It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them.
In last month’s post we saw how it is hard to retain happiness and how this concept might be even misleading; how trivial things can spoil our life and finally how our own thought process can help us to get closer to our goals and to a life worth living.
In this post we will continue our conversation and will look at one of the most famous Stoic quote:
“It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them.”
This short sentence is one of the cornerstones of Stoic philosophy, let’s see how:
It is safe to say that you – at least once in your lifetime – have experienced something that you can refer to as happiness.
How long did it last? Not long, I imagine. Perhaps, you uneventfully transitioned to something that resembled ‘normality’, or worse, other issues came up immediately and spoiled your mood.
Even though happiness didn’t last long, it does not stop you from seeking more of it.
But what kind of happiness are you seeking? The immediate kind? Fuelled by sex drugs and rock and roll? Happiness as a reward for your hard work and sacrifice? Maybe by obtaining an object of desire, such as a new house, job, car or spouse? Or are you just, “kinda-okay” – happy to sit and wait?
The choice seems to be between obtaining happiness now, later, or not seeking it at all. With the first, you will be happy immediately and miserable later, with the second, you will be waiting agonic until your goal materialises, and maybe, in the long run, you will feel happier. With the third, you are not even trying.
These are the options, are you ready?
If you haven’t chosen to give up already, maybe there is a better option. Let’s see what ancient Greece and Rome thought about this topic!
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.
On the 5 of September took place, in Athens, the 2019 Stoicon! The word conference of Stoicism.
I have been so lucky that I was able to assist it for the second time after last year in London. This was actually the 5th Stoicon ever done. There were: London 2014 and 2015; New York 2016, Toronto 2017 and London 2018.
The next location for 2020, is still to be decided, although, I hope that after Athens, Rome will follow.
Athens is, of course, the perfect city for hosting a conference on an ancient Greek philosophy.
By walking its street and ruins you can have the sense that this was one of the most important birthplace of philosophy, democracy and in general the western civilisation. it has been a constant trill for me.
Besides, the city offers good food and its autumn weather was better of this year summer here in the UK!
This year conference was hosted in the Cotsen Hall of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.
If you, like me, had the to translate Cicero in school, you probably hate the guy! The first thing you would, in every Latin test, was to glance a the author name and hope that was not Cicero. Anything but Cicero!!! Such his texts are hard to translate!
Despite, be the name of the book I want to suggest you is titled “On Living and Dying Well“. I’m still more frightened by the name of the author.
In the book “More Than Happiness: Buddhist and Stoic Wisdom for a Sceptical Age” the author Antonia Macaro offers a detailed comparison between two ancient philosophic and life inspiring practice: Stoicism and Buddhism.
In my experience, when the first is mentioned or discussed the second is usually brought up. After reading this book It is clear to me, how the two philosophy offer similar solutions for how to tackle day-to-day. Although, those solution come from traditions and sensibilities way different.
“It isn’t the events themselves that disturb people, only their judgements about them”
“If it is not right don’t do it,if it is not true don’t say it”
“Through my efforts, I gain the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”
Secular serenity preyer
In today’s English, we refer to stoicism as: the
ability or the predisposition of a person to endure pain or hardship without
the displaying of feelings.
However, that is not Stoicism!
Stoicism is a philosophy, a school of thought founded
in Athens about 2300 years ago by a man named Zeno of Citium. Zeno started his
school by standing on a porch in the market and talking to anyone who happened
by. The word for porch in Greek is stoa, and the followers of Zeno were
known as Stoics.
Stoicism became the preeminent philosophy of ancient
Greece and Rome; it penetrated all sectors and classes of the society such that
two of the most important Stoic authors are the slave Epictetus and the emperor
Stoicism flourished for nearly 500 years, until the
fall of the empire. It re-emerged occasionally in many philosophers and thinkers
during the Renaissance when people returned to reason to find answers about how
However, only recently has it been rediscovered as a philosophy
to live by!
The next session will focus on the philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius, in conjunction with the publication of the newest book of Stoic writer Donald Robertson: How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius.
Marcus was the last emperor of the so called ‘Five-Good-Emperors’ period of the Roman Empire. He spent 12 years of his reign fighting the Germanic tribes on the border of the Empire (the same as seen at the beginning of the film Gladiator).
And, at nights in his tent, he wrote his most famous work Meditation (or ‘to himself’). Consequently, this book is a sort of diary and philosophic text. It contains an amazing recollection of the most important Stoic teachings plus the internal discussion of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, resulting in the most intimate, lonely and rational diary that you will ever encounter.
In the life-long search for eudaimonia (happiness) the Stoic tell us to focus on three aspects of ourselves:
what we think (thought),
how we react (feeling) and
how we act (behaviour).
In this meeting, I want to discuss with you, how can we act.
in this case, the Stoics will refer to the concept of Arete!
In English, this is commonly translate as virtue. However, a better translation
would be “excellence of character”, implying that we have to be better version
In particular they would focus on four cardinal virtues:
Courage of facing reality
Justice or fairness
Temperance or self-control
In our meeting we will discuss how can be better version of
ourselves and how by being virtuous we can be happy and more satisfied with our