Total Pageviews

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Safe Harbour

"Look at those whose prosperity men flock to behold; they are smothered by their blessings. To how many are riches a burden! From how many do eloquence and the daily straining to display their powers draw forth blood! How many are pale from constant pleasures! To how many does the throng of clients that crowd about them leave no freedom! In short, run through the list of all these men from the lowest to the highest—this man desires an advocate, this one answers the call, that one is on trial, that one defends him, that one gives sentence; no one asserts his claim to himself, everyone is wasted for the sake of another. Ask about the men whose names are known by heart, and you will see that these are the marks that distinguish them: A cultivates B and B cultivates C; no one is his own master." - Seneca

We are reading through Seneca's essay, "On the Shortness of Life", for 21 days.  The quote above is part of today's reading, Day 2.  I was struck with how success, especially our society's definition of success, can be a two edged sword.  Yes we are successful in what we set out to do but at what cost does that success come?  Where do we find peace, that comfort in a simple life, the anonymity that allows us to be master of our days?

I am reminded of Thoreau's motivations in Walden... getting away from the hustle and bustle of his own life to live simply among nature.

How often does the tyranny of the urgent, the result of our own success, cause us to have no control over our time, money or assets?

At times I want to run to the woods to find my centre and listen to the still voice inside that brings such peace.  My goal is to create the "woods" in my everyday life.  A home that feels peaceful to enter, a shrine of stillness in an every growing cacophony of noise from the "modern" lifestyle.  I hope that we all find an inner oasis within ourselves that we can find in a moment and abide in.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Be Good For Goodness Sake

BUT if this be done for mere ostentation, it belongs to one who looks out and hunts for something external, and seeks for spectators to exclaim, "What a great man!" Hence Apollonius said well: “If you have a mind to exercise yourself for your own benefit, when you are choking with heat, take a little cold water in your mouth and spit it out again, and tell nobody."


What a temptation it is in our age of instant notoriety to live our lives for the acclaim of others.  Michel and I found Stocism when we were dealing with the loss of three huge mentors in our lives, all in the span of 6 months.  We found comfort in reading Marcus Arelius' Meditations and began to read more, recognizing many of the values and thought patterns that we wished to emulate and encourage within ourselves and our lives together.  What a difference this philosophy has made in our lives.  The practice of hesitation, stopping before reacting to an outside event, has been a huge help when tempers could easily have taken over and amplified the negative emotions of anger or hurt.  The day to day living of Stoicism caused changes in our characters and in our ways of dealing with others on a day to day basis.  People would ask us what helped us live our lives in this way and we would answer Stoicism.  This would more often than not lead to a longer explanation of the basic principles of living that Stoic thought has gifted to the world.  

We were then asked if we would speak about Stoicism to others and it snow balled from there to presenting workshops and holding monthly sessions, creating a living breathing Stoic community in the community around us.

When reading the passage above it came to me how, now that we are a little bit recognized within the larger Stoic community, people may have the idea that we are writing blogs, keeping a website, facebook groups, twittering and helping to birth a community for the recognition, or for the "five minutes in the spotlight".  What if people looking in on us from the outside think that our motivations are for notoriety instead of the genuine motivation to teach, to share and to help others live a richer life?  What of it?  I have no control over what others think.  I can only live my life true to my deeply held convictions and keep moving forward with virtue as my guide. I live my life so that my children are motivated to live fully, to act justly and to try to leave the world a brighter place than it was before they came.  I will not be remembered long after my death but I will strive to make the world a brighter, better place while I am still in it.  That is the challenge of a Stoic.  That is a challenge that I accept.

Friday, June 6, 2014

True Instruction in Life

DO not you know that freedom is a very beautiful and valuable thing? But for me to choose at random, and for things to happen agreeably to such a choice, may be so far from a beautiful thing as to be, of all others, the most shocking. For how do we proceed in writing? Do I choose to write the name of Dion (for instance) as I will? No; but I am taught to be willing to write it as it ought to be writ. And what is the case in music? The same. And what in every other art or science? Otherwise, it would be to no purpose to learn anything, if it was to be adapted to each one's particular humour. Is it, then, only in the greatest and principal point, that of freedom, permitted me to will at random? By no means, but true instruction is this: learning to will that things should happen as they do. And how do they happen? As the appointer of them hath appointed. He hath appointed that there should be summer and winter, plenty and dearth, virtue and vice, and all such contrarieties, for the harmony of the whole. To each of us he hath given a body and its parts, and our several properties and companions. Mindful of this appointment, we should enter upon a course of education and instruction not to change the constitutions of things, which is neither put within our reach nor for our good ; but that, being as they are, and as their nature is with regard to us, we may have our mind accommodated to what exists.

It is what it is.  One of my most favourite sayings.  I have told myself this through many trying experiences in my life.  I often use this statement to console myself when things are not what I would consider "optimal".  Well yesterday I got some incredibly good news that I have been waiting over five years to hear.  I prepared for the outcome to ensure it was favourable to the best of my ability but I had no control over the outcome itself.  I often uttered "It is what is is" to many people inquiring the status of decisions, etc.  Oh how true that statement was.  I was unaware that the foundation for the positive result that I experienced yesterday were underway all around me, in secret.  It was what it was, not in an Eyeore "always rains on me" kind of way but in an "everything's coming up roses" kind of way.  After many disappointments over the past five years it was a wonderful surprise gift to have a dream outcome.  

Now in stating this I don't want to give the impression that I go through life with a cloud of gloom over my head, I don't.  I am a realist though.  I know that sometimes, no matter what preparation and consideration you have given, things do not work out in the way that we wish they would.  That is the reality of living in this life.  Bad things do happen to good people and that happens a lot.  No matter what you do in life we have no control over our outcomes.  The only thing that we can do is train our mind and our will to work to our best ability and understand that is the only "reward" that we may see.  At least each night when we end our day and succumb to the small death of sleep, we will know that we have done our utmost to thrive and strive for the best that we can be and do.  

This is by no means and easy accomplishment and I think it is one of those moving targets that we will never fully accomplish.  Our ideal hero, the sage that we wish ourselves to be, is able to do their best not matter what the outcome or circumstances.  This is what true education is to school ourselves and others to strive to be the best "self" that they can be.  True education teaches what is to be striven for, virtue and strength of character, learning what is actually going on in our universe, accepting that we are merely players on a stage but always striving to be the best players in the game of life that we can be.  

If we can learn these lessons, to really understand that life is about inner growth, the achievement of being the best possible person we can be in that moment, we will act with true reservation.  We will be able to say "Que Sera, Sera" and truly be accepting of whatever the outcome will be.  Life will no longer be a dark place full of disappointment and strife, but simply a journey through a river.  A river filled with eddies, calm pools, rapids and smooth lakes, and we will be ready to accept whatever the river brings.  We will move smoothly and expertly, living with wisdom and true virtue.  That is what I hope to teach myself in this life and what we all should strive towards until we reach the "undiscovered country" that lies beyond the waters.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Back from the Winter of our Discontent!

Well this winter was a doozy!  Now it is Spring and almost Summer...  Time to get back to blogging and to get out of hibernation mode.

The sun is shining today.  It is definitely time to shrug of the shroud of hibernation and stagnation that I have felt most of the winter.  Time to begin anew with project and to "Get My Stoic On"!  Stay tuned...