“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.
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.
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
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