By Jorge Manuel Zelaya Fajardo
May 28th, 2020
Generally when we hear the word stoic we immediately think of an adjective of a person who is mentally and physically strong, with very little feelings´ expression and high tolerance for pain that allows him to resist a lot of pressure. Although there is some truth in these statements, the real truth is that Stoic philosophy is much, much more than that. For that reason I have given myself the task of writing a few lines, that although few in quantity, can provide an interesting synthesis of the most relevant aspects of that school of thought.
Stoicism is a philosophical school of life founded by Zeno of Citio (336 BC - 264 BC) in ancient Greece. His doctrine is based on a relationship between reason, virtue, the betterment of society and nature. His ultimate goal is to achieve happiness and wisdom regardless of material goods and external circumstances. Its success extended from its very beginning in Stoa (open square in Athens where Zenón de Citio congregated to teach)
Like all philosophy, it has two intrinsically connected elements: metaphysics (how things work) and ethics (how we behave with things). Stoicism defines humans as social and rational beings. The two fundamental pillars of stoicism are virtues and control. The Stoic school conceives as fundamental the virtues of practical wisdom (applying reason and knowledge on a day to day basis), justice (giving each one his due), courage (especially the moral of doing the right things) and temperance (having measure when doing things). Regarding control, Stoic philosophy establishes that there are only two types of situations: those that I can control (on those I must act diligently) and those that I cannot control (on those I should not worry about at all).
In fact the influence of Stoic philosophers has been studied with special attention by all kinds of leaders throughout history. Very particularly, but not exclusively, the book MEDITATIONS by Marcus Aurelius, who never sought to publish the work as a book, but rather was a workbook or private learning journal. Stoicism has been studied from Paul of Tarsus to Rene Descartes, from Shakespeare to Nelson Mandela, from Abraham Lincoln to corporate leaders in Silicon Valley.
Similarly, there are iconic phrases that describe in a few letters many of the key thoughts of Stoic philosophy such as being amor fati (loving what happens to us), memento mori (death is inevitable) and premeditatium malorum (preparing for the worst scenario).
Stoicism is, in short, a school of thought. A philosophy of life. A modus operandi. It is not a fashion. It is not a trending topic on social networks. In particular, I declare myself a deep confessed admirer and avid student of Stoicism. I think what strikes me the most about this philosophy is its two fundamental pillars (the virtues and the concept of control). It thrills me to think that I can dare to practice them with the goal of reaching the goal.
However, to be consistent like that beautiful Latin phrase that says acta non verba (actions not words), I allow myself to share certain simple, daily and accessible actions that can help us practice the theory of stoicism. I dare to quote them without any preconceived order: journaling, walking to think, using time wisely, practicing absolute concentration on one thing at a time, doing something uncomfortable every day to increase the threshold of adaptability, waking up early, understand that emotions are inevitable but can be measured and above all know that I have the freedom to choose how to respond to external stimuli so as not to be a slave to circumstances.
Nowadays our countries, our regions and our world, stoicism gives me, personally, a fresh breeze that the HOPE that everything will improve, and that starts with our own self-improvement first. A kind of individual KAIZEN that, sooner or later, will help ALL of us to improve, inevitably. CARPE DIEM.