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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Out of the Shadows

No man, in my opinion, has a more advantageous difficulty on his hands than you have; provided you will but use it as an athletic champion doth his antagonist.


Today's blog post is inspired by the passage above from Epictetus' Discourses.  If we can use the struggles and adversity we encounter much as an athlete uses resistance training.  If we allow ourselves to gain strength from our achievements even if we only gain an inch in the mile that we need to travel.  

This is a very difficult thing to do at times.  We often only see the destination and not the journey that we are on.  We can only see what we have not accomplished or completed and not how much we have learned in the process of achieving.

Yesterday was a day that mental illness was brought to the forefront of the public's vision in Canada.  Bell Canada was sponsoring the day to bring mental illness out of the shadows of the public's perception and into the light of day.  Encouraging people to discuss the topic and share images of "normal" people who have experienced mental illness at different points in their life.  To eliminate the stigma that is associated with all mental illness in our society.

How does mental illness fit in with Epictetus' teaching above?  I have experienced depression from time to time in my life.  I even sought out counselling at one point.  I still have to watch for triggers and make sure that I am not getting overwhelmed which tends to bring out depression and anxiety in me.  I feel that for me depression is just another sparring partner, along with various other physical issues, that I have to deal with in this life.  With the help of my family, friends and community I can battle against this and climb the hill to sunshine.  It is with community that I can win the battle.

As with all adversities that we experience, we can use our daily struggles to grow stronger in our character.  We can become an athlete in life, proficient in the arena and a victor of daily living.  Let us use all of the tools around us in order to do this, loved ones, family, friends and the greater community/society around us.  Let's get the conversations started, ask for help on the journey, and run the race in community.  Find the people who support you and get out of the shadows and start walking, jogging and running the race to happiness again!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wherever I and Mine are Placed

WHENEVER, therefore, anyone makes his interest to consist in the same thing with sanctity, virtue, his country, parents, and friends, all these are secured; but wherever they are made to interfere, friends, and country, and family, and justice itself, all give way, borne down by the weight of self-interest. For wherever I and mine are placed, thither must every animal gravitate. If in body, that will sway us; if in choice, that; if in externals, these. If, therefore, I be placed in a right choice, then only I shall be a friend, a son, or a father, such as I ought. For in that case it will be for my interest to preserve the faithful, the modest, the patient, the abstinent, the beneficent character; to keep the relations of life inviolate. But, if I place myself in one thing, and virtue in another, the doctrine of Epicurus will stand its ground, That virtue is nothing, or mere opinion.

In reading this passage this morning I was reminded of a portion of the "Sermon on the Mount"...  
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt. 6:20-21
In reading these passages I have to, at the risk of possibly annoying some Christians out there, admit that I like the way it has been written by Epictetus more than in the Matthew or Luke passages. It isn't just what we hold as valuable but also whether we give the same value to virtue, our loved ones, etc.  against our value of self.  If we hold our own self to be more important than our morals, kin and country then when those things are held in peril self-preservation will be the choice that is made above all else.  What we hold to be of great value is what will guide our choices and determination in a difficult circumstance.  This is why an education that gives a groundwork of morals and principles is to be held in such high esteem as this is what we will steer our ship by when the storms of life hit.  My concern is that moral streams of education seem to be in lower esteem in our society.  I hope that this tendency in education/society does not continue for when society reaches a crisis it is the moral compass that will guide our direction.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A very special day indeed!

Today is my love's birthday.  I am so blessed in this life to have found a partner-in-crime, my Lord Byron, my Romeo and my body guard all in one man.  29 years I have known you and loved you and I look forward to many more years of plotting, scheming and dreaming together.

Today is a day I will be focusing on Michel... blog post will come tomorrow.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Possession of a Good Conscience

DO all things as becometh the Disciple of Antoninus Pius. Remember his resolute constancy in things that were done by him according to reason, his equability in all things, his sanctity; the cheerfulness of his countenance, his sweetness, and how free he was from all vainglory; how careful to come to the true and exact knowledge of matters in hand, and how he would by no means give over till he did fully and plainly understand the whole state of the business; and how patiently, and without any contestation he would bear with them, that did unjustly condemn him: how he would never be overhasty in anything, nor give ear to slanders and false accusations, but examine and observe with best diligence the several actions and dispositions of men. Again, how he was no backbiter, nor easily frighted, nor suspicious, and in his language free from all affectation and curiosity: and how easily he would content himself with few things, as lodging, bedding, clothing, and ordinary nourishment, and attendance. How able to endure labour, how patient: his uniformity and constancy in matter of friendship. How he would bear with them that with all boldness and liberty opposed his opinions; and even rejoice if any man could better advise him: and lastly, how religious he was without superstition. All these things of him remember, that whensoever thy last hour shall come upon thee, it may find thee, as it did him, ready for it in the possession of a good conscience.

This was our reading from Words of the Ancient Wise this morning.  I tried to boil it down into a couple of sentences, a couple of phrases even, but every word seemed important and eloquent.  This is an emperor's testimony about a subject he loved, a man's testimony about a mentor, a friend's testimony about a friend.  It seemed callous and almost irreverent to take away any words so I left it as is, although it is a translation from the Greek that Musonius Aurelius wrote in for his journal.  

My wish is that I live my life that my ruler, friend and compatriot would say the same of me.  Let us all aspire to do the same.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Choosing the Best Things

NOTHING is meaner than the love of pleasure, the love of gain, and insolence. Nothing is nobler than magnanimity, meekness, and goodnature.

Upon reading the excerpt from Words of the Ancient Wise this morning I was struck with how simple this advice is and yet how difficult in our day to do so.  We are constantly bombarded with messages that encourage us to get rid of the older things and replace them with newer, shiny and "better" things.  This makes so many people work to achieve things rather than for the satisfaction of a job well done.  How many young people have gone into debt to have all the trappings of modern society only to find themselves hamsters on the wheel of commerce.  They become slaves to the things around them and the need to attain all of the outer evidence of a "successful" life.  
If we can begin to define success with nobler pursuits we may begin to save our children, society and planet from the consequences of pursuing wealth and gain to the detriment of all else.  The next time we are replacing something old, something that is still useful, lets stop and think about the message we are sending to our children, peers and society around us.  Less is more when we stop to appreciate.  Success needs to be measured in relationships and virtues rather than bank accounts and things.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On Living Life as a Stoic

I have been away from my blog for awhile.

Life's hectic thread has been very taut in my loom full of woven threads these days.  Yet once again Stoicism as my life philosophy has been my life line.  Getting through the hectic days the "rules" of Stoicism have been invaluable:

1.  What is in my control, what is not?
2.  Act on those things that are in my control and let go of what is not.

I am in the process of reimplementing the organizational system "Getting Things Done" which, along with Stoicism, helps me accomplish the life that I want to live.

Anyway, I just wanted to touch base with my blog readers and let you know that I am back and will be regularly blogging again.