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Twenty-First Century Stoic — From Zen to Zeno: How I Became a Stoic – Boing Boing

Shared by JohnH

Have been interested in Stoicism since hearing NNT talk about it. This book might be a good way in.

On adopting Stoicism, I discovered how much the world has changed since the philosophy was first formulated. Back then, if you told someone you were a practicing Stoic, they would have understood what you meant. In ancient Greece and Rome, it was common for people in the upper classes to adopt a philosophy of life; indeed, parents sent their sons to schools of philosophy (prominent among which were the Stoic, the Epicurean, and the Academic schools) in part to acquire such a philosophy.

Tell modern individuals that you are a practicing Stoic, though, and they are likely to be puzzled. “Is it some kind of religion?” they will ask.

My standard response: “No. Religions generally concern themselves with the afterlife; philosophies of life such as Stoicism concern themselves with daily life. They teach us what things in life are most valuable and how best to attain them.”

This response is likely to give rise to a new question: “And just what did the Stoics think was valuable?” My response: “Not what most people think is valuable — namely, fame and fortune. To the contrary, the Stoics (and in particular the Roman Stoics) valued tranquillity, and by tranquillity they had in mind not the kind of numbness that can be attained by downing a third martini, but instead the absence of negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, grief, and fear, from their life. They had nothing against positive emotions, though, including that most positive of emotions, joy. The Stoics were also confident that people who exchange their tranquillity for fame and fortune have made a foolish bargain.”

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