Stoic ponderings

I finished The Guns of August over the weekend (which, BTW, is a great book that actually spans July, August and September of 1914) and so was looking for something to bring with me to read on the plane and in the evenings this week when I was out of town on business.  I ended up grabbing one of the philosophy books I added to Mr library recently: The ancient art of stoic joy.
I’m only about 100 pages in, but so far so good. I was a fan of some of the principles of stoicism, before I had even actually heard of it as a philosphy from my reading of the 7 habits of highly effective people. The concept in that book of circle of influence vs circle of concern seems exactly the same as the stoic notion of only focusing on things you can control and  it wasting energy on things you can’t.
Stoicism has a lot more to offer than just that one idea though which is one reason I had picked up the book. One interesting practice promoted by the stoics is that of negative visualization. The idea is that you should spend a little time every so often imagining what would happen of your worst fears came true.  By doing this, the stoics believe that you will appreciate what you have and not be so affected by grief when you do experience a loss.
It strikes me that there is some value to negative visualization, but one of the illustrations given by the author got me thinking. He uses the example of how children approach the world with constant wonder. One reason for this is that they still haven’t figured out how the world works so everything is somewhat of a suprise and they have no expectations of whatever they are sewing ever happening again. To me, this seems like another example of one of the things that makes us just a little different from all the other animals getting the better of us. Just like our ability to group things that are similar together and different apart lead to great things like language and communication but also terrible things like collectivism and racism, our ability to be rational and build a mental model of how the world works helped us develop math and science, but also  lead us to loose the ability to take in every present moment with wonder.






2 responses to “Stoic ponderings”

  1. boer6 Avatar

    You should check out my 4-part series on Stoicism with BrettV:
    Bill Buppert

    1. Chris Avatar

      Listened to all but the Q&A and should get that done this week. Great series! Have you listened to Professor CJ’s recent podcast on Taoism and the concept of the “Scholar Warrior” (just discovered Prof CJ from one of Ben Stone’s recent episodes)? He ties some of the Taoist principles to those of Stoicism. Interesting to me since “independent discovery” seems an indicator of universality. Also, Tim Ferris spent a considerable amount of time in his recent appearance on the Duncan Trusell Family Hour talking about his practice of stoicism. DT can wear on me sometimes, but I do find him to be an interesting interviewer and Tim was great in that episode. Not enough hours in the day to read and listen to all I want!

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