Month: April 2019

Conquering Fears, Modern problems

Choices


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“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” 
― Epictetus


Say you are a graduate student, you’ve just come out of the hardest test you’ve done in your entire life. You are sure you are going to fail the exam for the simple reason that the night before you were not able to sleep due to your roommates having a big party which was so loud you couldn’t close your eyes in the entire night.

Now that you’ve come out of the exam you are ready to get home and release your mighty fury on your hungover roommates. As you get into the car you curse and curse and curse the other drivers and yourself and everything.

Then your phone starts ringing. It’s your professor.

Naturally, your answer with your best voice. -Hello Professor!

He goes on and tells you that your exam was a success, he just wanted to let you know.

What? Success? Oh great, well, thanks a lot professor.

Now, where did your anger go? It suddenly vanished away.

You are no longer angry, but you feel quite good about yourself actually, in fact, you might as well buy some beers for your roommate’s hangover!

What just happened here?

I’m sure it has happened to you sometime before. We can change our ways really quick when we need to do so, but, why do we only do it when it’s needed, and not whenever we wish? Cannot we do it whenever we want to? Just change our stance towards life and basically everything?

The answer is a blatant and obvious yes. You know this is true because you’ve experienced it before.

Why aren’t we always using that power? The power to have a cool head, to feel good or whatever?

A cool head and reason

The reason you let everything affect you is because you think that your old familiar ways of acting will get you what you want.

You are always choosing how to act and how to respond to any situation.

Another example.

You are driving through a rush hour in Mexico City’s traffic. You are mad, it’s been three hours since you left work and its now 11 pm. You are still stuck in traffic. Lights turn green, you start moving forward and Bang! A reckless asshole passed the red light and crashed straight into your car. Luckily you are good but now you have to call the insurance and spend at least three more hours stuck in there. You are furious and so you yell at him.

Then you might tell me, but it’s obvious that I’m going to yell at him! He is an asshole!

True, but think about this for a second. Would you say that due to you being angry, it’s just as obvious that you are going to stab him. I mean you were angry and you couldn’t help it!

That’s too extreme! you might say, but no, if we follow the same line of logic, it is basically the same thing. It’s just a matter of degree.

Same is true with everything, you are always choosing how to react and how to respond to anything in your life all the time. You might just no be aware of it.

But what happens when you are aware?

Etiology and Teleology

Everyone operates in one of these two:

Etiology.– the investigation or attribution of the cause or reason for something.

I yelled because he crashed into my car.

That’s etiology, simply put. Everything you do is because of something, you are not really the cause of anything but rather the effect. You can blame your parents or your upbringing or whatever.

Teleology .- the explanation of phenomena in terms of the purpose they serve rather than of the cause by which they arise.

I yelled at him, but I didn’t stab him, of course, I can control myself that’s why I did not.

Simply put, that’s teleology, your capacity to decide how to respond to any given situation.

Stoicism is a teleological philosophy.

The problem is that you can live in either of these two realities, on your own choosing, the difference is the personal power that differentiates teleology from etiology of course.

Becoming aware

Becoming aware of this simple truth is that you are always choosing and you always have the capacity to do so.

The past does not really matter in the decisions you are taking right now. It’s on you if you keep letting the past make decisions for yourself in every moment.

In the past, you’ve lived your life in certain ways. Some things worked and some others simply not. When you do anything enough times, they become habitual and familiar and that is why you keep being the way you are, unconsciously, you are doing it because you are thinking it is good for you. But is it? Is it good to continue driving a beat up car just because you are too familiar with it?

Where in your life are you hanging to the past? Are you able to make a simple choice to be/do act however you want right now?

Try it now, just make a choice on anything. It’s your choice, it’s always been.

Want to read some more: Humility

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Conquering Fears, Modern problems, philosophy, Reflections, Self development

Stoic Paradigms


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“Those who never change their minds, never change anything.”― Winston S. Churchill

paradigm.- a framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by a community or a person.

Knowledge and understanding are always evolving, just like everything else.

Today I want to talk about your understanding of stoicism. Stoicism helps anyone in the sense that it functions as a pair of glasses through which you can see reality more accurately.

“I was blind and now I see.”

That’s exactly how I felt the first time I read Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations and I have to say that I got hooked like a drug addict. I had never thought about myself or reality in the way the stoics narrated in their different teachings.

It completely changed and replaced my paradigm, my way of thinking, from blaming outside circumstances to working on the only thing I could work really on myself. I thought that my understanding of stoicism was going to be complete after reading Seneca’s and Epictetus’s work. I was blatantly wrong. Obviously.

Stoic, beginning

Maybe you will relate to this. When I first started practicing stoicism, I felt I had to take a serious posture and attitude towards life, soldierly-like. Life was serious and I had to be “realistic” about it, no time for jokes. Hard to think about joking with concepts like:

  • Memento Mori: realize that you are going to die and live each day with that thought in your head.
  • Premeditatio Malorum: Rehearse them in your mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck. All the terms of our human lot should be before our eyes.”— Seneca

Stoicism can feel pretty negative and terrible when you first start studying it. But, to be honest, I think most of us arrive into stoicism knowing that life is not all roses, it feels very real and it makes absolute sense. Life is not all colors, during life, we are going to suffer a lot.

So, in this sense, stoicism seems to be a kind of painful acceptance to the facts of reality, a kind of surrender to our situation.

But was that all? A serious life without jokes? Certainly not.

Understanding paradigms

Stephen Covey narrates in his book “The 7 habits of highly effective people” with tremendous accuracy how our understanding of stoicism works.

It’s impossible to know reality completely. Understanding the immense complexity of the university is simply impossible. There are many things you don’t know and there are far more other things that you don’t know you don’t know. Therefore, it’s pretty conceited to think that what you know at any given point in your life is how things really are, they are certainly not. Our paradigms are the maps we use to navigate through reality and they are almost always wrong. We can only hope to be less and less wrong with time but know this, perfection is unattainable, and that is good. In fact your maps, your paradigms can be tremendously wrong, to the point of not being able to take you where you want to go.

The same is true with your understanding of Stoicism. There are many ways, paradigms, maps with which you can understand stoicism. Funny hey?

Stoicism, moving forward.

If you keep reading and practicing stoicism, you will stumble into a new and a better understanding of it. This evolving understanding will never stop, just like the quest for perfection never will either. You can only come closer and closer to better truths.

Stoicism can be related to a disgustingly tasting spoonful of medicine. It certainly tastes horrible, but you will feel better afterward, medicine is what the sick need.

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” ― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

You see life, to be fully lived, needs to be seen through better and better glasses. Life will require you to update your views constantly.

Stoicism can feel heavy at first, too much “real, oh too real” information to deal with. But once you accept your reality and situation, you are free again, free to move in the more accurate version of reality you now possess in your hands, without wishful thinking.

Free to love as much as you can, free to laugh as much as you can and adding to all that, prepared for any future adversity you will encounter.

You will meet it with a light heart and a light mind. Look at the eagle, makes it look easy right? That’s the paradigm you want.

“He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.” ― Epictetus

Want to read some more: Liberty or death

Subscribe and receive for free the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.

Subscribe here

Don’t forget to visit our shop, carefully curated. ShopVisit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.