Your Occasional Stoic – The Same Man

From Apollonius: moral freedom, the certainty to ignore the dice of fortune, and have no other perspective, even for a moment, than that of reason alone; to be always the same man, unchanged in sudden pain, in the loss of a child, in lingering sickness; to see clearly in his living example that a man can combine intensity and relaxation; not to be impatient in explanation; the observance of a man who clearly regarded as the least of his gifts his experience and skill in communicating his philosophical insights; the lesson of how to take apparent favors from one’s friends, neither compromised by them nor insensitive in their rejection.

Meditation 1:8

Does Marcus really expect us to be unchanged by the loss of a child?  Of course not.  Such advice is only machismo and hyperbole.  Think yourself strong enough to handle such a horrible event and then perhaps you will have the strength to get through the grind of the day or the unpleasantness of the task at hand.

Apollonius was stoic philosopher and another of Marcus’s Greek tutors.  Others remembers him as pompous, but Marcus clearly admired the man.

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About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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2 Responses to Your Occasional Stoic – The Same Man

  1. Joseph says:

    I think the loss of a child is hyperbole but not machismo. This is something similar to Zen teachings, although the motivation seem different. While here the goal is to have no other perspective besides reason alone, Buddhists would say dont get caught up in the roller coaster of emotions, be present right now. It is not so much as being unaffected by adversity, but it is not clinging to that negativity that is the powerful and difficult piece.

    • seanv2 says:

      Great thoughts. There are many similarities between stoicism and Zen Buddhism, some of the other meditations really bring this home. Both advise non-attachement, but for the later stoics, such as Marcus, that non-attachment is associated with military and political success, not something really valued by the Zen buddhists I’ve read.

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