In Practice

So today I went back to work after some extended time off and as I sat on the bus on my morning commute, I put into practice something I was forgetting. I was dreading going back, the institution representing my own stagnation in life with my career, family and development. There is nothing there for me in terms of tangible movement and aspiration other than my own progress of the self. Arguably this is the most important progress however some serotonin would be nice and future that seems tangible.

There I was on the bus – the later bus as I missed the first one thanks to an unregulated sleeping pattern – and I realized I had been forgetting to practice perhaps the most fundamental of all stoic practices and a phrase that I’ve repeated to no end.

“Today I escaped from all bothering circumstances – or rather I threw them out. They were nothing external, but inside me, just my own judgements.” – Meditations, 9.13

I took advice from another source, an unlikely source, that being Darth Kreia from Knights of the Old Republic 2, and felt the moment around me. I felt the surface of the seat against my body and the feeling of my hands in my lap and the headphones in my ears playing no music. My entire focus was inward and the external rumblings drifted away as I scanned myself and acknowledged each complaining part and released it unto itself. In the aftermath, as I was stepping off the bus at my stop, I was at peace with what was to come from the day.

It was uneventful and drama free as it was always going to be unlike my worst case scenarios. It had no real challenges or difficulties other than my body demanding sleep by three o’clock. Even the foible of the new policy of not having a coffee outside of breaks was negotiated and my addiction satiated. Everything was calm and serene or perhaps it was chaotic and it was I who was calm and serene – would I have known the difference?

It’s in these moments, in reflection of when these little occurrences take place that I enjoy my own progress of philosophy. That I’m not as Seneca said just growing in age not wisdom. To think without the practice of stoicism, I’d have been on edge all day waiting for it to go wrong as my own judgements had predicted and worn myself out more than I already was just from mentality alone.

I think back and wonder how many days slipped away from me just from lack of practice or practise – I never know which. How many hours I’ve wasted murmuring and chuntering to be entirely embarrassed only with myself and to myself about the lack of imagined scenario.

How many hours have you wasted?

Z3N0

The Stoic Employee

Today I had an interview to determine whether or not I would be in continued employment or not. Before hand I was asked by several people if I was worried or if I was panicked. The answer was and is no. My body may have been full of adrenaline before the talking part but ultimately, the stoic employee is not worried. The stoic employee does their best and knows that is the only aspect of the role that they can control so worrying about what exists without that control is a waste of everyone’s time.

We are not career people, in my opinion. Ambition and pride are deceivers of ones own ability in life as well as office. Ambition is not a welcome thing in my life, yet purpose is. I said to my interviewer:

“I don’t want to be climbing the highest mountain of financial and career success if that is not my path, I want to perfect the service I can provide from the ground I’m on now” – Z

How can I do my job efficiently, with purpose and virtue if my entire mission is to climb up? Of course it’s nice to be recognized but that doesn’t affect my virtue either. Confucius speaks about this quiet effectively with the subject of office being important during his time of Ancient China.

“The Master encouraged Qidiao Kai to take office. Qiadiao replied, ‘I am not confident I am ready to take this step.’ The Master was pleased.” – Analects 5.6

“The Master said, ‘Do not worry that you have no official position. Worry about not having the qualifications to deserve a position. Do ot worry that others do not know of you. Seek to be worthy of being known.” – Analects 4.14

“Ziyou said, ‘In serving your ruler, if you reproof is unrelenting and tiresome you will end up being humiliated. If you are that way with your friends, they will drift away from you.” – Analects 4.26

While there are key differences in the stoic school compared to the practice of Confucianism, ultimately some core principals overlap with the seeking of a balanced and moral approach to life and each other. In office how can one do this without an ability to see truth within themselves. If you are not qualified for a role, do not go for it. In times of need, you will adapt like all humans. As I said to my interviewer when asked about my ability to reflect and develop my professional skill set:

“If I’m not learning, I’m dead. Growth, in my opinion is not just for the trees.” – Z

Amazing that I got the job right? My feedback however was that I have a reputation for having a black and white outlook, that when I speak and the hammer of judgement comes down that it’s final. Perhaps it was my reaction to the formality and the process that added a little strictness to my tone but it was something new that I’d never considered before. When asked on my practice and how I respond to mistakes, perhaps my response gave proof to the allegation:

“There are no mistakes. I have grown and learned lesson and adapted from the missteps so I don’t begrudge them. How can I? When faced with something where I’ve gone wrong, I can only adapt and learn from it, what else can I do?” – Z

Most likely a fair comment but, as is the right thing to do, I accept the criticism and adapt to meet it with the help and support that they can provide me.

