013. Thoughts Without A Thinker: Psychotherapy From a Buddhist Perspective. Basic Books a Member of Perseus Books Group: New York.

Having It For A Moment Is The Same As Having It Forever.

"A good isn’t increased by the addition of time, but if one is wise for even a moment, they will be no less happy than the person who exercises virtue for all time and happily passes their life in it."
—Chrysippus Quoted By Plutarch In Moralia: “Against The Stoics On Common Conceptions,” 1062 (LOEB, P.682)

Perhaps wisdom and happiness are like winning a medal in the Olympics. It doesn’t matter whether you won a hundred years ago or ten minutes ago, or whether you won just once or in multiple events. It doesn’t matter whether someone beats your time or score down the road, and it doesn’t matter whether you never compete again. You’ll always be a medalist, and you’ll always know what it feels like. No one can take that away—and it would be impossible to feel more of that feeling.

The Juilliard-trained actor Even Handler, who not only survived acute myeloid leukemia but also severe depression, has talked about his decision to take antidepressants, which he did for a deliberatel…

Wise, Skilled

"Whosoever embraces necessity count as wise, skilled in divine matters." 
--Euripedes, quoted by Epictetus, Enchiridion, 53

Gap Identity and an Action Plan

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Task:
Identify the gaps identified by reviewing and analyzing the Annotated Bibliography. Additionally, a plan of action needs to be developed that highlights how these gaps in the literature will be addressed via additional research.  
Outcome:
The background material covers an introduction and considerations of the author of Meditations, as well as provides an overview Stoicism as practiced by him as well. The value for the Christian is suggested through a survey of Roman attitudes, historic practice of persecution and the observed balance of ethical living by Christians that benefited Roman society. This underscores the harmony of biblical ethics and philosophical ethics as practiced by the Stoics. Background material also includes observations regarding literary analysis of the text of Meditations stressing themes, longevity of the text and subsequent impact or legacy. 
Gaps become evident when approaching the subject of leadership. There is an overabundance of material on the defin…

Finding The Gaps in Doctoral Research

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Here is actual footage of what identifying gaps in the literature have been like so far.



The process has taken us through gathering resources, annotating and organizing but there are too many questions, too many gaps, too many choices to make and right now, they all seem legitimate. But which is most important? It might be too early to say that any of them might be “that one question”, the Holy Grail of research. I must choose wisely.

“A literature review should demonstrate that it represents the latest work done in the subject area” (Galvin and Galvin, P. 62). As one considers which part of the outline constitutes background material that builds the case for the topic, those gaps are more easily, more readily addressed. Some are simply identified and filled by this or that book from the shelf. Other gaps are filled by looking into unpublished work. Regardless, following the map of the outline toward the application of the topic, textbook instruction becomes more weighty and some area…

For The Best

"It was for the best. Nature had to do it."  (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.9)

Someone Spins the Thread

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"Whom the rising sun hath seen high in pride,  him the setting sun hath seen laid low.  Let none be over-confident when fortune smiles;  let none despair of better things when fortune fails.  Clotho blends weal and woe, lets no lot stand,  keeps ever fate a-turning.  No one has found the gods so kind that he may promise to-morrow to himself.  God keeps all mortal things in swift whirl turning."
(Seneca, Thyestes)

Focus

"Don't waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people--unless it affects the common good. It will keep you from doing anything useful. You'll be too preoccupied with what so-and-so is doing and why, and what they're saying and what they're thinking, and what they're up to and all the other things that throw you off and keep you from focusing on your own mind." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 3.4)

"Day After Halloween" by Shel Silverstein

Skeletons, spirits and haunts,
Skeletons, spirits and haunts.
It's a halloween sale:
A nickel a pail
For skeletons, spirits and haunts.


Skeletons, spirits and haunts,
More than most anyone wants.
Will you pay for a shock,
'Cause we're quite overstocked
On skeletons, spirits and haunts.

Happy Halloween!

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Nature Certainly Doesn't

"Some things nature is indifferent to; if it privileged one over the other it would hardly have created both. And if we want to follow nature, to be of one mind with it, we need to share its indifference. To privilege pleasure over pain—life over death, fame over anonymity—is clearly blasphemous. Nature certainly doesn’t." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.1d)

Moving Toward a Literature Review Outline

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Major themes identified in bibliographic sources show that this project is strong with background material necessary to explore Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, the centerpiece of this project. Bibliographic material also reveals a weakness in terms of sources that make application of the Emperor’s journal for Christian leaders, specifically. This is where the gaps may lie so this researcher will need the freedom to create a plan of one’s own, noting most importantly “but that plan must make sense to your readers.” (Turabian 2018, 67). As Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations lie at the heart of the project, major themes such as biography and literary analysis become obvious and, with help of the outline, the reader should be guided through the content. Other themes then become evident such as Stoic philosophy and Christian practice, personal development and leadership principles. The outline provides the framework on which the review will be built.

