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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.