I have enjoyed rediscovering and reminding myself of the stoic philosophy. It’s a mental model that makes sense to me and can help ward off the feeling of helplessness in a complex and not entirely well-functioning or well-governed world.
The Stoic manifesto
Stoics attempt to be guided by logic and reason rather than fleeting worldly gratification. The practice of Stoicism supposedly allowed people to lead more peaceful, rational lives.
I appreciate the stoic’s view of the world, as long as it doesn’t veer too far into fatalism1. I’ve always favoured the concept of logical thought (i.e. Doctor Spock) ahead of irrational behaviour (i.e. Captain Kirk). Yet because I’m not Vulcan, I often fail to live up to the ideals of stoicism. Let’s call it a work in progress. When I prevail in taking the stoic approach I find myself less riddled with stress and anxiety, and am generally happier about my lot in life.
Boiling it down
The easy 1, 2, 3 of stoicism may be presented as:
- If you can change it, it doesn’t deserve your worry. Go ahead and make the change. Just do it!
- If you can’t change it, it doesn’t deserve your worry. You can’t fix it, so why stress?2
- If you worry about it anyway, you are simply inviting it to tyrannise and traumatise you, indefinitely. Rumination is the worst.
I don’t like the idea of stoicism being used as a argument in favour of ‘do nothing’ for monumental challenges, such as climate change. I can’t change the heating climate directly, but I can make active changes such as shopping smarter, flying less, and being generally responsible. Other individuals can do more, dependent on their position in society. It’s not a free pass to do nothing.↩
The Alfred E. Neuman approach: “What, me worry?”↩