• Eshaan Mandal

The Stoic Way

The Motive

In more than twelve years of our school life we learned how to solve math problems, learned the dates of some irrelevant historical events but what about life’s challenges? How to deal with them?


Our stresses, our fears of losing someone, our fear of getting rejected by someone, how to deal effectively with the death of a person you loved, and the list goes on.


Did anyone teach us that? Teaching it is a far cry when we never even properly discussed it. And out of the blues, I got my hands on one of the ways to answer such questions and that is Stoicism.


When you search the word stoicism or the meaning of stoicism the most common answer is “the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint”, but a person who has been practicing this branch of philosophy for years or who has begun practicing it in definition is way different. It is about taking control of your life and ensuring that your happiness comes through you, and by happiness, the stoics mean a balanced life, a life full of virtues because stability leads to a happier life but vice versa is not true. It is a way of life.


Stoicism is a way of life.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity
Seneca

Stoicism teaches us that we’re very much responsible for our rise and fall. If one accepts this, our chances of attaining a stable life increases. Note that I am not mentioning happy life because happiness comes from short term pleasures, get this in your mind that you can’t be happy for your entire life, sadness will come too, and the things which make us happy are not always the best for us, this will be explained in-depth in the following paragraph.


I also mentioned that it increases that likelihood of gaining stability but it doesn’t guarantee you anything, because that is up to your own effort. This makes many people question the usefulness of this way of life, but tell me one thing without it you are still unsure about your life, right?


Stoicism helps in getting a hold on yourself and initiates your development as an individual, at least you are getting a hold on yourself, then tell me isn’t it a better option?


A Thought Experiment

In the last paragraph, I mentioned that happiness isn’t always the best option for us and well I have some good reasons to believe in it. Let me explain, first let’s assume that there are two siblings A and B. They go to the same school, share similar passions, both are intelligent and almost equal to each other in caliber. Years pass by both start a small business.


A fails in the start, then resumes with a different plan, the business although, grows slowly but in a few years he manages everything and most importantly lives a stable life. As in the case of B, they also find themselves in a similar situation(s) but as their business failed he almost gave up, doubted his entire life, engaged in destructive activities, and ended bankrupt.


Both A and B were equal in caliber


So let us examine where this difference in mindset came from, if you look at their free time A always spent their time in a balanced way, some time for entertainment as other time for improving themselves and B always engulfed in entertainment. These are of course little things, right? But the effect is usually compounded over the years by shaping their personalities. When the time came, A’s little efforts to improve themselves played a crucial role in his success whereas B was never prepared for it they never expected that life would take them down, so they chased short term happiness and ditched their lifelong stability. Whereas A did the hard things and achieved the opposite.



You are the master of your ship

There are two types of phenomena. First the ones you can control and second, the ones that you can’t. Stoics preach that you should control only the ones you can control, don't ruin yourself trying to control what is beyond your control. There’s no sense in lamenting the rainy weather, the driver in front of us, or a broken glass. These things already are, and fighting with them is fighting with reality.


In short, It does not matter what happens to us, what matters is how we react to it. Repeat that to yourself ! You and I are only responsible for our own happiness, I repeat again a stable life is a happy life. That is why the philosophers said “Know Thyself” and they really meant it. As a modern stoic student, you learn that only you can ruin your life and only you can refuse to let your inner self be conquered by whatever nasty challenge life throws at you.


It should really be a straightforward thing for us all to adopt a philosophy of life that offers guidance, direction, and a larger meaning to life. Without that map here’s a danger that despite all our good intention-ed actions we’ll run in circles, chase worthless things, and end up living an unfulfilling life full of emotional suffering, regrets, and frustration.


Nature is stoic

When you look at nature, you will find many instances that would make you believe that nature is stoic, like the concept of survival of the fittest, the fittest in the jungle survives rest perish. It means animals try to survive but they do not cling to life, they live in the present but how? Because they think about the dangers only when it approaches them, if a prey chases a deer it acts on the spot neither it makes plans for the future nor it learns from the past.


It is the thing which makes us different, we have tools for both reflecting and foresight. Half of our lives we are either stuck in the past, instead of reflecting and moving on or we worry about the future. Both the tools are for our betterment but we make them out limitations. Learn from nature, try to live in the present, learn from the past, and prepare for the future.


They prey lives in present


Stoicism is not being emotionless

Many people when they encounter the word ‘stoic’, they perceive the meaning which I mentioned in the beginning. This raises certain doubts in the minds of the readers that is it about being emotionless or being the tough dude like Thomas Shelby (Peaky Blinders reference here), a crime syndicate.


Thomas Shelby from Peaky Blinders


Stoicism contrary to many practices preaches to be a part of the society not the diametrically opposite end of it. In fact, it is being a part of society and at the same time belonging to yourself.


Your control of peace and happiness is with you not with society. You need a friend, a lover, a mentor just like others do, but if you don’t get one you don’t curse the universe for it, you acknowledge it because it was out of your control and you still have yourself. You mourn at the loss of a beloved, but you move on. You do not destroy your tranquility because they are no more but instead become tranquil because they are in your memories. I think this clears up a lot of misconceptions.


Be you, do good to others and yourself but never compromise on ‘the self’.

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