As some of you know I grew up in the desert southwest. My love of sunshine continues to this day but unfortunately, my skin has paid a price. In my pursuit of the perfect tan, my skin (particularly on my forearms) has become ridiculously thin so that it often bruises and sometimes bleeds at the slightest injury. By the same token I was listening to a podcast this week that asked, “Are we all becoming very thin-skinned and fragile these days?” It went on to ask if our pursuit of comfort and convenience was making us “bruise or bleed” at the slightest inconvenience, threat or annoyance. Regrettably, those questions struck a bit too close to home. Everywhere I look (especially on Facebook!) people are bruised and depressed about how awful things have gotten (climate change, no gun control, schools, etc.) and how mean and impatient other people have become. And don’t even mention religion or politics! Fortunately, there is a cure. Just like using a powerful sunscreen on my arms helps—enhancing our antifragile selves could allow us to live more peacefully in our stressful world.
Ever been told to “cowboy up”? How about “It’s time to put on your big girl panties?” Ever been accused of having no emotion? Unfortunately, much of the time, we tend to equate these questions as either manipulation or heartlessness. But what if the sentiment behind these statements originates from the ancient Stoic philosophy? What if they contain powerful lessons that may benefit us all? In light of some of the recent events in our world, I decided to explore whether Stoicism and some of its greatest thinkers might offer some ideas we can use to live a good and SMART life.
First, a little history. Stoicism is a philosophy founded in Greece in the 3rd Century by a man named Zeno of Citium. With a strong emphasis on virtue, justice, duty and reason, the Stoics believe that a life of self-control and moderation is a path that leads to a good life. Three of the most famous leaders of the philosophy include Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca. In practice and intention, some people equate Stoicism to a more Western approach to Buddhism. [Read more…]