Stoic advice

Conquering Fears, Modern problems, Self development, Stoic advice

Curiosity


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“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

A few years ago, a professor I  really admire told me one thing I’ll better never forget. He said that the day your curiosity dies, you could consider yourself dead.

Yeah, you can actually be dead and still breath and appear to be a normal human being.

If I’d told you that I’m going to give you all the money you’d need to buy anything you want for the rest of your life, also every personal quality, like courage or equanimity, everything you thought you’d ever need, right now, would you take it?

There are two kinds of people in this world.

boatThe heroes, the explorers, the adventurers, and the dreaded and despicable, Philistines.

There is just one difference between the two of them, and that is curiosity. 

Let me tell you a little story.

When I was young, in elementary school, I wanted to build a spaceship. I couldn’t picture in my mind the impossibility of the project coming to life, I thought I just needed to make a good plan, gather knowledge, resources and get busy working on it. I mean, if somebody else has done it, why can’t I?

When I encountered my friends and invited them to my darling little project, I was found with two groups, the ones that thought it possible who said why not, and the second group who started laughing and shaming the ones that said why not.

Not caring about the annoying laughter, I gathered the good fellas and we started planning the trip to space. We divided goals and work but unfortunately, we didn’t finish it. One thing I can tell you, we had a terrific time.

Later, in high school, I got my first chemistry class. Around that time, the big questions started roaming through my teenage head and I started to feel immense wonder and curiosity about life, I remember I used to think for the first time: Why the fuck am I here? What is this? Who am I, like really?

One day, during the chemistry class, we started talking about the matter, and what it is made of. We started talking about the body and how the body is made of organs and how every organ is composed of cells, and how every cell is composed of tiny organelles like the mitochondria and the Golgi apparatus.

By that moment, I started questioning myself how far could you go?

My intelligent professor stopped at the organelles of the cell to move to another topic. I 1_am3GIZPbuUdquqevVFQqUgraised my hand and asked him what were the organelles made of, he told me that they were made of even tinier particles named DNA and RNA, amazing. I then asked him what were those things made of, he proceeded to tell me that they were made of atoms, obviously, I asked him what were those things made of and at this point, I could see the anger rising in his face, and he asked me if I was mocking him.

I answered no nervously, and he told me to shut up, literally.

I’ll never forget that moment. His insecurities interfered with my sincere curiosity, what a great man.

I’m older now, I can smell philistines from miles. They are petty and scornful, they irradiate bitterness and negativity, they are pestilent with fear, and they hide in what is “socially acceptable”, they are quite boring, but in the end, they are just scared creatures. They usually tell you why you can’t do something: There is a lot of competition, you are too old, you are too young, you know, the usual uninspiring shit. Do you know of any philistines?

“Why does man accept to live a trivial life? Because of the danger of a full horizon of experience, of course. This is the deeper motivation of philistinism, that it celebrates the triumph over possibility, over freedom. Philistinism knows its real enemy: freedom is dangerous. If you follow it too willingly it threatens to pull you into the air; if you give it up too wholly, you become a prisoner of necessity. The safest thing is to toe the mark of what is socially possible.” 
― Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

It’s easier following the norm and what is socially acceptable, it’s easier to kill yourself while still living if you get me. It’s easier to become a copy of a copy of a copy.

oyg9xsvbj9l11Understandable though, there is a reason why the philistines choose this easier road. It’s already established and easy to follow and especially, one it is one in which you will not get lost.

In comparison, the adventurer that follows his curiosity is bound to get lost or hurt and surely,  of being mocked by the Philistines and his dreaded “I told you”.

There is no safe road in life, take the road of the philistine and you’ll be dead inside in a while, take the road of the adventurer and you will get lost and hurt but at least you will live.

The books of history don’t mention any philistine.

The philistines choose to follow the comfort of a normal life. The adventurer chooses challenges and struggles, sweat and dirt.

When a person gets asked, what do you want?

It’s easy to say you want money, great sex and all the usual, what’s harder is to ask yourself what are you willing to suffer for? What challenge is so great and admirable that are you willing to take your chances? What ignites your curiosity the most?

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.” 
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca, On the Shortness of Life.

Really, it’s just a simple decision. The decision to follow even the tiniest spark of curiosity you have within you.

what pain are you willing to sustain? what price are you willing to pay?

When you go out on an adventure, you don’t know what you are going to find, that is why it is an adventure. That is why you become an explorer, but you have to start, meaning is found in the act of discovery, of chasing one’s curiosities. There are going to be terrible monsters of the mind of the world and of the soul, but you will actively look to defeat them and become better for it.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 
― Theodore Roosevelt

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Modern problems, Reflections, Self development, Stoic advice

Get your hands dirty


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I love this quote: Getting straight to business. 

When I’m cleaning my house I like to start with the dirtiest part. If the obstacle is the way, well, then, the biggest obstacles should be addressed first right? Like the restroom or the kitchen.

It’s so obvious.

An old fashioned bedroomIf you start with the hardest part, everything else will be easier but often the dirtiest parts are what we avoid the most. We are afraid of getting our hands dirty, but we all know that we must do it eventually.

I have a problem with positivity.

It repels the negative aspects as if they were the plague, ruining our relationship with the negative, which can be in fact, really beneficial. Let me give you an example.

A dirty house is not pretty, at all, in fact, it can go as far as to become repugnant.  We could say that a repugnant thing is totally negative, but, it also indicates what needs the most work. The more hideous a house is, the more it is yelling to be cleaned, the more it is yearning to be worked upon.

The house, obviously, is an analogy for your life.

We tend to hide from the negative, from the dirt in our lives by focusing on “being positive” instead of addressing the obvious wrecks that need to be addressed and cleansed. We tend to avoid those hard conversations that need to happen, also debt or going to the doctor for the general checkout afraid something not so good is going to appear on the tests. This is just plain dirt in our lives.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

― Marcus Aurelius

The negative is good because it lets you know where you need to work on. I say is better to get your hands dirty and instead of being positive about life, use the negative as a compass, focus on what you can control and get to work. When I’m cleaning up a mess, I’m not smiling, I’m just working, and after I’m done I feel so much better.

I’m not claiming positivity is inherently bad. It can be amazing if you don’t use it to hide from the negative. 

What you focus on expands

True. If you focus on where you want to go, you are going to get there but you must act do not forget that to get there, you have to get your hands dirty. Make that call, clean that room. Be uncomfortable. And use positivity the right way, have a good old grin while you’re cleaning yourself up.

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Complement this blog post with the power of responsibility. 

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Support Stoic Answers

Stoic answers is committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious stoic contemporary thinking. No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the great ancient Stoics and contemporary knowledge, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

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