Skip to content

Stoicism is no Holiday

Just ran across the website of latterday Stoic Ryan Holiday1, thanks to my younger sister Julie. He has put up a great post on 11 Important Things I’m Thinking About In 2023. Strangely enough war and peace are not on them. You should be thinking about nuclear apocalypse Ryan, as it’s thinking about you every day. Of course, a Stoicist would insist there’s nothing s/he can do about the world blowing up so his/her energy should be saved for issues closer to home.

Otherwise, Holiday’s list is pretty solid. Here’s the highlights for me.

[1] Doing less, better. … “If you seek tranquility,” [Marcus Aurelius] said, “do less.” And then he follows the note to himself with some clarification. Not nothing, less. Do only what’s essential. “Which brings a double satisfaction,” he writes, “to do less, better.”

We are all running after too much these days and I’m as guilty as anyone. Am I a political thinker, a software developer, a sports photographer or a father? And that list doesn’t mention filmmaking or writing.

My one comment on this issue – make sure you do your damn exercise every day. Your health must come first.

[3] Being a good steward of Stoicism…. Am I being honest and ethical and fair and reasonable and moderate—I try to think about all those things.

To seek to be a better person and treat others fairly is something about which every person should remind him or herself every morning. Fairness and turning the other cheek didn’t work out too well for the North American Indians, hélas, but generally it’s a good rule for life, as long as you are not dealing with a rapacious and greedy empire who covets your land and your resources and is prepared to denigrate you and your people as subhumans.2

[5] One small win per day is a lot. One of the best pieces of advice from Seneca was actually pretty simple. “Each day,” he told Lucilius, you should, “acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes, as well.”

Set goals you can achieve, and achieve every day, is the way to set habits. Good habits are the path to success. My great Aunt Hilda told me as a wee lad, “routine sets you free”. She had a good point, even more applicable now. We are surrounded by too much choice and too much noise. One way to break free of distraction is to run a tight routine to which your body and your mind adapts. This means that whatever free time you have is truly free.

And if your choice is instead to change the world, you’ll have more time for that.

[6] Paying my taxes. Not just from the government. Seneca wrote to Lucilius, “All the things which cause complaint or dread are like the taxes of life—things from which, my dear Lucilius, you should never hope for exemption or seek escape.”There’s a tax on everything in life. You can whine. Or you can pay them gladly.

This is a great point. I am so tired of hearing from the selfish bastards who think it’s a great idea to draw social benefits they don’t require. Example: six months unemployment insurance after quitting a job held for a year, when there’s three jobs on offer. I know of at least half a dozen healthy young Europeans with higher education who have done this.

Social benefits are there for situations of need and not to be drawn when not needed. If everyone draws social benefits regardless of need, within two years there won’t be any social benefits. From the nineties, France suffered the worse dose of social benefit abuse I’ve ever seen.

What makes the people more inclined to abuse social benefits is the perception that the elite are stealing our tax resources. This applies even to me. When I see the EU apparatchiks parading around and eating in three star restaurants at my small company’s expense. They write legislation which absolves them of paying any taxes, on either cars, flats or income. When a country is run by thieves and bandits (and most of the EU has arrived here), it’s harder to find the resolve to pay all of one’s own share.

Still, roads, schools, universal health care, free (or near free) universities, law enforcement have both a cost and a value. If we are not willing to pay our taxes, we should then be prepared to live without state roads and schools. We must be willing to pay for private universities and expensive private health care. We must travel with our own armed security or be someone else’s armed security. A retreat back to the Dark Ages doesn’t attract me, whatever Randians and freepers may bleat about individualism and libertarianism.

[7] The garbage time. There’s no such thing as ‘quality’ time. Time is time. …eating cereal together late at night, laying around on the couch — is actually the best time. Forget chasing HUGE experiences. It can all be wonderful, if you so choose.

Enjoying every day is important. There may be no tomorrows. Carpe diem has been twisted to become the aphorism of Hedonists everywhere but that’s a misinterpretation of what appreciating life should be. Of course in the golden years of university, everyday experiences can be rather extraordinary. Late night visits from misguided gorgeous existentialists seeking meaning in sensuality. Unexpected fabulous conversation at any meal. Near daily stunning intellectual revelation. Yet there’s a time for everything.

Most of life – childhood, adulthood, parenthood and later life – everyday joys and small pleasures are what is on offer without harm. Enjoy them.

[8] Having a crowded table….When you flash way forward into the future, what is it? You’re not going to think about how much money you made… if your friends won’t have anything to do with you. Success, at the end of your life, is a crowded table—family and friends that want to be around you.

Entertaining and friendship were the great pastimes of the eighteenth, nineteenth and the twentieth century. It’s a pity that the pace of life and the constant translocation deprive many of us in the twenty-first century of this quotidien bliss.

Those who do live close to family should cherish their opportunities to visit and know one another well over a longer time.

I’ve lived around the world and it’s been a blessing to know French, Russian and Austrian culture from the inside. My own advice to this admonition would be to be sure to discover where you’d like to spend the rest of your life by thirty and then – stay there. Not everywhere is equal, not all people are alike. British and Slovak culture have been less good fits for my personal nature and my time in those lands have been less rewarding and correspondingly less happy. Travel if you like but always come back to home and value those friends.

Another remark I’d make here. Keeping in touch via virtual means (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Signal) is not the same as having flesh and blood interlocutors, with whom one can leave the mobiles back at home and speak truly in private. The modern world with all its different means of communication cannot truly overcome distance. What most humans need most of all is to sit around a fire and connect. The tribe.

I miss you my friends, both those of you still in this world, and those of you, beyond it. Greetings to Dima, Alyosha and Sasha wherever you wander. You are in our thoughts and our hearts.

  1. Poor chap was born with a terrible name for a Stoicist, would be fabulous moniker for a timeshare salesman or a Director of HR.] 

  2. A certain other people are on that same list now. Turn the other cheek is not an alternative for Russia now, unless Russians want to be wiped from the face of the earth by the scourge of a rapacious West. The same Anglosaxon-led West who enslaved Africa, annhilated the North American Indians and decimated, enslaved and expropriated the South American Indians. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *