Being a Stoic is pretty much straight forward: Don’t let your emotions cloud your ability to see reason, and live by the laws set by the natural order. But that’s too vague because it could be interpreted as being Vulcan, to be completely logical and stray away from your emotions. But as I have emphasized in the past, a Stoic is not unemotional.
So what are the steps to being a Stoic?
Today’s reflection describes what must be done to be stoic, what are the aspects of our existence must be trained so that the ultimate goal could be closer.
“There are three areas in which the person who would be wise and good must be trained:
- The first has to do with desires and aversions—that a person may never miss the mark in desires nor fall into what repels them.
- The second has to do with impulses to act and not to act—and more broadly, with duty—that a person may act deliberately for good reasons and not carelessly.
- The third has to do with freedom from deception and composure and the whole area of judgment, the assent our mind gives to its perceptions.
Of these areas, the chief and most urgent is the first which has to do with the passions, for strong emotions arise only when we fail in our desires and aversions.”
— EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES , 3.2.1–3 a
So today is all about training these three things: What we want and hate, what we react, and the decision to acknowledge them.
When you want something, does it consume you? Is your first reaction to aspire to acquire it? Or when you hate something, do you make it the highlight of your day? Is your first reaction to be repulsed and allow its existence to define your entire outlook? Have you succumbed to your emotions, or have you taken control and refused to be driven by those which are outside of you?
These are the question I must ask myself everyday, because a Stoic always meditates on the things that revolve around him. Asking if it is worth pursuing or ignoring, if the cost of wanting or hating is the absence of control over your judgements, then that thing is probably not worth it.
So today, have I lost control?
One outstanding feature of my day was having to deal with racism. And I have never experienced racism before, considering that I never really stepped foot outside the country. But despite being sent messages to “Stay out of my country” and followed by inaccurate racial slurs (I mean, who calls an Asian a Nigger?); I didn’t get angry.
Because I didn’t let hate consume me. I reacted in a manner that allowed me to keep full control over my emotions. Sure I could feel anger & fear, but these emotions have no place here and I simply replied as level headed as possible. And after hours of receiving messages, the best option was to block and report him.
And I guess all my Stoic Training has paid off, and here is a practical example.