Stoicism, First Things First, The Power Of the Gods

The first principle of practical Stoicism is this: we don’t react to events; we react to our judgments about them, and the judgments are up to us. — Ward Farnsworth

All right, it’s time to get to the Stoic basics, again, cause they are so easy, so painfully easy, forgotten. 

Things happen in life. Some are good, and some are bad, but are they? Are they really? Are they good or bad in an ultimate way? Is the rain bad? Or is it bad for you? Because you wanted to go out with your friends? Or that girl from Bumble? What if someone in your city was hoping for some rain to shower his Begonia flower? Rain’s good for him. 

I get it, that is the classical silly example of the subjectivity of good and bad. But the Stoics were getting somewhere with this teaching. 

There is an amazing video by Jocko Willing, the US Marine. In the video, he claims that for every situation, you can always say the word “good”. 

You didn’t get into that college you wanted? Good, more freedom to live wherever you want. You can’t cook dinner because you ran out of gas? Good, you can practice fasting. This idea can even be comical. You lost your legs, good! No more leg days! 

Obviously a joke, but, you can see where this is going. You ARE able to say good, whenever, wherever. And this is tripping. Because, once you say good, your mind has to start looking about ways as to why that situation can be good indeed, and then work with that newly created reality. 

You create your own reality, that’s the idea. That is the idea that the Stoics want to throw out to the world. This is the freaking amazing power that Stoicism offers you. The power to choose how you take reality, as something good, or as something bad. They even compare it to a Godly power. 

Grief, then, is a recent opinion of some present evil, about which it seems right to feel downcast and in low spirits. Joy is a recent opinion of a present good, in response to which it seems right to be elated. Fear is an opinion of an impending evil that seems unbearable. Lust is an opinion about a good to come — that it would be better if it were already here. —  Cicero

In the end, you are free to choose your opinion. If you do not, you are neglecting your most basic right. You can say good, and live your life with that opinion. 

For what is weeping and wailing? Opinion. What is misfortune? Opinion. What is discord, disagreement, blame, accusation, impiety, foolishness? All these are opinions and nothing else. Epictetus

Recently, I fell in love. In a rush, with a Colombian girl, while visiting Colombia, I know, excuse the cheesiness. Everything was going amazing, and then, silence. She didn’t respond to my messages. I felt, naturally, discouraged. I felt dumb for having fallen so rapidly in love, and, even though I had other candidates in my view, I just couldn’t stop thinking about her. I tried to apply the Stoic advice, tell myself that I am responsible for my opinion, and tell myself that I don’t care. 

But that didn’t work. It doesn’t work that way. 

We cannot choose how to feel. That is an issue we stumble upon when we start applying the Stoic principle of opinion for the first time. We want to change how we feel, but we can’t. Feelings and opinions are related, yes, but they are not the same. Feelings are kind of born from opinion. They are opinion’s second thoughts, you could say. 

What you can do, is control your attitude. 

What I did, in this love case scenario, was admit I couldn’t change how I felt, but that that wasn’t something “bad”. Hey, I had a good time while it lasted, and I learned about girls. So, in a sense. 


However it happened, and however, I felt, GOOD! I am still alive and right now, I’m still fighting, still enjoying, still living. 

You see, I couldn’t change the feelings themselves, as if by magic, but when I changed my attitude towards it, my feelings began to change. When I changed my focus from “Oh, reality should be this way or the other” to “Good, let’s deal with reality as it is” I felt pretty fucking good, to be honest. 

An ancient Greek saying holds that we are tormented not by things themselves but by the opinions that we have of them. It would be a great victory for the re- lief of our miserable human condition if that claim could be proven always and everywhere true. 

For if evils have no means of entering us except through the judgments we make of them, it would then seem to be in our power to dismiss them or turn them to good. Montaigne

So there it is, my dear friend. The first Stoic lesson, the founding Stoic lesson. You hold your opinion, and you can always say, GOOD. 

Thanks for reading, 


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