Stoicism: On Livelihood



Assurance and Care

There is a recognised principle in Stoicism about assurance and carefulness; Be self-assured about all that is outside your will and attentive and careful with everything within your faculty of reason. Understand, if the wicked and unpleasant is subject to the will, care is necessary. On the other hand, if everything outside your power is unimportant, those affairs can be set about with complete assurance since you are incapable of dictating them. Being vigilant in opposition to immorality, you tackle matters that are not inherently wrong in a confident frame of mind, this is essentially a stoic application. There is an old saying that goes; “When deer are frightened by the feathers, they seek safety in the hunters’ nets.” In other words, the deer confound devastation with shelter and as a result, suffer an untimely passing. Generally speaking, terror troubles us with regards to circumstances that are not within our control, yet we take action in an assertive attitude in affairs conditional on the will under the supposition that they are of little significance, in contrast. Whether you act flagrantly and with unrestrained sexual desire or reckless and irresponsible, no part of it is a nuisance to you so long as you have a favourable outcome in transactions outside your will. Demise, deportation, suffering; under such conditions, you will uncover the urge to grow fearful, anxious and evasive.

One would presume that when fallacy takes into account the things of the most considerable significance, your unprocessed assuredness will be corrupted into impulsiveness and recklessness. At the same instant, your terror and anxiety are swapped, as it were, trading your natural prudence and reticence for diffidence and hesitancy. The faculty of avoidance is brought about by handing over carefulness and vigilance to the faculty of the will. Conversely, if you aim it towards what is outside your faculty of will and not your liability, you will inevitably encounter distress and uncertainty. Consider, dying and suffering are not horrifying, it is your terror associated with demise and agony that you should dread. You see, death is not terrible but dying a weakling certainly is. Find assurance in death, then, and be heedfully aware of the terror you attach to it. Socrates described such horrors as ‘hobgoblins of the mind and for good reason. In the same way, facades frighten little ones because they are unknown and foreign to them, so do we respond to occurrences in a comparable manner and for quite the identical ground.

Above all, an infant is merely innocent and uneducated and any judgement on his part is more likely to be grounded in the imaginative faulty than reality. Death is nothing more than a spine-chilling mask, it is only when you can see through the veil that you let go and unwind, letting life unfold as it would like. In the end, your physical form and spirit must part ways, returning to that identical condition prior to your emergence. There really is no disturbance whether it happens now or the subsequent future, for it is inescapable. You might ask “why should it happen now, why not later?” If you take a stoic attitude towards such an inquiry, it is simply to attune to the cyclical nature of life since existence demands for things to cross the threshold both now and in the time ahead. Except, an important distinction must be made here, as the future also unfolds in the present moment. Therefore, past and future are only delusions of reality envisaged in the present.

There will be times where your body will be racked with pain, but know also that alleviation and respite always inevitably follow, for what goes down must always come up and vice versa. If you find life to be intolerable, the door always stands unobstructed. It is your choice; accept it or depart. Nobody in a condition of perpetual terror and anxiety is liberated, in the same way, anyone who has reached reassurance from misery gradually releases himself from such continual apprehension. The understanding of what should be regarded with assuredness or carefulness is crucial; assuredness for what is outside your power and carefulness for what is within your power. In this way, you know you will not let down your desires or undergo the undesirable since you do not crave what is in opposition to the natural course of events.

Battling Impressions

There’s this Stoic idea; if you like doing something, do it consistently. If you don’t like doing something, substitute it with something that you do. The same principle applies to ethical propensities. When you grow irritated, for instance, remember that you are not culpable of failure, you merely endorsed a tendency and inflamed it. Inevitably, consistent conduct of any kind will inculcate new practices and propensities while also corroborating worn ones. The innermost passions leave their personal blemishes and if you don’t treat them with care, they will be repeatedly vulnerable and never recuperate. The antidote to anger is restraint and watchfulness, attempt an easy experiment; watch your first impulse of anger and hold back until it elapses, do not act upon it nor make any conclusions about it. The more you do this, the less frequent anger arises and the more command you have over it through recognition. If you manage to resist it for a full month, you have made actual progress.

