A brief stint with Stoicism

The Obstacle is the Way, and How to be Stoic

A good friend of mine in London first introduced me to Stoicism after gifting me his copy of How to Be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci. He had found some profound insights from the perspective he received from Stoicism and thought I may be interested.

How to Be a Stoic is written as a series of “conversations” the author has with Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher, and covers topics including love, suicide, religion, and living according to nature. In all honesty, and I feel bad for saying this as it was a lovely gift, but it was pretty punishing and I didn’t really gain much from it. There are a few fascinating ideas here and there, but that’s about it.

“Shaping your character is ultimately the only thing under your control.” – Massimo Pigliucci

“Better to endure pain in an honorable manner than to seek joy in a shameful one.” – Massimo Pigliucci

I decided to give Stoicism the benefit of the doubt and read The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. It was far better written is more to the point than How to Be a Stoic and uses nice little anecdotes of both ancient philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius and modern examples to reinforce some of its points. Its very much focused on the perception of your reality, the way we perceive and react to events. 

Stoicism seems very focused on preparing for the worst, and (in no way) hoping for the best. 

If I’m honest it doesn’t resonate with me at all. There was a few noteworthy view points including reframing the challenges in our life and the importance of observing high morals over all else, and questioning our perspective of an event against the actual facts, but it disregards any sort of “magical thinking” or higher power. 

All in all Stoicism is extremely pessimistic and at points leaves the reader feeling like life may never get any better. I’m definitely grateful for reading Ryan Holiday’ book, and giving stoicism a second chance, but its not likely that I will convert to Stoicism in the foreseeable future.

Interestingly, since gifting me the book, my friend has actually turned away somewhat from Stocism due to the similar reasons I didnt connect with it.

See things for what they are.
Do what we can.
Endure and bear what we must.
What blocked the path is now the path
What once impeded action advances action
The Obstacle is the Way.

“Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of—that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Your standards are. Winning is not enough. People can get lucky and win. People can be assholes and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.” ― Ryan Holiday

“The only real failure is abandoning your principles. Killing what you love because you can’t bear to part from it is selfish and stupid. If your reputation can’t absorb a few blows, it wasn’t worth anything in the first place.” ― Ryan Holiday

All in all, Stoicism is extremely pessimistic and at points leaves the reader feeling like life may never get any better. I’m definitely grateful for reading Ryan Holiday’s book and giving stoicism a second chance, but it’s not likely that I will convert to Stoicism in the foreseeable future.

Interestingly, since gifting me the book, my friend has actually turned away somewhat from Stoicism due to similar reasons I didn’t connect with it.

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