Stoic Week 2013 Day 1
Today is the beginning of Stoic Week 2013, which is an experiment in practical philosophy. I have recently become interested in Stoicism after my significant other read the wikipedia page on the Stoics and immediately declared that I am a Stoic, or at the very least share a lot of their beliefs. With a bit of Googling I stumbled across Stoic Week and decided it would be a great way to introduce myself to their ideas (above and beyond the few Marcus Aurelius quotes I had seen float past my social media news feeds over the years).
The theme for Day 1 is: “What is in our power?”
One of the central themes of Stoicism is developing awareness of what is within our power and that which is not. Epictetus, in his Enchiridion, wrote:There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. Within our power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and, in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs.
When we expect things which are not in our power to act as if they are under our control we will often experience negative emotions such as anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression. Likewise, and this is me riffing on this idea a little, when we lose sight of those things which are in our power we can overlook opportunities to influence and improve even the most dire of situations. They key is to rationally determine which are which and develop the necessary mindfulness to be able employ that knowledge to help maintain emotional balance. Or at least that is my understanding as of day 1. This concept makes me think of two things. The first is the popular “Serenity Prayer” which reads,God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The strength to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
The other, slightly more pop culture, reference it brings to mind is a line from Fight Club:No fear, no distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.
Both quotes, in their serenity and lack of fear, seem to have echoes of the Stoic view for me. If I can begin to get a better handle on this concept alone, and begin to develop the mindfulness of it on a day to day basis, then this week will be worth it.