This is my reflection post for day six and seven of Stoic Week, a free 7 day course hosted by the folks at Modern Stoicism, a team of interdisciplinary academics whose goal is to make Stoic Philosophy accessible and accurate for the general public. Because of work I didn’t have enough time post on either of those days.
Bonus lightbulb moment: Earlier in the week we read a quote by Marcus Aurelius about how if you want to cheer yourself up, focus on the positive qualities of “those you live with”. The problem was I took this too literally and you can’t do that with ancient texts. The people I “live with” are going through some crap right now. Like all of them. Different crap each. It’s a crap fest. So thinking about the quote literally doesn’t benefit me. I mean, if I lived alone would the quote be totally useless to me then? No, it would mean that I would have to expand the meaning of “living with” to make the advice applicable.
So that’s what I did. When I needed cheering up I thought about the positive aspects of my coworkers because aside from my family they are the people I spend that most time with. My coworkers are actually pretty fun. We spend the early part of the shift yesterday going by the names of the Madagascar Penguins and we have custom made flyswatters constructed out of cardboard and they named them epic-anime-esque names in black sharpie. It was fun.
Day 6 Morning Meditation:
Be like the headland, on which the waves break constantly, which still stands firm, while the foaming waters are put to rest around it. ‘It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’ On the contrary, say, ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without getting upset, neither crushed by the present nor afraid of the future.’ This kind of event could have happened to anyone, but not everyone would have borne it without getting upset. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.49
This topic actually really helped me get through work the past couple of days. This week has just been unusually busy and I’ve been closing with a new person so that could have been a LOT more stressful than I was.
Day 6 Afternoon Reflection:
Take time to listen to the Premeditation of Adversity recording and rehearse facing some events that feel emotionally challenging or difficult.
Honestly? At my work I’ve been mostly trained to expect the unexpected because our equipment is constantly breaking, we have a huge and very diverse customer base so it’s near impossible for me to imagine everything that can go wrong. I usually just pick what I think is the most likely “worst” think that could happen and deal with that. Usually, my imagined first step is getting coffee. I refuse to handle situations unless I am properly caffeinated.
Day 6 Evening Meditation
Glad and cheerful, let us say, as we go to our rest: ‘I have finished living; I have run the course that fortune set for me’. If God gives us another day, let us receive it with joy. The happiest person, who owns himself more fully, is the one who waits for the next day without anxiety. Anyone who can say, ‘I have had my life’ rises with a bonus, receiving one more day. – Seneca, Letters, 12.9.
I’m actually not really worried about death. It’s the death of others that I struggle with more so I need to work on that. My grandparents have been dead for years and I have no idea how I’m supposed to feel about that. When my parents die I’m probably going to be devastated. I’m not sure yet how I’ll be able to deal with that so I didn’t pick it as my resilience practice.
Day 7 Morning Meditation
The works of the gods are full of providence, and the works of fortune are not separate from nature or the interweaving and intertwining of the things governed by providence. Everything flows from there. Further factors are necessity and the benefit of the whole universe, of which you are a part. What is brought by the nature of the whole and what maintains that nature is good for each part of nature. Just as the changes in the elements maintain the universe so too do the changes in the compounds. — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.3
I’m not sure how to unpack this quote. I’m going to need to read is a few more times when I’m not tired. I learned from the last M.A. quote that it might take a few days before it actually clicks.
Day 7 Afternoon reflection:
Take longer (20-30 minutes) to sit quietly and contemplate the View from Above, using the audio recording provided.
I didn’t have time to do this today because of work and Calculus homework I had to finish.
Day 7 Evening reflection
I travel along nature’s way until I fall down and take my rest, breathing out my last into the air, from which I draw my daily breath, and falling down to that earth from which my father drew his seed, my mother her blood and my nurse her milk, and from which for so many years I have taken my daily food and drink, the earth which carries my footsteps and which I have used to the full in so many ways. — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.4
That was very poetic. I’m not sure I like it, but I appreciate the poetry of it.
Exit Survey results!
Life Satisfaction Score:
Me: 26 (Satisfied)
Participant Average: 22.5 (Slightly Satisfied)
Me: 18 (Slightly Dissatisfied)
Participant Average: 26.2 (Satisfied)
Balance of Positive and Negative Emotions (On a scale of -24 to 24)
Flourishing Score (on a scale of 8 to 56)
Me: 41 (Bottom 11% to 33%)
I firmly believe that my exit survey answers were 100% honest, but my scores actually DROPPED. That’s a little unnerving. I’ll keep practicing and reading about Stoicism anyway because subjectively I feel more resilient over all and I think adopting the philosophy has helped me and I do believe in the basic principles. I’m still a “novice” so there’s definitely room for improvement.