November 25th, 2017

I received a birthday present from Oliver Burkeman this year: an introduction to How To Be A Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy To Live A Modern Life by Massimo Picliucci. In his weekly column Consumed by anxiety? Give it a day or two for the Guardian, Burkeman wrote:

The next time you’re consumed by anxiety—which, given the headlines, is probably this minute—you might borrow a tip from the philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, author of the excellent new book How To Be A Stoic. In a recent podcast, Pigliucci described how he used Google Street View and Google Earth to create a slideshow that starts with an image of his own home, then zooms out, out and out, until it shows the whole planet. He consults it when feeling overwrought. You couldn’t hope for a more vivid illustration of the Stoic “dichotomy of control”, which urges us to restrict our attempts to change things to those actually in our power, instead of making ourselves miserable railing against those that aren’t. (See also the “serenity prayer”, popularised by Alcoholics Anonymous.) You are—not to be rude—a tiny part of the cosmos. That doesn’t make you powerless. But it does mean you’re almost certainly stressing about things that will, without doubt, remain majestically unaffected by your stress.

For most of my life I have been a spiritual wonderer. (I use the term spiritual to mean the manner in which I emotionally relate to my perceived reality.) In my 40s I settled into a comfortable relationship to my own brand of secular Zen Buddhism and Reconstructionist Judaism. I’ve continued my wondering, however, and occasionally find a tidbit here or there to consider, play with and perhaps integrate into my gestalt. After reading Pigiliucci’s book (and listening to the podcast) I’m more than intrigued. Here is the first of my notes from the book

Stoicism is about acknowledging our emotions, reflecting on what causes them, and redirecting them for our own good. It is also about keeping in mind what is and what is not under our control, focusing our efforts on the former and not wasting them on the latter. It is about practicing virtue and excellence and navigating the world to the best of our abilities, while being mindful of the moral dimension of all our actions. …In practice, Stoicism involves a dynamic combination of reflecting on theoretical precepts, reading inspirational texts, and engaging in meditation, mindfulness and other spiritual exercises p. 2-3

From How To Be A Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy To Live A Modern Life by Massimo Picliucci

Found in my electronic chapbook.

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