Reflections

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

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Reflections, Self development, Stoic advice

The dramatic age


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We live in the era of the fabulous, have you noticed?

Open Instagram and see for yourself. Everyone is having a blast, Red Bull guys doing humanely impossible feats anyone hardly imagine himself doing. Marriages, parties, traveling, and smiling faces everywhere you look. It’s just marvelous, stupendous, glorious.

But not just that, look at the news, they are just as entertaining. The world is moving so quick! Everything seems like a movie right now, so dramatic. It’s really hard not to lose yourself in all these drama play of the fabulous.

And then, there is your life. Feels, weirdly, too normal in comparison to the fabulous lives doesn’t it? Too Quotidian.

“All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.” 
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

With all these buzz going around, it’s hard to stop for a moment and think about your life and who do you want to be in it. We are too distracted.

Ironically, stopping and reflecting about your life is, arguably, one the most important and frequent attentions you have to put in it.

With so many stupendous ways of life being portrayed at you 24/7. It’s hard stop for a moment and think about the things that truly matter to you, not to the dumb masses.

It’s relatively easy to just believe that you want the same things everyone else wants, but deep down, you know this is not true.

Say, would you like to be as extreme as one of the Red Bull guys, but, if you really want that, you have to be aware that the probabilities of dying prematurely are quite high in that career. It’s too easy to see the glory, happiness and amazement in everything. You don’t see however, the struggle and the hardships, which are the things that make anything possible. All of those are not shown on Instagram or Facebook.

More than asking, what do I want out of life, you should ask:

What am I willing to suffer for?

What things are so damn important to me, that I’m really willing to put in the hours, face the inevitable failures and still have the will to keep going?

Those are the questions that are going to give you the chance of actually being something worthy.

But we are too busy daydreaming about the too-easy-to-want-lives of Instagram stars. Too busy to reflect on what you really want for yourself. And if you keep doing this daydreaming long enough, you will end up not really knowing what you want.

“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.” 
― Seneca the Younger

The oldest advice on earth, know thyself. But how the hell are you going to know yourself if you are more worried about other people than you?

The era of the dramatic

Everything seems to happen in one big, dramatic event. Just like in Hollywood. We are all waiting for the next candidate to step into power and change everything as soon as he gets elected, or at least that’s what they promise (because that is what we want to hear). Or meeting the love of your life one evening and falling in love forever or maybe jumping from an airplane to save the entire world from destruction. One choice, that’s it.

See, that is the problem with Hollywood. A movie has 2 hours or 3 tops to show everything it needs to show. You cannot see years in the movie, you don’t see the day to day life, you don’t see people going to take a pee every now and then, or sitting at their desk’s working for hours on end. Everything is dramatic, it’s always one big thing that changes everything.

I don’t think I have to tell you that that is not real life.

Back in the real world. We wake up, go to the restroom go through our daily routines and end the day, almost every day, with nothing terribly dramatic happening.

Movies are great, I certainly enjoy watching a good movie but the problem begins when you start thinking about your life like how you think about movies. Waiting for some dramatic change to happen.

The reality is that in real life, nothing happens dramatically, nothings happens if you don’t make it happen, absolutely nothing, nada, zero. Life just keeps going without you really participating in it.

But becoming someone you consciously choose to be and acting upon it? Ah, now we are talking, that’s truly worthwhile, but, as Seneca so well put it:

“Non est ad astra mollis e terris via” – “There is no easy way from the earth to the stars” 
― Seneca

Change takes time, lots of it. This reminds me of the tale of the two frogs.

One day, two frogs where humping around when they saw a farm and decided to go exploring. When they got there, they encountered a bucket that smelled great. They decided to get inside of it too see it for themselves. This brother-frogs where milk-lovers and the bucket was full of it! Drinking as much as they could they were now full and sleepy so they decided to get out, but, to their dismay, they realized it was too easy to hop in but now they couldn’t get out. They started to paddle, frantically. After a while, one of the frogs, said to his brother: I’m done, oh brother, there is no way we will ever make it out of here alive. The brother urged him to keep paddling although he wasn’t sure paddling would do anything to change their situation. The brother gave up and let himself sink into the milk, and drown himself. But his brother continued to paddle desperately, with tears in his eyes and after an hour, just when he was about to give up he touched something solid. The milk had become butter! He hopped out, turned back to mourn his brother and thank god for coming out alive and went back to his pond where he became a wise king.

We, just like the frogs need to learn to paddle as well.

In an age were everything seems to be quick and mighty, you need to learn the power of small, consistent, everyday action. Learn to appreciate it and to love it, because it is in those daily actions where you are going to live most of your life and it is in those daily small actions that greatness is slowly but surely brewed.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.” 
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Becoming who you want to be may seem far away right now, but it’s just a matter of starting and putting in those tiny daily actions that may seem worthless and it just too easy to give up. But glory awaits those that keep going, just like the frog.

Change those happen, gradually, consistently and it is made of all those tiny daily choices you make day to day. Don’t shun them as unimportant because they are not. Everything you do matters. Keep that in mind with everything you set your mind to.

Want one simple formula for bravery? One simple formula for bravery.

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