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Friday, April 26, 2013

Where we are at this moment

IS anyone preferred before you at an entertainment, or in a compliment, or in being admitted to a consultation? If these things are good, you ought to rejoice that he hath got them; and if they are evil, do not be grieved that you have not got them. And remember that you cannot, without using the same means to acquire things not in our own power, expect to be thought worthy of an equal share of them. For how can he who doth not frequent the door of any man, doth not attend him, doth not praise him, have an equal share with him who doth? You are unjust, then, and insatiable, if you are unwilling to pay the price for which these things are sold, and would have them for nothing.

"You are insatiable if you are unwilling to pay the price for which fame and power are sold and would have them for nothing."  In reading this passage this morning I couldn't help but think of how many times I have been plagued with jealousy or feelings of inadequacy because of the lives of others.  So many choices that when we have made them change the course of our lives.  I have many friends who live in the country are able to work on self-sufficiency with goats and chickens, etc.  I live in my husband's grandparents home that we purchased in order to keep it in the family.  Our house is in an urban setting that does not allow me to have poultry or raise goats etc.  There are times that I wish that I lived in the country BUT I would not have the wonderful husband and family that I have nor would I be able to easily have friends over, or be easily accessible for the Stoic workshop evenings in our home, etc. 

If I had to choose between country living and all of the benefits that we have living in an urban environment, for me at this moment in my life, the urban environment wins.  I also wanted to be an Opera Singer in my youth but my eldest child came along and was due shortly after I was to start the Opera program at Wilfrid Laurier University.  I postponed my admittance for a year at first, but when that wonderful boy was born, I fell in love with being a mother as well as a wife and wanted my family to be my main focus.  For me this was a choice that I was willing to make and one that I felt I had to make, although others have been able to jog University with a young child, even a program as demanding as the Opera program.

Now that my children have grown and the "mothering" phase of my life is done I am able to start to look at the things I might have regrets about not doing.  The list for me is very short, thankfully.  I can look at the list and decide if I still wish now to do these things, figure out the cost of doing them and if it is a cost I am willing to pay, and make plans to move forward with those that I feel are experiences or goals that I wish to do make utmost to accomplish in this lifetime.  Of course, I have no control over the outcome as to whether the goals I choose are accomplished, I can only control my efforts, motivations, preparation, etc.

Many years ago my husband and I went through the exercise of seeing if there was a decision made in our lives that we would change and what the outcomes of that change would have been.  We both came to the conclusion that without making the decisions that we had we would not have the amazing family or relationship that we both had and would, therefore, not want to change anything.  Whenever we watch other people and wish for their lives remember that we would not have the life that we have now, the relationships that we have now, and tally up the cost of change.  To live in the present is a gift that allows us to truly appreciate what we have in the Now.   

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Cup Runneth Over...

To those who, to excuse their prodigality, urged that they spent only money that they did not know how to use otherwise, Zeno said, 'Would you forgive the cook who made his sauce too salty for you, and said it was because he had more salt than he knew what to do with?'"
Zeno as quoted in Stobaeus' Florilegium, vol. i, p. 271

How many times in our world of affluence in North America have we spent our surplus on frivolous things.  We are so wealthy in comparison with the rest of the world that when we have a surplus of riches we tend to be wasteful or embarrassingly extravagant.  I know that I am guilty of this, especially in our renovations project.  I went beyond what was expedient to purchase granite counter tops.  Yes, I can justify it by saying they will last etc. but it was unnecessarily extravagant if I am totally honest with myself.  I failed at that moment when I chose and prepaid for granite.  A laminate composite would have served my purpose and would have lasted me for ten years and cost less than a third of the price of granite.

So now that I have the installed granite what should I, as a modern day person trying to embrace the Stoic philosophy and principles into my life, do?  I have a few options: a) I could take out the granite and donate it for charity and make do with plywood (this would probably cause damage to the cabinets that are now installed to fit the granite) b) I can accept the past and make the best use of the counter tops moving forward, appreciating them each day and allowing them to bring joy to everyone who spends time in my kitchen.

