Stoic Week: Day 3 & Day 4

I didn’t have time to write up a post yesterday so I’m going to combined it with today’s post. As I mentioned I’m doing Stoic Week; a seven day course created by the group Modern Stoicism, a team of multidisciplinary academics whose goal is to make Stoic Philosophy available and accurate to the general public. Participants fill out a survey before and after to see if adopting Stoic values for a week help improve happiness and “flourishing” scores.

Day 3 Morning Meditation

Say to yourself first thing in the morning: I shall meet with people who are meddling, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, and unsociable. They are subject to these faults because of their ignorance of what is good and bad. But I have recognised the nature of the good and seen that it is the right, and the nature of the bad and seen that it is the wrong, and the nature of the wrongdoer himself, and seen that he is related to me, not because he has the same blood or seed, but because he shares in the same mind and portion of divinity. So I cannot be harmed by any of them, as no one will involve me in what is wrong. Nor can I be angry with my relative or hate him. We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. So to work against each other is contrary to nature; and resentment and rejection count as working against someone. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.1

I’m actually very familiar with this quote since it gets a lot of air time in Stoic circles. In the morning as part of Stoic practices I’m supposed to mentally prepare for adversity and it (supposedly) helps to mentally prepare by planning out the day and imagining all the things that could go wrong.

See, my problem is with step one, having a plan for the day. My schedule constantly changes because I share a car with two other people, my work schedule differs week-to-week, and my homework gets done whenever I squeeze in time. So, I’m not going to waste time going over a plan that I know 100% is going to change anyway and it would be too exhausting  to give the worst-case scenario treatment to every new plan. What I do instead is right before I have to do a task I’ll do a quick, what’s the worst thing that could (likely) happen and what would be my next step.

I mean, obviously the worst case scenario is an atomic bomb falls from the sky and we all die, but then I wouldn’t have to actually deal with the aftermath of all that (being dead an all in said scenario), so it’s not really worst-case. My plan B for whenever something actually would go horribly wrong usually involves first getting coffee (or tea) and then go from there.

Day 3 Midday meditation

Take 5-10 minutes to sit quietly and reflect on your relationships and how you could potentially view things differently. What would be the consequences of doing so?

Pass! I call pass!

My main relationships are with my immediate family (on the account of not having any friends). My youngest brother is suicidal and has depression, my dad’s an alcoholic, my mom’s a busybody, and I’m not technically responsible for any of that. They have their own agency and I am not responsible for their happiness.

Day 3 Evening Meditation

Whenever you want to cheer yourself up, think of the good qualities of those who live with you: such as the energy of one, the decency of another, the generosity of another, and some other quality in someone else. There is nothing so cheering as the images of the virtues displayed in the characters of those who live with you, and grouped together as far as possible. So you should keep them ready at hand. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.48

…….Marcus, no, just no. I have a cat. She’s a very nice lovely cat and she’s warm and fuzzy and she cheers me up. The people who live with me are going through a lot of crap right now and if I think about their good qualities it’s just going to make me feel really sad about all the other crap. It would not, in fact, cheer me up at all. Pass.

Day 4 Morning Meditation

It is important to understand that nature creates in parents affection for their children; and parental affection is the source from which we trace the shared community of the human race … As it is obvious that it is natural to us to shrink from pain, so it is clear that we derive from nature itself the motive to love those to whom we have given birth. From this motive is developed the mutual concern which unites human beings as such. The fact of their common humanity means that one person should feel another to be his relative. – Cicero, On Ends, 3.62-3.

Sigh, this section is going to take more than a week. I’m not a what you would call a “people person”. Like my youngest brother genuinely likes helping people. Customer service makes him feel good. Working customer service makes me want to eat a box of donuts by myself. I want to help people when I can (because Stoic virtue), but it does very little for me as an emotional payout like my brother.

Day 4 Midday

Take 5-10 minutes to sit quietly and practise the Circle of Hierocles exercise given here. Think of yourself as gradually expanding the circle of those you are concerned with till you reach the circle of human beings in general.

No comment. (But I need more practice)

Day 4 Evening Meditation

Let us embrace in our minds the fact that there are two communities – the one which is great and truly common, including gods and human beings, in which we look neither to this corner or to that, but measure the boundaries of our state by the sun; the other, the one to which we have been assigned by the accident of our birth. – Seneca, On Leisure, 4.1

What benefits each of us is what is in line with our constitution and nature; my nature is rational and political. As Antoninus, my city and fatherland is Rome, as a human being it is the universe. It is only what benefits these cities which is good for me. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.44.5-6

My issue with these quotes is Seneca was a very, very wealthy senator and Marcus Aurelius was an emperor of Rome when Rome was the western world. I am neither of those things so when the course is asking “How far did you succeed in fulfilling your local roles and responsibilities today while also bearing in mind the broader values shared by humanity in general – or the needs of those human beings currently without a home or country of their own?”

The answer is null. Zip. Natta. Because I can’t. I don’t actually own anything. I rent a room in house with five other people, I share a car for work and school, I’m paying for college out of pocket (and by that I mean on my credit card in the hopes I’ll have it paid of in a year) so that I’ll (hopefully, maybe) get at least something out of all that effort in the end. I’m also super picky about who I donate to because some of the big name “charities” are actually really shady and barely anything gets to the intended receivers. Ugh, I hate this question because I feel guilty that I literally don’t have anything to give right now because I live from paycheck to…well, two thousand dollars in credit debt plus interest sooo… Well, I’m now I’m upset.

*deep breath* Okay, “roles and responsibilities” is the key words there, specifically civic ones. I’m a pretty, white “lady” (according to my driver’s licence) so nothing is preventing me from voting. My work place will give me time off to go vote and Texas has early voting. That is an important role/responsibility. I know who my candidates are and where they stand on issues. If I had extra money, yes I would donate to organizations I trust. Someday I hope to be in that position where I could commit to several small monthly donations (and have affordable dental insurance). That’s why I’m continuing my education, to better my self and position in life and then I can use that position to benefit others. I guess another one of my “roles” is being informed so I can inform others with the most accurate information I can provide or at least point them in the right direction towards accurate information.

Either way, it’s a work in progress.

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