A few New Year’s Eve thoughts about Stoicism. Like you do.
So I had a discussion today about Stoicism (like you do) and I got into it with someone who thinks Stoicism as a philosophy means cultivating an absence of emotion. That’s not what it means.
Gene Roddenberry thought that’s what it meant, and then he created Spock, so maybe that’ll work for you if you want to go there.
But it’s actually a lot like Buddhism, only with a lot less mysticism if you ignore the fact that Epictetus would mention Zeus and shit. Basically, they both teach about mastering your inner world because you can’t master the outer world.
Stoics taught that nature was all one and so were we, with God. And the Buddhists taught that nature was all one, and so are we, in a living continuum.
Stoicism doesn’t teach that there is no good or bad in life, it teaches that by freeing yourself of imprudent passion, you reason your way through these events with the understanding that most things aren’t good or bad, they just are. And that one’s happiness is an inner mode and not the product of outer circumstance. The outer world is unstable and unreliable, but our inner world doesn’t have to be.
Stoic Apatheia simply means “peace of mind”, similar to Buddhist “nirvana”.
Stoics aren’t free of emotion. Stoics have lingering scars just like everybody else. They’re just telling you not to pick at that scab or it won’t heal. It’s not the experience that gets to you in the end, it’s the memories of the experience. If you can gain mastery over the memory, you master the experience.
If you have the tools to do so, then be the sculptor your life.
So, there you go. Gene Roddenberry got it wrong, but Spock is a great character, and there’s my New Year’s Eve post, which, I think, beats a resolution list.