This is a film about Stoicism and why you need more of it in your life - because, as
people seldom tell you, but we will, quietly...
Stoicism was a philosophy that flourished for 480 years in Ancient Greece and Rome,
and was popular with everyone from slaves to the aristocracy: because - unlike so much
philosophy, it was helpful, helpful when we panic, want to give up, despair and rage at existence.
We still honour this philosophy whenever we think of someone as brave and - without perhaps
quite knowing why - call them ‘stoic’
There are two great philosophers of Stoicism. The first is the Roman writer and tutor to
Nero, Seneca. He lived between AD 4 and AD 65
That's right, 'tutor to Nero'. The infamous dictator who slept with his own mother, raped
young boys and, just because he felt like it, asked his old tutor - Seneca - to commit
suicide in front of his own family. And our other guide to Stoicism is
the kind and magnanimous Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius [AD 121 to 180], who was forced to
spend most of his reign on the edges of the Empire, fighting off invincible Germanic hordes,
but found time to write one of the greatest works of philosophy, the Meditations
in his tent at night.
There are two problems stoicism can help us with in particular.
The first is Anxiety.
When you're feeling anxious about something, most people are maddening. They believe it
is their duty to 'cheer you up'. However intelligent they might otherwise be, they say things like:
IT'LL BE OK, DON'T WORRY
even CHEER UP
The stoics were appalled. They hated any kind of consolation that aims to give the listener
Hope is the opium of the emotions and must be stamped out conclusively for a person to
stand any chance of inner peace.
Because hope only lifts one higher for the eventual fall.
The Stoics advised us to take a different path. To be calm, one has to tell oneself
something very dark: It will be terrible!
I might have to go to prison. The lump really could be malign.
I probably will be fired and humiliated. My friends almost certainly will succeed.
BUT, a huge consoling Stoic BUT, one must keep in mind that one will, nevertheless,
OK because in the end, as Marcus Aurelius said: 'We are each of us stronger than we think'
Prison won't be fun, nor will losing one's job
or being made a laughing stock... but one will get through it. Stoicism emboldens
us against the worst fate can throw at us.
And if you really really can't take it, suicide is always an option.
The Stoics mentioned this repeatedly.
Here is Seneca: 'Can you no longer see a road to freedom?
It's right in front of you. You need only turn over your wrists'.
To build up an impression of one's own resilience, the Stoics suggested one regularly rehearse
For example, twice a year, one should take off one's smart clothes, get into some dirty rags,
sleep on a rug in the kitchen floor and eat only stale bread and rainwater from
an animal's bowl - and thereby make an amazing discovery.
As Marcus Aurelius put it: ALMOST NOTHING MATERIAL IS NEEDED FOR A HAPPY LIFE
FOR HE WHO HAS UNDERSTOOD EXISTENCE
Another subject of interest to the Stoics was ANGER
Romans were a bad tempered lot.
The Stoics wanted to calm them down but they did so by an unusual route: by intellectual argument.
They proposed that getting angry isn't something you do by nature, because
you have a Latin temper or are somehow inherently hot blooded.
It's the result of being stupid, of having the wrong ideas about life.
Anger stems when misplaced hope smashes into unforeseen reality. We don’t shout every
time something bad happens to us, only when it is bad and UNEXPECTED
For example, you'd never shout just because it started raining - even though rain can
be horrible, because you've learnt to expect rain.
The same should apply to everything. Don't only expect rain, expect betrayal, infamy,
sadism, theft, humiliation, lust, greed, spite...
One will stop being so angry when one learns the true facts of the misery of life.
The wise person should aim to reach a state where simply nothing could suddenly disturb their peace of mind.
Every tragedy should already be priced in.
We're going to leave you with the most beautiful remark that Seneca made just as Nero's guards
were grabbing him and shoving him to a bathroom where he was meant to take a sharp knife and kill himself.
His wife Paulina and two children were panicking, weeping, clinging to his cloaks.
But he turned to them, pulled a weary smile at them, and simply said:
WHAT NEED IS THERE TO WEEP OVER PARTS OF LIFE? THE WHOLE OF IT CALLS FOR TEARS.
We have much to learn from the Stoics.