Friday, August 30, 2013

Readers, discuss! Virtue the highest *and* only good?

Okay, so the post I wanted to do for this morning didn't pan out the way I thought it would, so I scraped that in favor of this one instead, so that's that.

I was thinking the other day about virtue, specifically that according to Stoicism it's the highest good. However, Stoics also say that the virtue is the only good. I realized that this is a bit of a problem.

It goes like this: if we say virtue is the highest good, it suggests that there are other lesser goods out there. But in Stoic philosophy, all the things we typically think of as “good” are actually indifferent. Also, Seneca argued in the Letters that there was no such thing as a lesser good. By saying there's a highest good, however, we're actually saying there's more than virtue as a good. Thus, there's a contradiction in our philosophy.

However, if we choose to say that virtue is the only good, we have a different – though less damaging – problem. Just by being the only good, virtue automatically becomes the highest good, so instead of there being a contradiction, there's only a redundancy.

Well, seeing as it's a lot easier to admit to redundancy than rework an entire philosophy, I settled on accepting that we don't need to say the virtue is the highest good. We only need to say the virtue is the only good.

Still, I feel like I might be missing something here, so I'm asking every one of you people out there to give me your input. Is there a contradiction? Is it only redundant? Or is something else afoot here? Let me know what you all think!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Late Night Blogging: Insight into my anger

I found out that I do something weird: I sometimes try whipping myself up with anger when I'm not actually angry.

I first noticed this Friday while I was at work. The short of it is I needed a manager to check my work and none could be found. I was late for lunch by nearly 20 minutes. And while I wasn't angry, I was talking to myself. A lot. About how stupid the situation was, about how irresponsible the mangers were. I kept going on until realized I didn't believe a word I was saying. I was only trying to get myself upset.

I did it again today, too. As I was driving home from my parents' house, almost every other driver in front of me failed to use their turn signals. Once again, I started bad talking these drivers (to my wife, so at least I wasn't talking to myself this time), only to stop myself when I realized I was trying to goad myself into anger.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized most of my anger came from this type of talking. And I couldn't help but to think, why? Why am I trying to get myself upset over something that's clearly not making me upset?

Having read Seneca's On Anger, I believe I know fully agree with him that anger is a short-term madness. After all, how is trying to disrupt a calm state of mind so willingly anything but insane? Actually, this is worse: those suffering from a mental illness often don't have a choice in the matter when it comes to this. But here I am, trying to will angry and hurtful thoughts into my mind.

But why? Why would I do this? What's the point?

I know anger doesn't fix a thing. I've caused (or made worse) too many fights by letting myself fly off the handle. When I see other people get angry over, well, anything, I see how foolish it is. I can't even see a good reason to feign anger (something Seneca recommends in certain cases).

It didn't take too long, but I figured it out: I made myself anger because that seemed like the thing to do.

I've heard it a few times from my sister-in-law and even from other people. “Sure, he exploded, but at least that shows he cares.”

Yikes. And to think I used to agree with that idea.

Well before I discovered Stoicism, I often wondered why I did get anger over stupid things, like video games or feelings of being snubbed. It came down to the idea that we, as a society, tend to think that stronger emotions mean stronger care, and what emotion is stronger than anger?

Mother-in-law says something that rubs you the wrong way? Get angry, that's the normal thing. Spouse is mad over something you did for no reason? Get angry and they'll think twice.

Anger is something to do. It means you care. It means you have passion. It means you're not willing to be walked all over.

But that's all wrong.

Anger is something wicked. It means you're weak. You have no control over your emotions. It means you're willing to run everyone over to protect yourself.

I'm not perfect. Far from it. I know I'll still get angry, even after this weekend's revelations. It's a problem I've had for a long time and I know it isn't going to away with just two days' worth of heavy thinking. But now I'm starting to get why I get mad. And I'm starting to realize just how dumb, selfish, and weak I am for ever letting that emotion into my life.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Enchiridion: A Commentary (Part 2)

It's been awhile since I did this and, lacking any other ideas at the moment, I think it's a good time to examine more of Epictetus's work.

Remember that following desire promises the attainment of that of which you are desirous; and aversion promises the avoiding that to which you are averse. However, he who fails to obtain the object of his desire is disappointed, and he who incurs the object of his aversion wretched.

