Archive for February 23rd, 2022

The Stoic

GC Myers- Pax Terram  2021

 Pax Terram— At the West End Gallery

It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire. Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book IV:3

My interest is always piqued when I come across a bit of wisdom from Marcus Aurelius, the 2nd century AD Roman emperor. Aurelius was also a Stoic philosopher whose book Meditations with its observations on living a good and virtuous life still reverberates in the present day.

Wisdom then is wisdom now.

We often tend to think of Stoics as being kind of emotionless due to their attempts to have control over their reactions and passions. But that self-control is but a small part of Stoicism.

Their classic principles are often categorized as:

  • Nature: Nature is rational.
  • Law of Reason: The universe is governed by the law of reason. Humans can’t actually escape its inexorable force, but they can, uniquely, follow the law deliberately.
  • Virtue: A life led according to rational nature is virtuous.
  • Wisdom: Wisdom is the the root virtue. From it spring the cardinal virtues: insight, bravery, self-control, and justice.
  • Apathea: Since passion is irrational, life should be waged as a battle against it. Intense feeling should be avoided.
  • Pleasure: Pleasure is neither good nor bad. It is only acceptable if it doesn’t interfere with the quest for virtue.
  • Evil: Poverty, illness, and death are not evil.
  • Duty: Virtue should be sought, not for the sake of pleasure, but for duty.

A simplified modern take is as follows:

1: Focus on what you can control.
2: Take action.
3: Be virtuous.
4: Lead by example.
5: Diminish your ego.
6: You’re not entitled to anything.
7: Exercise your will.
8: Practice resilience when faced with obstacles, failure, or tragedy.
9: Choose your response.
10: Be grateful.

You can see how the principles of Stoicism might be the basis for many 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Just a basic outline for living a better life, inner and outer. Its principles often end up being the object of much of my work.

Like I said, wisdom then is wisdom now.

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