Mike Stuchbery💀🍷 @MikeStuchbery_ Journalist, Commentator & Historian // Various at @BylineTimes // History at @TheLocalEurope // DMs open // Sub on @Patreon: patreon.com/mikestuchbery_ Jan. 15, 2019 5 min read

I’ve noticed that certain figures on the online Right have been referring to Stoicism - Paul Joseph Watson, most recently. What is clear from their words is that they have very little idea of what it actually entails. Here’s a little explainer. /1 THREAD  https://www.google.com/amp/amp.abc.net.au/article/10474428 

Stoicism is, of course, a philosophy, a way of thinking about and looking at the world, with its origins in Ancient Greece. The first Stoic thinkers appeared about 300 years before the birth of Christ, in Athens, centred on the ‘Stoa’, or porch of the Agora. /2

It’s important to note that the Stoic school of thought in Ancient Greece was quite different to the Stoicism we hear talked about today. It wasn’t just a way of working through our thoughts - it entailed a cohesive way of explaining reality, down to the physical phenomena. /3

Ancient Stoics believed that the universe had its own perfect harmonies of cause and effect, birth and death, and so on. The aim of their thinking exercises was to bring about calm and clarity of mind, and to see the logic inherent in creation around them, bringing peace. /4

The founder of the Stoic school of philosophy is named as Zeno of Citium, who hailed from what is now Cyprus. He could be found in the Stoa, attempting to build a cohesive theory of how the universe worked, earning his way by teaching his ideas. /5  https://classicalwisdom.com/people/philosophers/zeno-of-citium-and-the-rise-of-stoicism/ 

Acolytes of Zeno, such as Chrysippus carried on the school throughout the next three centuries. Each of the thinkers that headed the school added to the repertoire of Stoic thought in the areas of logic, reasoning, understanding of knowledge and the search for the ‘good life’. /6

With the craze for everything Greek, Stoicism found a huge fanbase in the Roman world & it would give us some of its greatest proponents, albeit with a focus on the personal, rather than metaphysics - blokes like Epictetus, Seneca & Marcus Aurelius - the one most well-known. /7

Epictetus was a former slave who won his freedom and taught all over the Mediterranean with an approach that insisted that our own selves should be the prime focus of our inquiry, & that self-discipline and constant practice would serve to help us. /8  https://academyofideas.com/2018/06/epictetus-stoicism-wisdom-of-the-slave-philosopher/ 

Epictetus also stressed the notion that we are all connected within the universe by our various bonds, and that the way to ensure harmony and purity of mind was to fulfil all obligations willingly and without hesitation. /9

Seneca, on the other hand, came from noble stock and rose to become a senator. He played a not insignificant role in Roman imperial politics, living through the turbulent era of the Emperors Caligula and Nero, before ending his own life. /10
 https://dailystoic.com/seneca/ 

Fittingly, Seneca did focus on the need to consider one’s own mortality and impending death, as well as how to deal with grief - not by dwelling on it, or giving it a home in one’s mind, but by leaving it with the dead, instead choosing to celebrate & honor those lost to us. /11

Perhaps the most recognized Stoic philosopher was Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor, the old bloke in Gladiator and one of the revered individuals in western thought. He was proclaimed Emperor in 121 AD & ruled for almost sixty years - impressive stuff. /12  https://medium.com/personal-growth/marcus-aurelius-how-to-live-without-fear-40f7a16b6515 

During his reign, Marcus Aurelius lost children, maintained control through a massive outbreak of plague & travelled far & wide, suppressing rebellion with the help of his legions. Through all this, he was a sensitive, questioning soul, always striving for the best of lives. /13

Throughout many of his military campaigns, Marcus Aurelius worked on what could be considered an early ‘self help manual’ - ‘Meditations’, a text that he kept for himself to reflect on when feeling defeated, upset or angry with the world around him. /14
 http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.html 

These books focused on the need to maintain perspective on the pitfalls one comes across in life, and to not allow oneself to become consumed by one’s thoughts. He also devoted time to the idea that we are the only ones who can truly harm ourselves in word or action. /15

Marcus Aurelius died of illness in Vindobona, or modern Vienna, in 180 AD - not, I must add, killed by his no-good son. His books were kept & recorded, and exploded in popularity during the Renaissance, when Greek & Roman texts were being rediscovered by Italian humanists. /16

It should be clear by now that Stoicism doesn’t involve bottling up your thoughts, or maintaining a stiff upper lip. It doesn’t mean acting like Mr Spock. What it means is taking control, by really looking at what we’re feeling, unpacking it. /17

Being Stoic isn’t a case of not talking about your feelings - to a Stoic, it might be the correct course of action, if troubled by distressing thoughts. That said, Stoicism also stresses the importance of the idea that you are in control of your emotions, nobody else. /18

Indeed, many have stressed the links between Stoic philosophy, particularly in its Roman incarnation, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the recommended approach to depression and anxiety when patients present with those symptoms. /19

What Stoicism ISN’T, is the constant and unending railing at the world that those among the reactionary Right, like Paul, engage in. Stoicism isn’t knowing when to ‘man up’, it’s understanding that ‘manning up’ may be a destructive way of reacting - that other paths exist. /20

It’s interesting to see how the ‘stiff upper lip’ stereotype of Stoicism has appealed to many among the Right, as they’ve been able to paint their usual targets - women, PoC - as somehow not in control of their emotions, inferior. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, huh? /21

Stoicism isn’t about being ‘hard'. It’s about allowing yourself the flexibility to withstand the world around you, that can be confusing, distracting and sometimes cruel. It’s about finding a point within & understanding that nobody can touch it, no matter the fury. /22

There are plenty of resources for those out there interested in Stoicism, but this is probably a great starting point. Always happy to find you more stuff if you’d like more. /23  https://www.holstee.com/blogs/mindful-matter/stoicism-101-everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-stoicism-stoic-philosophy-and-the-stoics 

Here's a quote from Seneca for all those reactionaries  like @PrIsonPlanet, who are trying to co-opt Stoicism for themselves. I feel like it could be of help - “Life is very short & anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.” /FIN

ADDENDUM: Reading the Stoics saved my life. Really. They helped she'd the inhibitions about 'manliness' that were stopping me from seeking help for anxiety and depression.

So, uh, yeah, I might get a little protective of my dead white dudes and their life advice...


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