This is pretty much the reasoning behind all Stoic thought on why we should work to rid of ourselves of passions. Both desire and aversion are forms of passions – at least in degrees – that can lead us down some pretty terrible roads. Sure, sometimes we get what we want and avoid what we don't want, but more often not, we're in a state of not getting what we want and usually stuck having everything we don't want. It's not a very happy state and, frankly, it makes a lot of people whiny (more maybe I'm just whiny about it myself).

If, then, you confine your aversion to those objects only which are contrary to the natural use of your faculties, which you have in your own control, you will never incur anything to which you are averse.

In short, if you only try to avoid things can actually choose to avoid – such as if you get upset at being cutoff in traffic or if someone says something stupid and really want to say something but know better – you'll avoid trouble.

But if you are averse to sickness, or death, or poverty, you will be wretched. Remove aversion, then, from all things that are not in our control, and transfer it to things contrary to the nature of what is in our control.

Don't want to get sick? Too bad, it's gonna happen. Running away from death? Fat chance. Really, trying to avoid things not in your power is like trying to control the way the world works. Of course, this isn't to say you shouldn't at trying not to get sick – it isn't a license to not wash your hands and eat Big Macs all day – only that it's silly for us to think we can avoid it by our actions alone.

But, for the present, totally suppress desire: for, if you desire any of the things which are not in your own control, you must necessarily be disappointed; and of those which are, and which it would be laudable to desire, nothing is yet in your possession. Use only the appropriate actions of pursuit and avoidance; and even these lightly, and with gentleness and reservation.

I'll be frank: I'm a little confused by what he says here. The first part I get. By desiring things outside my control, I'm going to be disappointed. (And, as a further thought, this only makes sense to begin with, as I wouldn't desire stuff I already have, so by having desire it mean by default I feel like I'm lacking something and therefore I'm disappointed). It's the second half I'm a little confused about.

The way I see it, he's saying this: “...and of those which are [in your control], and which it would be laudable to desire, nothing is yet in your possession.” So, if I am seeing this right, what's he's saying is that, even if the desire for things I have in my control are commendable, but just desiring it I'm still disappointed and probably working against myself. And that does sort of make the last bit make even more sense. After all, if I too strongly feel desire and avoidance for things in my control, I'm still creating problems for myself: should I feel something I was trying to avoid, I'll be upset with myself; and should I not feel something I really would like to, I once again am disappointed.

That's why Epictetus says we need to use these two passions appropriately and, even then, we shouldn't be too harsh in their usage. Don't strongly desire things in your control and don't be too fearful of things you can actually avoid.

IN OTHER NEWS: In order to keep my butt on track with this, I'm doing a post every Friday at 6:00 AM PDT (okay, well, actually, I'm scheduling posts to go up, but the point is, there will be at least one post every Friday). Also, I lost my little blogroll and I think I lost a few pages. I've added back, but I might have missed a few. So, if you have any suggestions on blogs that are Stoic, just give me the heads up and I'll add it to my list.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Is Stoicism Self-Help?

If you go to any bookstore today, odds are you'll have some trouble finding the philosophy books. They're sometimes buried near metaphysics, religion, and New Age books for some reason. However, seek out self-help books and you'll have no trouble. They're everywhere.

Of course, these books are a joke. If they aren't banal for what they're saying, they're overreaching: buy this book and all your woes will be solved! Have all the friends you want. Make all the money you want. All that you want will be gotten! JUST BUY THIS BOOK! They can help you in every area of life. But we know better. After all, just how many books make same claims? And look how miserable most people are.

But should we who use Stoicism – or any philosophy of life, really – be so smug in thinking we have a leg up on these people? I mean, there are similarities:
  • Both self-help gurus and philosophers say they can help in every area of life.
  • Both seek to make people happier.
  • Both tend to repeat the same points over and over.
  • Both preach a lot, but have a hard time proving they live it.
  • Both, save for a few differences, tend to agree with rivals.
Yikes. It's almost like self-help is the bastard child of the philosophies of life and good old-fashioned money making. I mean, if I took out all the references to Seneca, Epictetus, all the Stoics, and the history they often speak of, repackaged the philosophy as pop psychology, I'm sure I'd have a best seller.

And yet, having mired myself in self-help books since my early teens, I can confidently say that only Stoicism makes any impact on my life. And, not only that, stays with me.

