Stoic practice on autopilot.


So I found myself taking a Stoic approach today.  Every six months, my job hinges on a skills test.  I was getting a little stressed because I had some rust to shake off and the test was a new one.  But I had this thought, “I’m having anxious thoughts.  I’m entertaining feelings of stress. If I fail then I fail.  Nothing else.” 

And sort unbiddenly, I took a mental step back.  The thoughts and impressions were still there but on the outside and something I was “looking” at, and not something happening to me per se.

Anyway, it certainly felt like progress!

A Stoic rap? Sure, why not.


So a dear friend of mine sent me a video for a song which is more introspective, more important, than most popular music today is.  I watched the video and read the lyrics, and the poetry and content is moving and thought-provoking.

I felt moved to respond with what might be Stoic advice in kind.

The question about life is insane
It’s not the struggle, the hardship, the pain.
Humans are here, and we’re reasonable.
We’re here to find the truth, the logic; the main
Thing we need to see is virtue and vice.,
To know what’s good, what’s bad, we’re fraught for lack of advice.
But it isn’t heavenly reward,
so much as it’s our internal words
Where we can find, not rewind, what we’ve got to fill the time.
And our morals, our lessons, come from our minds.
It’s not divine, but it’s time to set aside the rhythm and rhyme.
To discover for ourselves, and not for fear of heaven nor hell.
It’s our nature, our fate, to reason and love, and sometimes to hate.
There’s nothing outside, but the universe is god, and the cosmos divine.
Seek to stand straight, not straightened. 
Sometimes we bend, we break, but our fate is the same, we’re waitin’
For some truth,  for nature, for god.

But we can’t see where we are, without the perspective,
Our natures are reflective, and not for god we’re awed, we stand and plod
through life without direction. 
But for men and women, we’re a collection of projections
Given no quarter other than what we find,
and the line is divine, to fill the time with prime, sublime


On Robbin Williams and Suicide


Suicide if undertaken for the right reasons is not an evil in Stoicism. Socrates committed suicide, Seneca also. However, if it’s merely a means of escape from your obligations and trials, it’s not virtuous.

Seneca wrote “The wise man will live as long as he ought, not as long as he can.”

But if your life has ripened, like a fruit, and is best at this moment, then plucking it is reasonable. Or if continued existence would destroy your moral or rational nature, a sagacious person might undertake it.

Epictetus: “The door is always open.”

What Dreams May Come

That being said, most folks are not in that position, and if someone is troubled and suicide is a thought they are entertaining, then they should probably ask for help, as we would be obligated to give it as we were able.  We do not know under what pain he was living, and it’s difficult to “armchair quarterback” his decision.  We can look at the context, and the social roles he had.  His children are adults, his family secure.  He did excellent work, and he struggled (not always, but sometimes successfully) with his demons and flaws.

I don’t think anyone undertakes Robin’s decision easily. I hope he finds some solace and relief in what may come after. I hope he knew the lightness of heart that he brought to many.

This is the advice I gave to some friends on Facebook:

When someone we are attached to leaves us, rather than lament at losing him or her, instead think that he has returned home.

We never possessed them, we merely borrowed them for a time. When the owner of something we’ve borrowed asks for it back, no matter how, we should return it with gladness for having experienced it.