After much soul searching I have decided to learn the lesson that good does not mean extravagance.  I need to meet my needs for cleanliness, function, etc. moving forward but must learn the lesson that extravagance in neither necessary nor preferred.  Now that the choice to spend more money on granite has been made and it is a "fait accompli" I need to let that choice go and move forward ever mindful of this lesson but not dwelling on it.  It would be wasteful of me to waste the counter top now but I will not spend unreasonably or buy more than I need moving forward.

We are an extremely affluent society.  We suffer from affluenza, the desire to acquire more and more things, to the point that we need storage units and are addicted to shopping and buying more to fit into our storage units.  As a Stoic with the primary guiding principle of "living according to nature" I feel that embracing a more minimalist lifestyle is the way to move forward.  As we continue to fit ourselves into one floor of our house rather than two, we need to keep this idea in mind while sorting through our "stuff", keeping only that which we have a need for and room to store, gifting the surplus to family and friends who need it.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Being Actively Engaged in Living

"They are mad, who make no account of riches, health, freedom from pain, and integrity of the body, nor take any care to attain them."

Seneca's Epistles, cxxiii, sec. 3.

"The wise man will not love wealth, but yet he will prefer to have it. He will receive it into his house, though not into his heart, not rejecting it, but controlling it, and willing to have larger opportunities for virtue."

Pliny's Epistles, vi, book i, sec. 2.

"In poverty there can be no virtues but perseverance and self-respect, but wealth gives a free field for temperance, generosity, economy, industry, and magnanimity."

Chrysippus, quoted in Plutarch's Morals, Goodwin's Ed., vol. iv, p. 437. 
 Many people when first reading about Stoicism stumble with the term "indifferent".  The Stoic teachers all taught that Virtue and the pursuit of living a virtuous life was the appropriate lifelong goal for an individual.  The idea of certain things in life as being neither intrinsically bad or good is where the term "indifferent" in a Stoic sense came from.  Once again our English language and the common vernacular has twisted the definition and use of the term to mean that someone is emotionally detached and disengaged from any given situation.  Much like the term Stoic (often used to mean a person who is detached and unemotional) the concept of indifference has become one of detachment and someone who is callous or incapable of empathy.

The Stoic teachers listed the Indifferents as influences in our lives that cause us to neither be morally good or bad, i.e. wealth, health, etc.  One can certainly live a virtuous life without wealth but it sure helps life be more comfortable and charitable giving becomes much more possible.  The pursuit of indifferents is NOT the definition of a "good life".  Our society's emphasis on success, money, health, etc. , quite often at the expense of morals, is not a healthy or balanced outlook.  Stoicism allows us to do all that we can and to realize that anything beyond our best efforts is "beyond our control".  We pursue excellence in character and moral fortitude as our life goals.  We surround ourselves with beloved family and friends and measure them far greater than any wealth that we might acquire.  Their witness of good character and a contemplated and deliberately lived life is all the witness that I wish to have at my memorial service.  That I have lived and left this world a better place for having been here is my lifelong goal.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Picking up the Pace Again

It has been a long while (two months) since I have written a blog post.  I have been deep in the throes of home renovations, frantically trying to get a granny suite ready for my Mom-in-law to come home to April lst.  We did not get it completely finished but will be painting the unit the week of April 22.

My own home, upstairs, is needing much attention.  We have the dining room to finish, our bedroom, bathroom and then all of the rooms need painting.  We have felt the lack of peace in our home.

The Stoic workshops were put on hold while our living room was in total chaos and Michel and I dealt with a horrible flu/cold.  We are starting back up this Friday and I look forward to having the conversations and fellowships that the workshops bring into our home.

Spring has sprung and it is time to grow again and allow for change and new possibilities.  While finishing off our home renovations I am planning a raised bed garden to be planted in May, after the Victoria Day weekend.  Michel and I are speaking on Modern Day Stoicism as a spiritual path at Gaia Gathering that weekend.  We are spending time preparing for that 90 min presentation just down the road from our home in Gatineau, QC.

I am feeling the motivation and promise of the future awakening in me again after the long and hard winter of loss and growth.  The promise of summer and the future lie ahead.