Begin, for a change, by desiring to make yourself happy instead of someone else. Aspire to grow to be honourable, clean and solid. For when you are unpolluted, you will find peace and a lack of constraint and you will feel in consolation with the companionship of nature, or God. Make friends with men of superior temperament so as to echo their good qualities and emulate yourself after them. Furthermore, whether you pick someone dead or alive is of minor importance, what matters is the essential framework. Consequently, do not let your imagination provoke you with the delight and enjoyment that lie in wait for you, these will only serve as diversions from doing the work you ought to do right now in order to carry the day. Lastly, get rid of your fear of death and comprehend this; no matter how many tempests you will confront, you will become aware that your brainpower is more than capable of enduring it in a relaxed composure and collectedness.

A Stoic Attitude on Love and Friendship

People tend to show concern and care for what they deem good and they show it concern because they have a liking for it. For that reason, the righteous person is also the person who knows how to love. Yet, if a person is not able to differentiate what is good from what is bad or impartial, such a person is unable to love. It is the wise man, then, who possesses the faculty to profoundly love. You may ponder to yourself what makes a person foolish or wise, after all, your sensory faculty is working in euphony and you can generally discriminate between feelings and opinions. You see, it is not so much that you are foolish or unreasonable as it is that you are habitually stunned or overcome by unquestionable sensations and feelings whose illusory nature of their reality absolutely misleads you to the point of apprehension. Thus, while a foolish man is perpetually misled by his delusions, a wise man is able to see through their illusory nature and remain unharmed by them.

Do not live under any illusion, it is a general law of human nature that every person is married to nothing more than his egotism and self-interest. Furthermore, this fundamental law is not an exception to your children or close relatives, place a valuable property between you and your children and you will quickly realise how eager they are to consign you to the grave and how you wish they never came to be. Your self-centred and inconsiderate son has been intending your burial for a long while because his merit and profit, tied to your diligent sacrifice, is more significant to him than your enduring existence. If you think nature or god is in opposition with your self-interest, it is rational to suppose that you will object to it in the same way you object to others. Opposing nature is much like being in opposition with an extension of yourself, which in turn will cause disharmony in your ethics and character. It is a half-witted game to attempt to oppose the course of nature out of mere egotism, your sense of self-importance is a mere prejudice that clouds your judgement and unless your prejudice is given up to see what actually is, you will live in a continual state of uncertainty and disorder. Whatever you identify by ‘me’ or ‘mine’ is where you are inherently inclined, whether this force lies in your body or your will is determined by your judgement and awareness.

It is tough to trust a bad person with weak character; they are inconclusive, naive, gullible and easily misled by poor judgement. Such a character’s instability is not reliable because a dependable and honourable person has adequate integrity and good moral virtue that is worthy of your trust, unlike a wobbly and insecure man whose very values are indistinct and grounded in feebleness. Such values in a person are not dignitary. People with weak characters do not make righteous friends because friendship is contingent, largely, upon mutual confidence, not blind faith. After all, where is the relationship to be found if not in trustworthiness and unwavering loyalty? Memorise, then, make friends by choice and not by chance. When making new friends, find like-minded individuals who are well informed and wise but do not be so heedful in treating the ignorant with contempt, show some rapport and solace instead.

The stoic way is not a cruel and unforgiving attitude towards the foolish and ignorant. It is, rather, compassionate leniency that is not immoderately confrontational or aggressive. Aggression should be employed in a discriminating manner, not in a regular and thoughtless fashion that is a result of poor judgement. Employing unnecessary hostility on the ignorant is not resourceful in the least, it will agitate them all the more and make you look like a disconcerted character that is regulated by his passions not good perception. Stay away from cruelty and make adequate use of your judgement to understand a person’s disposition instead of subverting it out of loathing. Hatred, in general, is a result of inner revulsion and annoyance that needs to be inflicted onto others for brief contentment, a mark of a poor and detrimental character. Therefore, if you need to detest and pass an abusive remark about someone to discharge your self-indignation, you have to resolve your antipathy, first and foremost.

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