I like stoicism. I do.
I Learn the basis of this philosophy. Read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. See videos to apply its principles in our modern world.
I can’t help but admire what it has brought to the most powerful man in the world in the 2nd century. The resilience to a slave whose words rose through the centuries, or recently, it’s particular reasoning in many creators, bloggers, influencers, startup creators.
Maybe it is the key to success, as everyone tells us? Or just another advanced way to make you swallow personal development pills — and pay for the right to do so.
Today’s practitioners of stoicism are specialists of wrapping basic advice in a veil of philosophy to look smart when in fact, they are not contributing anything new. Stoic letters after stoic letters. Meditations after meditations. How to overcome this, or that with stoicism. Become more this thing. To be happy. Wealthy. Stoicism is everywhere.
The number of articles, videos, podcasts, books, newsletters is there to prove it. It’s a trendy topic. Like all fashionable things, some content is great, but a lot of it sucks.
The modern approach of stoicism is simple: Keep control of how you approach things to keep your emotions in check. If you do it correctly, you’ll be able to navigate complex situations in a logical, informed, and calm manner. The key idea is to understand what’s in our control and what’s not.
You also learn that long-term gain requires short-term pain and that your life is short. That’s all. Why do we need 100 online “experts” to understand that?
The biggest asset of stoicism is its simplicity so that no matter who you were, a Roman emperor or a slave, it’s within your reach. Stoics aren’t sitting all day thinking like other philosophers and writing 500 pages books. Real stoics go out and practice.
Nothing new here. Swindlers are fond of all high-demand fields, but no other one produces flat, lifeless men.
Thinking you can master your emotions is at best naive and cute, at worst a rejection of your existence.
Human life expresses itself in all of us in a continuous flow of emotions. Life is the happiness of a sunset over a calm and turquoise sea. But life is also the anger, hatred, and sadness that pushes you to your limits, into questioning that makes you a better person in the end.
“Yes, I know where I come from!
Unfulfilled, like the flame,
I go to consume myself.
What I hold becomes light,
Coal what I leave behind
Because I am a flame for sure!” — Ecce Homo, Friedrich Nietzsche
You might argue it’s not all emotions. “Wisdom to know the difference between harmless and harmful ones,” he said.
Let me ask you a question: Who are you to decide if this deeply-rooted-in-our-being-things have to affect you? And what are the consequences of closing the emotional floodgates a little too much?
Sadness flood your body. Anger builds up. Disgust sets in, and you, you remain the perfect lovely stoic you have always dreamed of being. Unfortunately, it was not the right emotion to keep silent this time. By thinking you are right, you forgot that some situations require emotional responses. And when you finally realize it, oh boy, it hurts.
Living life is embracing everything that makes up its meaning. Spending life is sucking up its substance. Emotions are the substance of life. Embracing emotions, all kinds of emotions, is living.
Nietzsche would call stoicism of today a nihilistic philosophy as it shut down certain aspects of existence. Schopenhauer would argue that it restrict your will to live.
I’m not criticizing stoicism as it is. I criticize those who claim to be spreading these precepts as they exploit its popularity.
I’ve decided to point out its dangers because it’s not something I’m used to reading online.
The takeaway is that one should always be wary of popular subjects. Even more, topics on which there is consensus.
“When all think alike, then no one is thinking.” — Walter Lippmann
Back then, I used to read every trendy thing about stoicism. I feel pumped up after each reading. I felt like I could remake the world. It usually never last long until I keep doing everything apart from what I should do.
Stop reading thousands of articles online about it. It feels good at the moment, but it’s another way to procrastinate.
I realize that I was falling into the personal development trap that I hated. I wasn’t serving my interests but those of people who wrote what I needed to hear.