It turns out the Stoics have gotten a bad reputation

I stumbled upon a recent article in the UK Guardian regarding the ancient Stoics. I remember briefly learning about the Stoics in high school, probably when we read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar my sophomore year. About all we were told about the Stoics was that their philosophy told them not to get too optimistic during good times and not too pessimistic during hard times. And that was it. So I’ve always stereotyped the Stoics as being humorless, emotionless robots completely devoid of passion (sort of like your average liberal).

How wrong I was.

Stoicism is a school of philosophy which was founded in Athens in the early 3rd century and then progressed to Rome, where it became a pragmatic way of addressing life’s problems. The central message is, we don’t control what happens to us; we control how we respond.

The Stoics were really writing and thinking about one thing: how to live. The questions they asked were not arcane or academic but practical and real. “What do I do about my anger?” “What do I do if someone insults me?” “I’m afraid to die; why is that?” “How can I deal with the difficult situations I face?” “How can I deal with the success or power I hold?”

Leave it up to the foreign media to come up with a decent article. Also, soon to be added to my reading list is Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.


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