The biographic section will explore Mar…

You Have Two Tasks

What, then, makes a person free from hindrance and self-determining? For wealth doesn’t, neither does high-office, state or kingdom—rather, something else must be found… in the case of living, it is the knowledge of how to live.” —Epictetus, Discourses, 4.1.62-64

"You have two essential tasks in life: to be a good person and to pursue the occupation that you love. Everything else is a waste of energy and a squandering of your potential.

How does one do that? OK, that’s a tougher question. But the philosophy we see from the Stoics makes it simple enough: say no to distractions, to destructive emotions, to outside pressure. Ask yourself: What is it that only I can do? What is the best use of my limited time on this planet? Try to do the right thing when the situation calls for it. Treat other people the way you would hope to be treated. And understand that every small choice and tiny matter is an opportunity to practice these larger principles.

That’s it. That’s what goes into the mo…

Dig

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Looking Back

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They say you're not supposed to look back, but every once in a while the past creeps up unawares.

Back in 2015 this pic (above) was snapped on the peak of Celo Knob (6,327 ft). We had just climbed out the valley and were on our way down that cloud-shrouded trail you see behind me, on the way to Mt. Mitchell (hidden).

This last weekend, we were up in the mountains where I enjoyed this view (below) every time I looked out the window or stepped outside. Sometime after we were getting settled in, a neighbor nearby pointed across the valley, indicating the Celo Mountains.


My eyes popped out of my head when I learned that the highest peak behind me, the one furthest in the distance, was Celo Knob. That entire spine of the mountain that runs off the right (in the picture) was traversed by me and two friends four years ago, summitting 8 peaks and ending on Mt. Mitchell. 




Did a thing today

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The Inner Citadel

"Things cannot touch the soul.
They have no access to the soul.
The cannot produce our judgments.
They are outside of us.
They themselves know nothing and by themselves they affirm nothing."

(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4:3,10; 5:19; 6:52; 9:15, Hadot translation)

Building An Annotated Bibliography

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The significance of building an annotated bibliography as part of the research process is seen in the researcher becoming familiar with the content for all that’s been accounted for in more than 60 collected sources. Decisions need to be made and questions begin to surface along with making a record of emerging patterns in the collected data. One example of this is seen in how this writer is being forced to consider what constitutes historical background and what elements of history are relevant to a present-day topic with its application. In other words, why does an ancient document like Meditations hold the interest of the modern reader and what is one to do with it?

“As you get deeper into your project, you may experience moments when everything seems to run together into a hopeless muddle. That usually happens when you accumulate notes faster than you can sort them. Such moments can be stressful, but they can also be a sign that you are on the verge of a new insight or discovery…

Good Goat

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" . . . the straightforward and good person should be like a smelly goat--you know when they are in the room with you." 

(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 11.15)

Some just learn faster than others

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“Yes, getting your wish would have been so nice. But isn’t that exactly why pleasure trips us up? Instead, see if these things might be even nicer—a great soul, freedom, honesty, kindness, saintliness. For there is nothing so pleasing as wisdom itself when you consider how sure-footed and effortless the works of understanding and knowledge are.”  
(MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 5.9)

"Stoicism as a philosophy for an ordinary life" by Massimo Pigliucci at TEDxAthens

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Currently Reading

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This Was Fun!

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Research can be much like navigating fun-house maze: there's a surprise around every corner. This was a fun discovery (annotated):

Ainslie, Scott. 2001. "Emperor Marcus Aurelius and The History of Opiate Addiction." Proceedings of the 10th Annual History of Medicine Days. WA Whitelaw: 21-25. http://www.magicgatebg.com/Books/History%20of%20Medicine%20Days.pdf#page=33

The presenter of this case, inspired by the 1961 article “The Opium Addiction of Marcus Aurelius” by T.W. Africa, suggests that the personal writings of Marcus Aurelius are nothing more than the rantings of a drug addict. Ainslie writes, “In an attempt to determine the likelihood and the severity of opium dependency, it is convenient for us to compare statements within ‘Meditations’ to pieces written by more recent addicts.” (23) The writer admits to making an “attempt to gather circumstantial evidence surrounding the proposed vice” (21) with the view to uncouple “Meditations” from Stoic philosophy and suggest…

A Golden Nugget

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10 or 12 years ago I was enraptured with John Steinbeck's "East of Eden." While I am sure the name "Marcus Aurelius" came to my attention in much earlier study, I can say without a doubt that it was Steinbeck's multiple references to "Meditations" that locked the good Emperor into my brain. 
While researching for my dissertation, I was amazed (read: "downright thrilled") to find a scholarly article discussing the influence of both the Bible and "Meditations" on Steinbeck's book, "East of Eden." Not only has one's personal affinity for Steinbeck sweetened, but the article demonstrates how deeply integrated "Meditations" is into the plot. The source material is as follows (might require an academic log-in): 
Brannon, Brian. 2009. “A Tiny Volume Bound in Leather: The Influence of Marcus Aurelius on East of Eden.” Steinbeck Review. Vol. 6, no. 2: 23-27.

