SW2013 End-Questionnaires


For Stoic Week 2013, there are several questionnaires designed to be taken before and after the project.
These surveys were actually closed by the time I got to the last of them, since I did the project out of step with the intended timeframe.  C’est la vie, n’est pas?


So, instead I will take this time to discuss my thoughts on the Stoic Week.  I think it was a good exercise, and I can see how valuable it would be to someone very new to Stoic thought.  There was something in the manner that I did not quite prefer, something a little “touchy feely” in the tone.  This did not detract from the value of the experiment however.

While I was doing this project, I also began working with the New Stoa group, and entered their SES course, which seems to be more academically orientated than is Stoic Week.  This is good for two reasons: my skills and mindset bend towards the academic, but my desires for Stoicism lean to the practical.  I think this produced in me a more balanced approached.

I hope that Stoic Week does a 2014 iteration in the fall, and I look forward to participating more fully then.

SW2013 Day 7: Sunday


The View from Above.

“A fine reflection from Plato. One who would converse about human beings should look on all things earthly as though from some point far above, upon herds, armies, and agriculture, marriages and divorces, births and deaths, the clamour of law courts, deserted wastes, alien peoples of every kind, festivals, lamentations, and markets, this intermixture of everything and ordered combination of opposites.”
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.48

The exercise can be downloaded and followed here [LINK].

SW2013 Day 5: Friday


Today’s exercise is on the praemeditatio futurorum malorum, or premeditation of future evils.

1. Situation. Not being able to find or get a new job when I’m ready to move on from current one.
2. Emotions. Produces a strong sense of helplessness, of being stuck.  Ineritial.  (85%)
3. Duration. Not too long, about 2 and a half minutes.
4. Consequence. It was reduced, probably to 40%.
5. Analysis. I thought about it, and it’s not really that awful.  I’m not up against a hard deadline, and this job affords me lots of time to do things (like this) which are important to me.


SW2013 Day 4: Thursday


Today’s exercise is on Mindfulness.

“It is not the things themselves that disturb people but their judgements about those things.”
— Epictetus (Handbook 5)

I found today’s passage a helpful reminder.  I have previously been exposed to these ideas of treating our thoughts and emotions as things we have, and not as ourselves-proper.  I remember being a bit younger, and the idea rankled me somewhat.  I didn’t quite understand it, and I didn’t want to accept it.  If I’m not these things than what I am?  I’m still not sure I have the answer, but the question bothers me less.

I was talking with a good friend of mine, who on the occasion of his thirtieth birthday found himself pensive on the ideas of aging and progress.  We talked, and I noted that although I’ve aged, I can’t really note a difference in my thought-processes.  I look back, and the years and numbers seem arbitrary.  My thoughts and self seem the same.  I then appended, it with, “well, my mind is … quieter than it was when I was younger.”

He agreed and said that it was a poignant note.

In some ways, that makes it easier to focus on Stoic Mindfulness.  My mind seems quieter, calmer than it did 10 years ago.
I think that’s a good thing.

SW2013 Day 3: Wednesday


Today is about the Stoic Reserve Clause and action.  The Stoic position of acceptance or fatalism holds a seeming paradox in that we might expect the Stoic philosopher to be passive,  a mere victim to the whim of the world.  However both recorded history and the writings of these men prove the opposite.

Since our main chore is differentiating between those things which are under our control and those which are not, what we do after is sometimes not as focused upon.

It’s better to say we accept those things which we cannot control, and we try for more perfect control of those things which we may.

We should still for our very best, but this is merely a preference,  the outcome is usually an indifferent.

A timely anecdote:  today I have off work, and it’s my habit to take a long and relaxing bath in my free time.  Unfortunately,  I don’t have a bathtub at my apartment,  so I often make use of the one at my parents’ house.

Today, I had just arrived to take my bath when a friend called me with a problem at his house.  I experienced a momentary disappointment at havgin my plans twarted, but quickly set to thinking on it instead.

The absolute worst that could happen is that it could become an all day affair, and I wouldn’t get a bath today.  I have backpacked often, and at times went a whole week without a proper bath or shower.  One day wouldn’t kill me.  But what was more likely was that I would help my friend, and merely take a bath later in the day.

I also experienced then a momentary cheering up feeling, for getting to practice acceptance, as well as getting to help out my friend.

All in all, I did eventually get my bath, accepted the change in my schedule preference,  and was able to help a friend.

Additionally,  my mood is often turned for the worse by such changes, and the exercise today helped to keep that from happening.

SW2013 Day 2: Tuesday


Today’s exercises are about Self-Discipline & Stoic Simplicity.

In the summers of my early teenage years, I would often stay at a rather ascetic monastery.  One where most of the day was spent in silent contemplation.  I enjoyed the environment quite a bit.

It’s funny, how we drift away sometime from the foundations of youth, yet often find ourselves pulled back there.  I have been trying off and on with some success to make healthier choices.  Today’s passage discussed the sort of regimes that the Stoics would sometimes adopt.

I think I’ll use this opportunity to get back onto my eating and exercise routines.  If you’re interested, follow this link to learn about Tim Ferriss and the Slow Carb diet.

I’ll use some time this evening to cook foods in advance for the coming days, I find this is a good use of time, and allows for easier food-choices when things are already prepared.

SW2013 Day 1: Monday


Today’s mindfulness activity is about a situation which occurred, and divining what is in our control and what is not.  I’m going to go through that process now with the help of the Handbook.  It begins by answering a few questions.

1.   What’s the situation?
A semi-annual qualification was sort of sprung on us at work early, with less than a week to alter the schedule to accommodate all the workers’ participation and duty schedules.  A supervisor at work denied my schedule change, I then had  to do on which my job hinged after a 12-hr shift, having had a turn-around shift the night before (only 8 hours between shifts, 45 min commute each way).  When it came time for the qual, I only did the bare minimum to pass.  I had only had 5 hours of sleep in the previous 40 due to the duty schedule.  I was angry at myself for doing poorly, I was angry at my supervisor for “screwing me.”  The supervisor could have switched my coworker’s schedule with any of the other 18 employees, but it was easiest for him to deny my schedule change, which I had organized myself, and give it to the coworker who did not have one yet.
2.   How much control do you have over the situation as a whole (0-100%)?
3.  Why isn’t it 100%? What aspects don’t you have direct control over?
  Over whether the change was accepted I had no control.  I could have quit as a result, but that would have been unreasonable.
4.  Why isn’t it 0%? What aspects do you have direct control over?
I had very little control over the situation.  I exercised almost all of my control by trying to get a schedule change, filling out the proper paperwork, and submitting it a week in advance.
5.  What would happen if you made a conscious effort to adopt a more Stoic attitude towards this situation by completely accepting things beyond your control, and taking full responsibility for things under your control?
I would have likely been less angry, I might have been able to focus better on my quals since I wouldn’t have had these thoughts on mind, and thereby done better.  I would likely have been happier at work the previous and following day, since I wouldn’t have been nursing hurt feelings.