Website updates

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You will still be able to view Mountain Stoic at the old https://mountainstoic.wordpress.com, but you can also view it (the same site) at https://mountainstoic.com .  This change is for a couple reasons, but the main one is while reading another philosopher’s site, I noticed an add for a politician that I would bet the author is diametrically opposed to at the bottom.

I have no idea what ads were previously being displayed on this site, a fact I find a touch disconcerting.  This site is in no way a money-making venture for me, but I do not like the idea of my readers being exposed to ads I cannot control, and thereby think I might be endorsing their content.

So, I’ve paid to have them removed from the site.

Thank you for your readership, interaction, and for walking this path with me for the past two and a half years.  I look forward to many more (now without annoying billboards).

— K.L. Patrick, the Mountain Stoic.

Summer Solistice, 2016

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Today, is either the summer or winter solstice, depending on your hemisphere of choice.  For us in the northern one, it’s the summer solstice.  You might ask, “Uh… so what?  That sounds like some hippie-dippie stuff.”

With a firm lack of general times and markers for practicing Stoics (we ain’t got holidays), the Society of Epictetus has chosen the solstices as times to set aside and for special note.  For the theists among us (for whom SoE might be of interest), it’s a time to ponder nature, God, the cosmos, and our place in it.

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Click picture for link to SOE Facebook page.

It also so happens that this year’s Summer Solstice also coincides with a full moon. Something that hasn’t happened since 1948, or so the internet tells me.  Just an interesting aside.

So, as a practicing Stoic:  how do you (if you do) plan to make use of this new tradition of ours?  Time spent out of doors with family?  Let me know in the comments.

Dolly Sods, WV.

CrashCourse: How does this happen?

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If you’ve watched any of the Crash Course (Philosophy) videos, they’re generally pretty good.  Except when they’re clearly not.  Either you have people basically ignorant of the subject matter writing for it, or people ignorant of the subject matter editing it, or both.  How else does this happen?

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“Ancient Stoic philosopher Epicurus…”

First someone should have said, “Wait… isn’t Epicurus the founder of Epicureanism?”  Then they should have read two Wikipedia articles.  /:

Stoicism.  Epicureanism.

Epicurus was not a Stoic, he was the founder of the Garden… of Epicureanism.  You can tell, you know, because of the spelling.

The physics and theology of the Stoics and Epicureans were diametrically opposed. The disjunction from Marcus Aurelius, “Providence or atoms,” distills it.

They are philosophical rivals:  virtue or pleasure, Providence or atoms, Heraclitus’ monistic physics versus Democritus’s atoms.  At nearly every point (except for relatively austere living) the Stoics and Epicureans are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

If I put out a video that said, “Ancient Confucian philosopher Siddhārtha Gautama…”  I’d probably catch some flak for it, wouldn’t you think?

Come on guys, basic investigation, basic fact-checking, and basic editing.

On emotions and habits

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Chrysippus is quoted by Galen and Cicero in making the following determination about fear.  The issue with fear is not that a present thing is evil but rather that an evil thing is present.

This is a very important distinction.  We may find ourselves amidst an emotion or passion, and try to coach ourselves that a present thing is indifferent.  But, and I think most of our experiences bear this out, often this kind of self-talk fails to ameliorate the impassioned state.

We are not likely to fix every passion in the moment this way.  This make sense when we look at the distinction presented above.  Since we are dealing with the impression that an evil thing is present we are dealing with old assents. 

These previous assents of which items or classes of items are good, evil, or indifferent have been built up and reinforced by us for decades.

What we are doing with the self-talk is very slowly building up new assents.  We’re changing our storeroom of classifies objects and classes.  We do this unit by unit, time after time.  It’s a slow and laborious process.

This is why the regimens of Musonius, Epictetus, and Marcus are firmly grounded in habit forming behaviors.  They knew that the change was not immediate.

We cannot (yet?) remember at every junction to reevaluate our goods, but we can build habits in the interim.

Non-optional Stoic Practice

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For the last week or so, I’ve had the opportunity to practice poverty.  My bank, unbeknownst to me, issued me a new debit card, and sent it to my permanent address which is about 1300 miles away from where I’m working.  I learned this when my card was declined at a restaurant.

So, for the last week, I’ve been waiting to get that card mailed to me.  In the interim, I’m pretty limited for funds and expenditures.  There’s enough food in the apartment, and enough cash for gas, I’m not ‘needy’ for anything currently. But this particular exercise is non-optional, and that’s changed things.

Even though ‘I have money,’  I can’t get to it from 1300 miles away.

And I’m learning something different than when I “chose” such exercises in the past.  Mainly, my concern about the state is greater.  I’ve noticed I’m quicker to anger over financial matters, and I’m worried about the state of things.

I injured my ankle, and the thought that I’d need to be seen by the doctor caused me some anxiety.  More so than I’m used to having about such things.

It’s clear to me that my progress on some of these issues is less than I would have speculated at a few weeks ago.  Part of the stress, I’m sure, is obligations I’ve chosen, others count on my support.  My ability to fulfill those obligations, however, is limited now by this situation.

It’s a good opportunity to re-evaluate my ‘goods’ and ‘evils.’  It’s an opportunity to separate the rhetoric from the reality.  So, despite the fact that I’ve been distressed, I’m trying to turn the situation into a useful philosophical exercise.

Moral of the story:  not all “practical exercises” are equal.

Thanks for reading!

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In this past two years, I’ve had over 7,000 readers who have viewed nearly 17,000 posts.  Thank you very much for your interest in Stoicisim, for making me a part of that, and for contributing to the blog.

Here’s a to a few more, eh?  (;
— The MountainStoic

On non-optional tests and trainings.

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ER Room

ER Room

I spent several hours in the emergency room yesterday after a car accident.  I’ve injured my back somewhat, but the extent to which it’s injured won’t be clear for weeks or even months.  My vehicle is likely totaled.

This presents a slew of logistical issues relating to finances, commuting, work, and physical pain as well.  I did become mildly overwhelmed at one point, as I stood in the soaking rain with a hurting back, staring at a large and expensive car-shaped paperweight.

Not my vehicle, but a similar level of damage.

Not my vehicle, but a similar level of damage.

However, after some time, I was able to gain some ‘cognitive distance’ from the impressions of my situation.  I reminded myself that I’ve chosen to live in a city of seven million people.  People who own cars may find themselves in accidents.  Cars cost money… and at the end of the day, it’s just money and just cars.

While I might find myself in a bit of pain, mild constantly, a medium to high peaks, these too are simply impressions.  They have no moral connotations, they have no effect on my ability to exercises well “what’s up to me” unless I let them.  In fact, this particular instance gives me the opportunity to test my progress in new, and reality-based ways.

Physical pain, and carlessness are real constraints on the way most of us live.  Tweaking our diets, clothes, studies, etc.:  these are gym-trainings.  Physical pain, and the like are  different sort: we don’t chose them, we’re presented with them.  In this way, they seem to fall into a different class of trainings.

trainOf course, every discipline starts in the controlled rigor of the gym or dojo or school.  Yet, if the student is ever to progress beyond student, those skills must then be tested out and about it in the world.

So, my back pain and I are venturing out into the world.