" . . . read carefully, and not to be satisfied…

Currently Reading

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While working on my 60+ bibliographical annotations, this book is getting much attention.


Scholarly Journals as Original Sources of Data

The significance of identifying scholarly journals as original sources of data is first understood by noting the distinction between scholarly books and journals. The contents of a book are static while journals are fluid. In other words, the book represents an attempt to be a comprehensive treatise on a subject while academic journals record current professional activity, conversation. The academic journal is the meeting place of minds, a formal interchange of ideas, and the documentation of the current study, statistics, and debate. “Journals are scholarly or professional periodicals available primarily in academic libraries and by subscription. . . . Journals are not the same as magazines, which are usually intended for a more general readership.” (Turabian, 254) In other words, subscriptions and a specialized audience are other distinctions that elevate the scholarly journal over a book.

Discovering the vast array of academic societies represented by journals is as rewarding as di…

Books as original sources of data

The first course in my doctoral program began by allowing us a discussion on "What is the significance of identifying books as original sources of data?" My contribution is as follows:

Books are simply the concentrated efforts of authors and editors devoting attention to the development and discussion of one subject. Books will be the original source of data in this writer's particular research as articles and other sources were not developed or known until times more modern; therefore, this technicality already establishes the kind of material one must handle in research.

This writer intends to make Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations”, the centerpiece of the project. The “book” is simply a piece of ancient literature from which one intends to develop an index of contents as well as extrapolate applicable principles for Christian leaders. "Meditations" itself is the original source of data; therefore, it is crucial that works that were written on the subject be corr…

Two Ways to read Homer's Odyssey (focus: the life lesson of the second option)

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"One way to read The Odyssey is that it’s a story of human perseverance. Odysseus is cunning and determined, he’s willing to do everything and anything to get back to Ithaca...and eventually, because of that, he finally does. That’s certainly the interpretation of Tennyson in his poem 'Ulysses':

'We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.'
But there is also a way to read The Odyssey as illustrating the exact opposite lesson. Because basically every delay and impediment on Odysseus’s long journey home is completely his fault. He says he wants to get back to Ithaca, and then proceeds to constantly undermine himself. It’s only towards the end when he finally stops and actually listens to the gods (most of whom favor him) that he quickly makes any real progress.

In fact, they finally come ou…

Want Nothing, Have Everything

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"Want to" vs. "Have to"



Use This Gift of Nature

"The founder of the universe, who assigned to us the laws of life, provided that we should live well, but not in luxury. Everything needed for our well-being is right before us, whereas what luxury requires is gathered by many miseries and anxieties. Let us use this gift of nature and count it among the greatest things." (Seneca, Moral Letters, 119.15b)

It Is More Human To Laugh At Life

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“Heraclitus would shed tears whenever he went out in public, Democritus laughed. One saw the whole as a parade of miseries, the other of follies. And so, we should take a lighter view of things and bear them with an easy spirit, for it is more human to laugh at life than to lament it.” (Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind, 15.2)

Shipwrecked

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“Now that I’ve suffered shipwreck, I’m on a good journey . . . You’ve done well, Fortune, driving me thus to philosophy” (Zeno)

Enjoy Present Pleasures

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Pillage From All Sources

"I'll never be ashamed to quote a bad writer with a good saying."
(Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind, 11.8)

In Your Self-Interest

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"Therefore, explain why a wise person shouldn’t get drunk—not with words, but by the facts of its ugliness and offensiveness. It’s most easy to prove that so-called pleasures when they go beyond proper measure, are but punishments." (Seneca, Moral Letters, 83.27)

Is there a less effective technique to persuading people to do something than haranguing them? Is there anything that turns people off more than abstract notions? That’s why the Stoics don’t say, “Stop doing this, it’s a sin.” Instead they say, “Don’t do this because it will make you miserable.” They don’t say, “Pleasure isn’t pleasurable.” They say, “Endless pleasure becomes its own form of punishment.” Their methods of persuasion hew the line in The 48 Laws of Power: “Appeal to People’s Self-Interest Never to Their Mercy or Gratitude.”

If you find yourself trying to persuade someone to change or do something differently, remember what an effective lever self-interest is. It’s not that this or that is bad, it’s that …

In Proportion

“It is essential for you to remember that the attention you give to any action should be in due proportion to its worth, for then you won’t tire and give up if you aren’t busying yourself with lesser things beyond what should be allowed.” (Marcus Aurelius)

Don't Be Miserable In Advance

“It’s ruinous for the soul to be anxious about the future and miserable in advance of misery, engulfed by anxiety that the things it desires might remain it’s own until the very end. For such a soul will never be at rest— by longing for things to come it will lose the ability to enjoy present things.” — 
(Seneca, Moral Letters, 98.5)

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)

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…

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: