Because of its association with the modern word “stoic,” some people assume Stoicism is a very serious way of looking at things, that a Stoicist is someone who is very dour and serious all the time. On the contrary, Stoicists have a great affection for life and all that it has to offer, they just doesn’t get attached to expectations. Stoics don’t reject emotions, rather they endeavor to master them. Like the Daoist, the Stoicist is keenly aware that nature is full of ups and downs. Human lives are no different: To live in accordance with nature, we have to understand that things won’t always (or even often) turn out the way we expect — sometimes to our detriment, but also sometimes to our benefit. Furthermore, it is their duty as practicing Stoicists to use these reversals of fortune as a way to learn to overcome our impulsive emotions and reactions and instead develop our virtue by overcoming them. If everything goes your way in life, you have no chance to grow and develop your character!
Birthed in Ancient Greece by Zeno of Citium, Stoicism became increasingly popular around the Hellenic world, until the point that it was adopted by most of the educated elite and political rulers. Notable representatives of its late period included Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. Ultimately, it only fell into disfavor after it was pushed out by the rise of Christianity, just like its contemporary, Epicureanism. In the same way as Epicureanism, Stoicism largely disappeared during the middle ages, and its name also became sort of a simplified cliche which misrepresented its philosophical depth and breadth.
Ancient Stoicists saw Stoicism as more than just a philosophy. One was expected to practice it on a daily basis in order to achieve virtue. Stoic practices include the study of logical fallacies and biases, contemplation of death, meditation, and reflection on events of the day.
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
— Marcus Aurelius
He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.
Stoicism – and philosophy – are not the domains of idle professors. They are the succor of the successful and the men and women of action.
— Ryan Holiday
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