The question is, why?

Now, I don't think this will be a popular view, but I think philosophies of life are sort of like the Greek and Roman versions for self-help. Each one had proof that they were right (even the Skeptics, living up to their namesake everywhere else, believed in their proof). All of them promised some sort of happiness. And, yeah, all the other above-mentioned things.

So what's so different?

One, you could live with the person teaching the philosophy. You could watch them screw up and see if what they preached helped them in their difficult moments. Two, and this is the most important thing, it wasn't about always getting what you want.

Stoicism pretty much tells you outright that not very much is within our control. Actually, except for our thoughts, nothing is in our control. It's the honesty: there's nothing you can do about most of your life, but you can control how you take it.

Take in contrast self-help: all you have to be is more (confident, organized, decluttered, whatever). Master only one thing in your life and the rest of it will be magic.

Another is just what is meant by the “good life”. When people speak of the good life today, what they really mean is more money, more stuff, more free time to do whatever you want. But when none of this stuff comes your way, people are often left floundering. You could be sweating blood following what these gurus want you to do and you'll failure will be chalked up to not trying hard enough. Even supposing you did get all that you wanted, no one tells you what you really shouldn't do with it. As a result, you stand a good chance of squandering all that hard work.

Now, the philosophical good life is different. It's not about getting more money or even ahead in life. It's about becoming a more virtuous life. Unlike materiel stuff and thinking happy thoughts, virtues can help better guide your actions, so that no matter your lot in life, you know you're doing not only the best you can, but are always improving yourself.

I'll admit it: I've neither of these good lives. But I can say I'm closer to a philosophical good life than a material one. And having pursued stuff for a long time, I can say that at least with Stoicism – call it self-help or philosophy – I know I'm becoming a fair better person than any of those gurus could have ever made me.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Negative Visualization: Thinking of Bad Things

We live in a world where we're told thinking and worrying are one and the same.

We're not allowed to think about the possible things in our life that won't go our way. To think about it might mean you're worried about it and we simply can't have that. Worry is unhealthy. We need to be positive! Don't fret so much about not making ends meet, finding a new job, dying. You'll cross that bridge when – or even if – you come to it.

But where do these people go when the bad things really do happen? Vanished. Whatever is going on in your life might bring them down. Or maybe they're telling you it's really not that bad, but can't really offer up why it isn't. Where did everyone's earlier goodwill go?

The Stoics, of course, have something to say of this.

First, worry is wrong. Worry isn't going to help you out in any way. But before people give themselves a pat on the back for getting at least that, the Stoics would say that worrying about bad things happening and thinking about bad things happening are two different beasts. Worry is a stifling emotion that weakens us and potentially prevents us from doing something in the first place. Thinking is, well, not an emotional action by itself, though if you're not careful, it can lead to worry or, perhaps worse, overconfidence in one's abilities.

But why should we think about bad things in the first place? What's the use? And if there is a use, how can we prevent simply thinking about bad things from turning into worry?

The why is simple enough: the idea is that contemplating bad things before they happen makes it easier to handle when bad things happen. Never consider the possibility of being broke and you'll be shocked the first time you overdraw your account. Think about it every so often and you'll know that it was a possibility and won't be as shocked if it happens.

We'd do well to keep in mind that negative visualization isn't so much about preventing us from feeling bad should something come up, though that may be possible. Rather, it's about taking the shock out of it. It's sort of like boxing: just because you learn to take a punch doesn't mean it won't hurt. You'll just recover, if not faster, at least better.

Okay, but how do we prevent worry?

This, too, is simple. We don't have to think about bad things all the time. When you first start out, it might be best to do this exercise once or twice a week, perhaps in the morning. Just run through all the things that could happen that morning. Don't dwell on one thought or another, just keep going. When you get good at that, increase the amount of days you do it and the number of times you do it. When that's done and you're ready, start thinking about some of the heavier things like relationships and death.

Whoa, what? Death?

Alright, I have to admit, this one really isn't fun, but yes, the Stoics encourage us to think about not only our deaths, but the death of loved ones. In fact, one of the earliest examples of negative visualization is by Epictetus. Every time we kiss our child or spouse – even when we say goodbye to a friend – we should remind ourselves that this could very be the last time we can do that. Death spares no one.

