Out of a desire to speak about Stoicism more directly, I am in the process of building a new home for old posts. This was originally posted September 30th, 2011 on Trustocracy.com.
Every morning for the last month I've begun the day with these words from Marcus Aurelius.
Today I will be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness--all of them due to the offender's ignorance of what is good and what is evil.
I came to modern Stoicism a few months ago, through the book A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. In it, author William Irvine makes a strong case that stoicism has much to offer the modern world. I don't believe the practice is for everyone. It fits best in an analytical mind and, in my opinion, particularly benefits those who have a touch of social anxiety. Stoicism is concerned with the internal and dismisses the external. Its central message may have best been described by Descartes, who must have cribbed heavily from the Stoic masters.
Always to seek to conquer myself rather than fortune, to change my desires rather than the established order, and generally believe that nothing except our thoughts is wholly under our control, so that after we have done our best in external matters, what remains to be done is absolutely impossible, at least as far as we are concerned.
I remember reading that quote over a decade ago and being upset by the phrase, to change my desires rather than the established order. At the time I could only imagine the worst forms of passivity deriving from such a creed. That is no longer a fear of mine. Stoics were passionate, world-changing types. When you are free from anxiety about the external world you are free to live out the world you want.
I've been reading the Stoic essentials, mainly The Enchiridion and Meditations. I've enjoyed arguing with Epictetus, Aurelius, and Seneca. I've been looking for fellow stoics. I'm noticing that stoic teachings spring up a lot on the web. Unfortunately, stoicism tends to be one ingredient in most peoples' larger philosophy of life. I have found few people who use it as the core of their value system. No matter, stoicism delivers for me.