“Stillness is the Key” by R. Holiday

Stillness is the key is the latest book by the American author and entrepreneur Ryan Holiday.

I already wrote about one of his previous books the Daily Stoics (2016) in my post on the best book for Stoicism.

With this book Holiday completes an ideal trilogy of books: The Obstacle is the Way (2014) and Ego is the Enemy (2016).

I found this book in the gift bag of the latest Stoicon in Athens, and despite having a huge backlog of books I started reading immediately. I was not particularly familiar with Holiday’s assays, as I haven’t read the other two books of this trilogy.

The structure of this book is similar to the other two: A concept, summarised by the title, a division in macro-parts, with the major aspects of the concept and single chapters in which one or more stories are narrated to exemplify a particular aspect of the main concept. All then, is put together in the final chapters.

This book is to be considered as part of the contemporaneous Stoic movement. In the book, this is never acknowledged but the basis and the references are clear.

I consider book like this, the natural and logic continuation of modern Stoic assay. So far, the authors have spent time explaining the old texts and re-introducing Stoic concept to the public. Holiday goes beyond this, telling the Stoic points, with the support of different philosophical traditions and modern example of people from art and sport.

However, it is not a philosophical book, the tone is kept casual and easy to follow. Holiday’s style is modern and fresh and reading this book was a great pleasure.

Though, I would have preferred a more rigorous presentation of Holiday philosophical point of view. What is in the book is not bad, but sometimes it looked too light and “zeitgeist”. Plus, the examples, he portraits are inspiring, but out of touch. I don’t see how these can be applied by the common man/woman with a 9-5 work and family to care.

The main concept of this book is Stillness. Holiday spends the entire book explain this concept, if asked I would not able to explain it. Wiki does a better job:

stillness: “quiet; absence of noise or disturbance, release, relaxation; silence, abstention from speech; absence of disturbance or molestation, tranquillity, peace, security; that which appeases”

I was not familiar to this term as I never had encountered before and If he had given a similar list of synonymies, would have been better, even I think, for native English speakers.

He divides, the book into three main parts: Mind, Spirit and Body. That he considers the main areas of interest of Stillness.

The chaplets I liked the most are these:

“Choose virtue”, as that virtue is its own reward, a topic dear to me; “Beware Desire”, on what to wish, “Enough”, when to say stop; “Journaling” something I should do more often; “take a walk” without my phone possibly and most important: “Be a human being”, do not overdo, be what you are, a person, not a super-hero.

In general, I don’t think this is bad book and I would recommend as an easy access to Stoicism and as nice inspirational book for who wants to improve his/her life.

I think I will continue reading Holiday books and I will for sure get “The Obstacle is the Way”.

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