Friday, July 21, 2017

How Stoicism Helps Me Deal.

We didn't spend a lot of time on Seneca or Zeno of Citium in college philosophy. Granted that was a winter mini, and it probably couldn't be squeezed in for more than a few minutes just like everything else we had to cover between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

But in searching for some decent way to deal with having an unpredictable sickness, a trauma laden past, and an uncertain future, I found Stoicism to be a kind of natural home.

When it's criticized, people are often critiquing a perverted version of it that doesn't exist in the old teachings. Nobody is telling you not to feel anything.

Stoicism's principals like dedicating your life to doing good and using logic to remain calm and in the moment are found in many schools of thought and religion. And it is a far cry from our newer interpretations of using the word stoic for anything indifferent.

The book I came across is sort of an introductory set of advice on how to live a life based on Seneca's writings. How to live a short life, even. And how to do that well. And courageously, when the moment of death does arrive. I would recommend this to anyone facing a terminal illness.

But I would recommend this to anyone, actually. Whether you have a religion or not, these ideas are helpful. They are calming and assuring in ways the positive-thinking garbage can't ever be.

I had a dear friend ask me what it was like, facing sickness and death in a timeline we can't identify. I said sometimes it was scary, but mostly, you start learning to pay more attention. To the people you love who love you, to the world, to whatever avenue of work you can do well that leaves the world better. It doesn't feel so different other than I am careful now on how I spend my time if I can help it (you can't fix sitting in a hospital waiting room for three hours, though I really, really wish you could).

But, for the darker "why me? Why do I have to face this?" days, you might need this.

I think what stuck with me was the gladiator comparison. A warrior who would do anything to save his own life was not loved the way one was who acted as if he had contempt for it. When your death comes, you don't frantically reach your hands out to protect your neck from the sword. Your life is temporary. When you're called to hand it back, do it bravely.

And with whatever time you have, don't waste it. Use your talents nature gave you, use what you have at your disposal, don't get caught up in the daily distractions...practical advice from a story-telling perspective abound.

It does read like ancient letters, though. If that might bother you, read a sample to make sure this is a good fit. This book, because of that alone, took me longer to read than most.

I can't say I was bothered by that, as there is a lot to take in on every page. "Seneca On The Shortness Of Life: Life Is Long If You Know How To Use It" is a great starter book for Stoicism, and I'll probably eye the other "Great Ideas" books in the near future. 

"Why are you sad? You are wondering whether souls are immortal: 
I shall know soon." -Julius Canus

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