I am undoubtedly the worst stoic ever. The garden variety cactus on my desk displays more apathea and general Zeno-ness than I could ever muster. For its crimes and in a display of churlish petulance I am depriving it of water. Which, typically, it seems to be taking in its stride. Annoyingly I seem to gravitate more towards Nero than Seneca. Albeit without ever having burned down a city (allegedly) or committing matricide.
Seneca however is not my stoic of choice. I like a more clear cut exemplar. For me Seneca was either the best stoic or a sanctimonious douche. I have see-sawed between labelling him as both during my tenure grappling with stoicism. My official position as of now is that I have no position. Besides is this really something I should have an opinion on? I shouldn’t be comparing my adherence to a particular philosophy against someone else. There is no score card or checklist, no certificate at the end of the day displaying your stoic-ness in empirical percentage terms. ‘Congratulations ,with your score you managed to edge out Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss in the category of practical Stoicism’
As an aside… if that does happen I might be tempted to air-punch…. and possibly engage in a victory lap. Or two. I am sad to admit there is even a slight chance of some dance moves being perpetrated upon the world. See opening line, paragraph one.
Marcus is more my kind of stoic. If only because I read Meditations before I read the Moral letters to Lucilius. Marcus just seems so much cooler than Seneca. Coolness clearly being a factor when I was younger and more impressionable. Besides Seneca messed up his own suicide, that doesn’t speak volumes for his prowess to get things done. Marcus on the other hand was martial and a man of action. But he was also humble and practiced forgiveness and that seemed to sit better with me. When he wasn’t putting Christians and Germanic tribes to the sword I mean (or doing a REALLY bad job raising his son). Generally speaking we are more skeptical these days when it comes to following the personal philosophy of a modern day genocidal despot. But if you choose the operating system of an ancient warmongering autocrat with imperial tendencies, that’s totally fine. Maybe in two thousand years Idi Amin will spawn his own cult of adherents. If Homo Sapiens is still around obviously.
Still the intervening years have made us a slightly more genteel species and curbed some of our more basic tendencies. Stoicism has aged well. That can’t be said for many other philosophies or even belief systems. I think stoicism to is credit allows us interface with it at our own pace. We can implement it piecemeal as and when we become ready. As my appreciation for this astounding system grows I find it becomes more accessible to me. I am not sure if that is everyone experience.
In event, my intention is not to remain the worst stoic ever. I am aspirant to move onto ‘slightly better than worst stoic’ in the near future and then potentially see how we go from there. Wish me luck.
For more misadventures and wayward interpretations of stoicism, as well as examples of paragons that are WAY better at this than me, you can find all my posts collated…