Well, I am thankful for the fact that as a general rule, I am not prone to getting sick. I generally enjoy pretty decent health (well, unless you count the sudden tendency my brain has to “reboot,” as my friend Darren terms my epilepsy 😀 ) and manage to avoid the things most people end up getting. However, the down side to that is when something DOES manage to overcome my antibodies, it gets me but GOOD.
The last few days have been just like that. Started out as a head cold, now has decided to up the ante on me and turn into body aches, a slight fever, and an overall feeling of “My kingdom for a drain plug in my sinuses!”
That cold, however, and the associated other ills we encounter in life, both large and small, got me to thinking about a book I am currently reading. The title is A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, written by William B. Irvine. Now, I can hear many of you saying “Wait..what? STOIC joy? Stoic? Isn’t that like Mr. Spock? Straight faced, no emotion, never show anything?” I hear you on that one, because that was, for most of my life, MY understanding of the term Stoic, and of Stoic ideals in general. Imagine my surprise, however, to find that that is not what Stoicism meant, in the classical sense. No worries, by the way; I am not going to go into an in depth discussion of the book and what it means, nor am I going to get into a deep discussion of philosophy. I will, however, do two things. First, I will encourage you to pick up a copy of the book, whether in physical form or on your e-reader of choice. I have found it to be engaging, easy to understand, and really a work that makes me, personally, stop and say “Huh…” and take a good look at what I believe and why. I believe it would do the same for you. Secondly, I’ll touch on some points about the book, and Stoicism, that stuck out to me. Ready? Ok – let’s go!
- Stoicism does not advocate eliminating emotions. It, instead, helps us understand how to not have our lives constantly upset and controlled, if you will, by negative emotions; emotions such as anger, fear, anxiety, jealousy. In many ways, I have found a striking resemblance to the form of therapy called REBT – Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy. It, too, deals with the reactions that we have to events around us and gives us the tools not to STOP those reactions, but instead to know what to do when we have them and stop allowing ourselves to be controlled BY them.
- Stoicism has many points that correlate with my own faith and views. (And, as the author points out, as it does with many other religious beliefs, as well as with the stance of those who are agnostic or may have no belief at all) Stoics believed in helping others and “loving mankind.” They believed, as the author says, in trying to achieve a tranquility in life, and to focus only on changing those things which we are capable of changing, instead of tilting at windmills, trying to change those things that are not in our power to do anything about. (Serenity Prayer, anyone?)
- Finally, Stoicism teaches an appreciation of the everyday things that all of us, myself included, tend to take for granted. For example, you the reader – were you grateful that you woke up this morning? That you have a home to live in? A computer or device on which to read this blog? Food to eat? Strength with which to either work or look for work? That point, I believe, has impacted me the most in my life. Whether it be from the simple act of praying before we eat – going from “something we do” to being genuinely grateful for the food we have and the time we have to spend together – to being glad for another day, even when I am sick as a dog, as I am today, the little things in life are worth celebrating and being thankful for.
I would encourage everyone reading this to pick up a copy of the book. I believe you will be glad you did. I know I am, even as I continue reading it and mining the nuggets from it, as it were, anew every day.
God bless today, my friend!