Conquering Fears, Modern problems, Self development, Stoic advice


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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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Self development, Uncategorized


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“Given the smallest excuse, one will not work at all,” John Steinbeck steinbeck

This was written by John Steinback, Literature Nobel prize, on his diary pertaining to the creative process. Sounds familiar? It certainly does to me.

Today, especially, I felt the painful neglect in my entire being towards getting up, complete the morning routine and getting off to work.

This problem is as old as human civilization. To get past it, there are a few things we need to understand.

Your work, your most valued gift. 8d0213fd171c553b0da0f98b856d050d

Our work makes us human. It is what differentiates us from the other species on the planet. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi wrote in his book flow:

When you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, remember that your defining characteristic— what defines a human being — is to work with others. Even animals know how to sleep. And it’s the characteristic activity that’s the more natural one — more innate and more satisfying.

When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.

Is helping others less valuable to you? Not worth your effort?

There are few things more attracting than this state of flow in which we forget ourselves with our art. We are literally “one” with what we are doing. It’s just magnificent.

Your work is unique as well. There is no other person on the planet that has gone through your experiences nor there is anyone who has the exact same inclinations as you do, therefore, whatever interest that you have is unique.

Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony.
The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray.  Ralph Waldo Emerson 

It is indeed our duty to work on what most interests us for the fact that none other can manage to offer something similar.

Work, a process of discovery


The work I’m talking about here is the work that is done by itself, the one that draws you toward it, the one with which you feel meaning.

I’m not saying that you should know what that is, it can be quite hard to find it, the answers never come easy, this is why, finding this type of work, your type of work, is hard because it is a process of discovery.

But you have to start or you will never fulfill your duty of sharing with the world your most valuable gift.

Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself that work its part of our very nature as human beings:

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

marcusaureliusThe mighty emperor of Rome struggled through the same problems you and I face today. He continues:

So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you.

I still have to make a living.


True, the path to greatness is all but simple, in fact, it’s going to be hard, physically and psychologically.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”

I want to tell you the story about Carlos. Carlos lives in Mexico City’s poorest and most dangerous zones, Tepito. He has a family and he is a very hard worker, he works as a constructor, he works very hard physically every day. He gets up at 5 am because he has to commute for 2 hours to get to work, he toils the entire day until 6 pm when he gets back to his home in the annoyingly crowded underground, he gets home by 8pm and he is completely exhausted, completely obliterated.

He hates his job. It robs him from time with his family and friends and it is taking a toll on his health as well but he has no other option and he has to keep working to feed his family. He hasn’t grabbed a book since high school and he feels stuck like there is no way out.

This is the situation of sadly, a lot of people on earth.

The hardest part to accept is that Carlos has a unique gift to offer and it’s not very likely he will share it with the world. The second hardest part is that, although he is in a terrible situation, it still is his duty, his responsibility to find a way into his true work, the work with meaning.

Meaning, fuel.

Carlos may think that there is no way out of his situation but there is. He just has to find it.

Give a man a strong enough why and he will bear any how. Friederich Nietzsche

It will certainly be hard and gruesome and painstakingly difficult but he has to start on his way, because if not:

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

― Seneca the Younger

Just following the tiniest spark of inspiration and feed it, every day, grind and grind until he first discovers what his gift is and then finds a way to fit it into our economy. Once he starts to figure out what this is, the gruesome work will be seen as a platform for his true work and he will do it knowing that he is working towards something.

But he has to start and this is what every Carlos in the world needs to realize. It’s on him, not on anyone else.

Carlos needs to Enjoy the painful process of learning

Now get to work.

I advise you complement this with a meditation from Maria Popova.

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

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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.