“We all work together to the same end, some with conscious attention, others without knowing it – just as Heraclitus, I think, says that people asleep are workers in the factory of all that happen in the world.” – Meditations 6.42

Find your purpose and service and a career will form around you. Don’t go looking for a career without service or purpose or it will be a hollow and fleeting thing.

Love your purpose, love your service. Be a stoic employee which is to say not blindly shut up and put up with bad practice. It is to act with the stoic disposition of moral integrity for the self and the Whole in what you give to the world.

Of course, a decent pay is always nice, helps with the roof over my head. Yet to quote Seneca:

“… thatch makes a person just as good a roof as gold.” – Letters from a Stoic XIII

Z3N0

Stoicism and Socialism

I was thinking today about public responsibility and the responsibility of a stoic to their fellow human being, as all human beings have a responsibility of unity. Politically speaking, it’s quite a left leaning ideologue that relies on the sacrifice of excess. If only in the entirely ego-centric way of thinking – something I’m not bashing just observing – a stoic lives within their means so not to over indulge the mind, body and soul with the material things rather than ensure that others too have sufficiently enough.

“Doing something? I do it with reference to the benefit of mankind.” – Meditations 8.23

It’s a balance though, isn’t it within the psyche of both altruism and egoism. We indulge in the pleasures of where we can but act altruistically to ensure others have the opportunity to access the same in perfect comfort and alignment with their own nature.

Ignoring the political fluff of it all, let me break down some concepts:

  • Universal Healthcare: an act of altruism designed to ensure the betterment of our society through providing of access of treatment to those in need without putting them in financial disarray. It’s an act of proscribed kindness with taxes paying for the scheme rather the lining the pockets of those who already live beyond indulgence. Of course, you can argue that in reality, it’s not the case with contracting scandals and crushing debt yet the concept within itself is stoic, no? To provide care to our kin expecting nothing in return.
  • Corporate bail-outs: to save a company that employs thousands upon thousands, a ruling body gives charity to save the welfare of its people at an expense to itself. It’s an act of giving, providing and acting in good faith. Ultimately, when we act in good faith, with good intentions and consequence, are we not virtuous?
  • Free education: a core principle of Marcus Aurelius is to “teach or tolerate” and how can we teach if we do not provide the means to access the learning? How can we expect our future generations to grow into virtuous and kinder beings than our previous if we do not share that same virtue and kindness to them? What lessons are learned for those who resent the burden of learning? It festers in to hatred and that kind of hatred is like a hatred of evolution. Which, in turn, is a hatred of the nature of the self.

“Have I done anything for the common good? Then I too have benefitted. Have this thought always ready to hand: and no stopping.” – Meditations 11.4

Today I said to a friend that if I made an impact on them through my philosophy, a positive and tangible impact than I know that I can sleep a little easier. I think it goes the same for my attitude towards service because there is no career, there is service. A career implies we climb a ladder for power and wealth and recognition. What need do we as stoics, as human beings have for these things? In service we provide to the betterment of others and our society. Politics in particular has become rife with career politicians rather than service politicians. We use the phrase ‘man of the people’ or rather ‘person of the people’ quite pedantically as if it’s some weird joke. Should it be such a rare find? Are we all not people for the people?

You can debate below in the comments about the finer points and failings of socialism and the left in general, that’s your prerogative. I’m no expert on political theory and history but I can only speak to what I observe. You’re opinion is your own and so is your experience of various ruling systems. However, what are we but social beings? Whether a viable concept or not in your opinion, surely we can agree to that our service to each other is as beneficial to the human condition as service to ourselves.

This will only be a short thinking exercise. I don’t want to presume to be so arrogant to tell people explicitly what to think or feel further than their own peace of mind. But I will leave you with this:

“Cling therefore, to this sound and wholesome plan of life: indulge the body just so far as suffices for good health. It needs to be treated somewhat strictly to prevent it from being disobedient to the spirit. Your food should appease your hunger, your drink quench your thirst, your clothing keep out the cold, your house be a protection against inclement weather.” – Letters from a Stoic VIII

Of course who knows what to think, Seneca lived a life of luxury.

Z3N0