Speaking of Stoicism

by Jon Sullivan - 2021-06-30

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Now that we have lots of the horror cleaned up - Trump reduced to hosting flat earth conventions, Covid wiped out by vaccines, homelessness and social safety net sorted. Must be time to work on the meaning of life thing.

Just kidding. The USA is perma screwed as a coherent county. We're pretty much doing the Salem witch trials all over again, this time with Satanic deep state pedophiles taking over our pizza shops. The three branches of government and balance of powers ideals are a tiny dot in the rearview mirror. The socialized medicine that works everywhere else is unlikely to even matter here while we think demon sperm causes Covid and vaccines cause you to become magnetic. Don't get me started on the new laws banning history and voting.

Fine. Whatever. I'm too old and fat to lead the revolution of justice, truth and science we need around here. We're post truth and nothing is going to change that in my lifetime. Stressing out over it is pointless. But I do need to run the clock out on life, and it might be a good time to work out a personal philosophy that can comfort me as it all crumbles.

A personal philosophy and belief system hasn't ever been a high priority for me. But through my life it's sort of been a combination of - Trust science, life has no inherent meaning but you should give it one, and life is pain. Sort of Sartre's whole "existence precedes essence" thing, but more science-y, with a huge dollop of anger and pessimism. I wish I could say I took it all very seriously and led a life of deep thoughts and self-reflection. I really didn't. I wish I could say it led me to be a good person. It didn't. I found the world to be absurd and dark. Existence itself constantly trying to kill me. Fellow humans brimming with contempt. Even the best life nothing but a briefest moment in a universe slowly expanding itself to nothing. Not really Nihilism. Maybe a little Nihilism.

But here I am an old man, certain to die before too long. I guess now is the time to actually work it out. What's the meaning of life? What is the value of my thoughts and intentions? Should I care about a legacy? What about a radical transformation that brings me to God? Do good and evil exist or are they just different perspectives? If I have all my faith in science does that even leave room for a personal philosophy? What is happiness? What is regret? Does free will exist? Can you waste your life? How do you not?

I always found classic Stoicism to be very interesting. The idea that reason can define virtue. The idea that virtue is happiness. The idea that to live in virtue is to understand what you control and what you don't, and to not depend on things you don't. The idea that virtue makes us self-sufficient such that happiness can't be taken away. In short, that you should not tie your happiness to things you can't control. If one could maintain that state of virtue they would be calm in the face of chaos, and joyful in the face of tragedy.

One of the obvious problems here - If you are joyous in the face of tragedy, doesn't that make you a shitty person? If you ignore things you can't control, don't you ignore things like racism and cruelty? The Stoic answer would be that virtue doesn't allow you to ignore injustice or suffering. Virtue comes first.

"What brings no benefit to the hive brings none to the bee" - Marcus Aurelius.
Said another way - "Constantly think of the universe as a single living being, comprised of a single substance and a single soul; and how all things issue into the single perception of this being, and how it accomplishes all things through a single impulse; and how all things work together to cause all that comes to be, and how intricate and densely woven is the fabric formed by their interweaving" - Marcus Aurelius

As Babymetal would say, "We are the one". Or was that Groot.....

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