I’ll be taking part in Stoic Week this year which runs from 16 – 22 October 2017. The theme for the week is self-renewal which is perfect for where I am in my life right now. The organisers, Modern Stoicism, see the week as a chance for you to “take a fresh look at your life and reflect on what changes you could make to bring yourself closer to your own ideals and aspirations.”
What is Stoicism?
Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy founded in the 3rd century BC by Zeno of Citium. It was practiced and popularised in ancient Rome by the likes of Cato, Seneca and the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
This practical philosophy focuses on ethics and actions. As described in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Stoicism was very much a philosophy meant to be applied to everyday living, focused on ethics (understood as the study of how to live one’s life)”.
The Stoics’ ideas of ethics revolved around the value of virtue, or good character. The facets of this virtue are outlined in this year’s Stoic Week Handbook as follows:
- Wisdom – especially moral or practical wisdom
- Justice – encompassing both kindness and fairness, or wisdom applied to our relationships
- Courage – mastery over our fears
- Moderation – mastery of our desires
Alongside these virtues, a central approach of Stoicism is to focus only on what is within your control and put your effort into improving your actions. This is captured clearly in these words from Epictetus:
In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices.
I take from this the belief that everything I need to live a good life comes from within me.
Stoicism and me
I first encountered Stoicism a couple of years ago when I read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. And I couldn’t quite believe how relevant it is to our modern lives.
I took the 2016 Week Handbook away on my retreat and used it to give some structure and thematic focus to my days. Since then, I’ve used Stoic texts (provided by the wonderful Daily Stoic) to help me reflect on different aspects of my character and how I act these out day-to-day.
I’m looking forward to taking part in this year’s Stoic Week as it happens. During the week I intend to write about my experience each day here on the blog.
It’s not too late for you to sign up to take part.
Image credit: Marcus Aurelius – Louvre by Bradley Weber on Flickr.