Sure it seems bleak and at first it may cause you to be a bit downcast. You might even shudder at the thought. But keep up with it and you'll find something strange. That shuddering gets weaker. The sadness doesn't last as long. And sometimes, just sometimes, you can get away with thinking about your end without even slowing down.

So, what, all I get out of this is less shock? That seems hardly worth it.

It may seem like a lot of work just for a little less shock. But there's more to it than just that. By thinking of the possibility of the worst that can happen, you start appreciating more when things don't. Have a prepaid phone that barely keeps up with everyone's I-droid? Think about all the bad things that could happen to it and you might just realize that it's only a phone, just like everyone else has. Heck, you might even marvel that you don't have the stupid thing yelling at you to check Facebook or your email. You might even joke that it has too many features: not only is it a phone, it has an alarm clock!

Let's go back to Epictetus's example. What if we realized that our friend or loved one could not be with us tomorrow? We can't even say they'll be with us for the next 30 seconds. Knowing that, how much love do you think will be in that kiss? How much more you'll mean it when you say you'll miss your friend? You might not always be more attentive and mindful of such things, but you'll certainly be more so than the person that thinks their loved ones will always be there.

There's something you're not saying.

Okay, so I know I kept saying that we should think of bad things, but a Stoic wouldn't actually say “bad” things. Rather, they'd say they were “undesirable” things. While it might not seem to make a difference, you have to keep in mind that just because things don't go our way, the Stoics would say that doesn't actually make it bad. Early Stoics – and perhaps modern theistic Stoics – thought that the gods would challenge a good person more, not as punishment, but because they wouldn't want us to go soft. Our ability to endure made us almost godlike, Seneca even saying we might we surpass them, as the gods don't have to endure any misfortune while mankind can overcome it.

For some of us not so highly thinking of godliness, it's still good to remind yourself that, once again, just because something doesn't go our way, doesn't make it bad. We can work with whatever befalls us. Remember the words of Marcus Aurelius: life is more like wrestling than dancing. Stepping into the ring with Life is the price we pay for being born. We can either cower and try to avoid everything “bad” – which never works – or learn to take our hits and grow stronger. We might not like it, but that doesn't stop us from being the best human we can be.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What Would Seneca Cook?

Alright, people might not like me jumping onto the whole “diet” bandwagon, but the fact is, what we eat and put into our bodies is important. Even the Stoics saw that. After all, philosophies of life deal with every action we take. What's the point of being a Stoic for every other part of our lives if we just dive into unabashed hedonism with our food? Not only that, we set ourselves for potential guilt for our gluttony and we certainly put our bodies in harm's way. So, yeah, our diet is important. Which is odd, because, if you follow the Stoics right here, then our food doesn't become all the important at all.

Now, I'm not going to quote endlessly here, but if you want some idea of what the Stoics thought of food, you can read Musonius Rufus – who went into a lot of details about our food – and there are some letters by Seneca that address this, though the best one is Letter 18.

The Basics
  • Simple. For the Stoics, food didn't need to be lavish, imported from wherever, cooked on a specially made stove, whatever. Simple is the name of the game here. If a peanut butter sandwich can sate your hunger as well as a Maine lobster with x amount of sides, go for the sandwich. Rufus would say the less preparation needed, the better (he'd be a big fan of the raw food diet).
  • Cheap versus expensive. Easy to understand. Why pay more for food if you don't need to? Does the name brand really taste that much better than the store brand? Often it doesn't. And if it does happen that way, you have to ask yourself, does it taste better because it's made better or because you think it's better? So long as it's keeping you alive (and not killing you – see the next point), aim for the cheap.
  • Healthy. Our food shouldn't be our enemy. Sure, frozen dinners are both simple and cheap, but does that made it a good choice? Candy bars, too, are cheap, but that doesn't make them a good meal. Food should sustain us and help us stay alive. (Okay, I fudged this one a bit. While no Stoic back in the day told no one not to eat terribly, they also didn't have processed foods to deal with. But seeing as both Seneca and Rufus advocated vegetarianism, I'm willing to say they'd tell us to avoid the garbage).
  • Moderation. None of this advice is going to do you any good if you insist on stuffing so much into yourself you make yourself sick.

The Advanced
Okay, so this isn't really all that advanced, and is totally optional on your part, but as I stated before, Seneca and Rufus were vegetarians. Rufus thought eating meat was beneath people and only fitting for animals, while Seneca got it from his teacher, Sotion, and thought that by not killing animals, we reduce our own cruelty. Of course, that didn't stop Hitler from being cruel, but then he was also insane, so who knows?

The Last Word
Remember you are human. The Stoics, though they thought we should always be working on improving ourselves, knew people made mistakes. Overate? So long as you keep an eye on it and be mindful, you'll do it less often. Ate a candy bar? So long as you're not eating five or six a day, one isn't going to kill you (though you still should resist the impulse, as it'll make you stronger). Became a vegetarian but your family doesn't respect your wishes? Even Seneca went back to eating meat when he thought Nero was going to kill him over it (long story).

The idea here isn't perfection. It's remembering that our food and diet are a part of us, not an area to dominate our lives. Most of us aren't chefs, yet we made a lot of us spend more time thinking about what we're going to eat. By keeping it simple, you don't have to think about food as entertainment or face potential culinary crisis over what's for dinner. Go the way of Rufus and you won't even have to worry about cooking anymore, either.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What are Indifferents?

There is a common misconception about Stoics that they're nothing more than a bunch of apathetic and lofty people. Maybe it has something to do with our modern day definition of the word “stoic”, which means someone who is aloof and uncaring about what happens around them. This is of course wrong, but I can see where people might have gotten the idea.

The very basics of Stoic philosophy states that there isn't much in our control. It's easier to say what is in on control: our thoughts, opinions, and desires. Anything outside of that belongs to what we can't control. These things that we can't control the Stoics call “indifferents”.

So, doesn't indifferent basically mean uncaring? If anything we can't control is an indifferent, does that mean we shouldn't care about it?

Well, no. What the Stoic means when they speak of indifferents is that the object or event at hand have no bearing on living a good life. To the Stoics, Nature has given us reason, and with reason we can obtain virtue, and with virtue a good life (and, at least according to the later Roman Stoics, tranquility).

Does that mean we shouldn't worry about indifferents? Again, no. The Stoics saw a difference in indifferents: preferred and undesired. Even though a cave would shelter us, we'd prefer a house. Catching a cold didn't mean we couldn't work towards a good life, but that doesn't mean we'd go looking for illness. It's all in how we judge these things. If you think money buys happiness, you'll never have enough money. If you think you create your own happiness, you'll always be rich. Think dying is the greatest evil, you'll be too worried to live. Think dying is no thing at all, you'll have all the time to live. And so on and so on.

One way to think of indifferents is that they are like tools. We'd use a screwdriver to place screws, but we'd be silly to think it could hammer in nails or paint. We'd also be foolish to think the more screwdrivers, the better, simply because we needed one in the first place. And we wouldn't insist on using a screwdriver when only a hammer is needed. Sure, some people might get overly attached to one brand or another (another indifferent), but in the end, it's what works for you in that moment that's most important. And none of it would work without proper use of reason (like that whole “trying to paint with the screwdriver” thing. Reason prevents that sort of silliness).

Of course, the analogy falls a little flat when it comes to situations and people, both of which also counts as indifferents. We don't like to think of people as tools, which thankfully Stoicism doesn't promote, and we do often feel like we have at least some control over most situations. So how can it be these things are indifferents?

Remember, anything outside of our control is considered an indifferent. People, no matter how much we'd like to think about it, are always outside of our control. We can't help what they do, say, think, and so on. Insults, flattery, being cutoff in traffic – all these things don't bother the Stoic sage or inflate their ego. Now, we mere mortals aren't going to be prefect, of course, but the thing to remember is that most people aren't out to get us and, even if they were, we don't have any control over them. All we can control is what we think of other people and what they say and do. We can either become upset with them and ruin our day or think nothing of it and go on our day with little to no disturbance to our emotional state.

Okay, so maybe that makes some sense, but what about events in our life? Don't we have control over, say, getting to work on time? Sure, maybe we can't account for traffic and bad driving, but we do control some things. Well, not really. See, we are in control of our intention – our desire – to get to work on time, but that's it. Maybe we don't hear the alarm, or wake up and we find ourselves bound and gagged (my commiserations to your bad start, by the way). Even if we don't have any problems and do get to work on time, none of that was in your power. Once again, only your intention of getting to work was in your power.

The thing that needs to be remembered is that indifferent in the Stoic sense isn't one of apathy. The only thing it means is that they aren't either good or bad. Most of the time, it's how we see and think about the indifferents is what make them good or bad. So if it seems if a Stoic is unaffected by insults and maybe a little too uncaring about a underlings flattery, or if a flat tire doesn't disturb them, odds are it's because they decided it wasn't going to help them to live a good life to be concerned about it. But apathy it isn't.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Enchiridion: A Commentary (Part 1)

Today I finished "The Enchiridion", one of the works of Epictetus. I think, due to it's shortness, it is one of the better reads for those just getting into Stoicism. It takes no more than a few hours of reading to get it done (though, it is philosophy and that'll take years, if not a lifetime, to live it). But, as a bit of a two-way better digestion of the text, I decided to write up a commentary, expressing my thoughts and hopefully encouraging others to think and express theirs.

If you need a free copy, just click. It'll take you to the Internet Classics Archive. It's also the version I used.
Somethings are in our control and others not.
This is simple enough. I think if you needed a simple way to start summing up the basis for Stoic tranquility, this is the one line you need.
Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions
Alright, perhaps this is where some confusion arises. It isn't so much what's in our power that we question, but what isn't in our power. Our bodies? Property? How are these things not in our power?

Simple. Let's take our bodies. While we do have a responsibility to take care of our bodies, we can't help if and when we get sick. We can make all the healthy choices in the world and still catch a cold. We could fall off a ladder, break a leg, whatever. There's nothing we can do and so outside of our control.

If I could simplify what Epictetus said what was in our control, I would say it comes down to two things: opinion and choice. What we think about things and how we try to carry out our choices are all we've got. Keep in mind, what we choose to do doesn't mean we always get to do it. But how we feel about our ability or inability to carry out a choice is up to us.

The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you not be harmed.
Basically, if you confuse things that aren't in your control as things that are in your control, you're going to have a bad time.

Now, when Epictetus said no one would hurt you, you'll have no enemies, and you won't be harmed, he meant it in a Stoic sense. See, hurt is in the sense of emotional or mental hurt, not psychical pain. He means more along the lines of if someone insults you, you remember that you don't have any control over what other people do and so, realizing that, choose not to feel hurt by the insult. Enemies can't happen, either, because the Stoic won't really be concerned with people liking them or not. While a Stoic doesn't go out of their way to make people upset, they know they can't make everyone happy and don't let themselves get bothered when they can't. Enemies can only happen when hate goes two ways.
Aiming therefore at such great things, remember that you must not allow yourself to be carried, even with a slight tendency, towards the attainment of lesser things. Instead, you must entirely quit some things and for the present postpone the rest. But if you would both have these great things, along with power and riches, then you will not gain even the latter, because you aim at the former too: but you will absolutely fail of the former, by which alone happiness and freedom are achieved.
Okay, philosophers were a bit extreme back then. Epictetus seemly advocates dropping everything that isn't helping you towards tranquility right now and everything else that you can't tell if it's helping or not, postpone it. But you can't have shoot for tranquility while at the same time shooting for, as he puts it, power and riches. Power and riches, all that jazz, that's outside your control and so, by going for it, you're setting yourself up for potential failure and sadness. Even if you did obtain power and riches, you'd worry about losing it. However, this is where the postponement  thing comes in. If you go for tranquility first and realize what's in your power and what's not, you'll better understand power and riches. You can take the sting out of failure and the dread of loss if you never thought it was in your power to get any of it in the first place.

Oh, and while this may seem depressing, I'll be addressing in a different post way this worldview isn't that bad.
Work, therefore to be able to say to every harsh appearance, "You are but an appearance, and not absolutely the thing you appear to be." And then examine it by those rules which you have, and first, and chiefly, by this: whether it concerns the things which are in our own control, or those which are not; and, if it concerns anything not in our control, be prepared to say that it is nothing to you.
This is the start of how one can gain Stoic tranquility. Don't just remind yourself with harsh thing. Remind yourself everything is but an appearance and not what it appears to be.

On (Short and Most Likely Wrong) Thoughts About the Modern Stoic Schools

Recently, I’ve been working on not only gaining a deeper understanding of Stoicism, but also how to use in modern life, as well as attempti...