Stoic Lesson: The Importance of Journaling

Our current age is so fast-paced and there is so much information out there that it feels like you are just jumping from one thought to another without completely digesting the message. We get all this information which we never unpack and see if it’s useful or not.

For Marcus Aurelius, who was a Roman Emperor and a Stoic philosopher, this unpacking of information was done through his writing. He kept a journal that we now know as his book ‘Meditations‘. The book is essentially comprised of personal notes, each one reminding him of something that he considered to be important, some principle to remember and live-by. Rather than adding information, Marcus Aurelius refined what he knew and tried to live by it.

Which is the point of philosophy. Philosophy isn’t simply to contemplate whether we exist or not or what logic means but rather, philosophy is about how one lives and for Aurelius, he was able to embody his philosophy by constantly reminding himself of what was important.

From the point of view of the imminence of death, one thing counts, and one alone: to strive always to have the essential rules of life present in one’s mind, and to keep placing oneself in the fundamental disposition of the philosopher, which consists essentially in controlling one’s inner discourse, in doing only that which is of benefit to the human community, and in accepting the events brought to us by the course of the Nature of the All. (Pierre Hadot)

The essential reason why Aurelius wrote was to control his inner discourse. By that, it is meant his thoughts. If you allow your mind to be completely free, it is likely to fill your head with anxiety and fears or, it’ll distract you from the right action by leading you towards some immediate gratification. But by repeatedly reading and writing the principles that you want to live by, you bring those ideals to the forefront of your mind and then your action follows.

It is not enough to reread what has already been written. Written pages are already dead, and the Meditations were not made to be reread. What counts is the reformulation: the act of writing or talking to oneself, right now, in the very moment when one needs to write. (Pierre Hadot)

This is an important thing to understand. If one reads the ‘Meditations’ what they will find is that Marcus Aurelius is basically repeating the same handful of principles over and over again. The reason for this is that the book was never meant for public eyes. Rather it was his personal journal. But what we can understand from this action is that we need reminders. We need to remember to stay on the right path. This is done through daily practice. Every day you have to hammer it into your mind what you want to be, how you want to act, how you want to represent yourself. Writing is one way to do this. Because the act of writing alone causes you to concentrate on the thoughts which are formulating into the words in front of you.

Marcus writes only in order to have the dogmas and rules of life always present to his mind. He is thus following the advice of Epictetus, who, after having set forth the distinction between what does and does not depend on us —- the fundamental dogma of Stocisim —- adds:

It is about this that philosophers ought to meditate; this is what they should write down every day, and it should be the subject of their exercises (I, I, 25).

You must have these principles at hand both night and day; you must write them down; you must read them (III, 24, 103). (Pierre Hadot).

These principles depend on the individual. For the Stoics, the main principles were to understand how little control we have in life, how we do have control over our reason and attitude, how death can approach at any moment and how we must align ourselves with the universal purpose.

This may not be how you wish to live. But whatever you consider to be important, whatever principles you wish to follow require constant attention. You just have to remember to reinforce these principles on a consistent basis.

The practical nature of stoicism is one of the reasons why this philosophy is still relevant. It acknowledges how easy it is to be overwhelmed or to stray off the path but it also provides a solution in the form of journaling. Simply by writing for ten to fifteen minutes in the morning and maybe even in the afternoon, it can act as a reminder and help you to carry yourself with grace, to think of the right things and to act in the correct manner. The repetition of such can then slowly transform your character to the point that you begin to embody the philosophy by the way you live as it did for Marcus Aurelius.

Book referenced: The Inner Citadel by Pierre Hadot


Stoic Lesson: Aim For Internal Growth

Stoic Lesson: How To Keep Yourself Accountable

Stoic Lesson: The Right Mindset For A Happy Life

Stoic Lesson: Concentrate On What You Can Control

Stoic Lesson: You Have To Acknowledge Your Sickness Before You Can Be Cured

Stoic Lesson: Epictetus On Progress

Stoic Lesson: An Exercise In Being Grateful


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Poem: The Old Rebel

Article: Montaigne On How To Be A Well-Rounded Thinker

Short Story: The Bus

 

Montaigne On How To Be A Well-Rounded Thinker

It seems that it is, rather, the property of Man’s wit to act readily and quickly, while the property of the judgment is to be slow and poised. But there is the same measure of oddness in the man who is struck dumb if he has no time to prepare his speech and the man who cannot take advantage and speak better when he does have time. (Montaigne)

These are the two spectrums of thinking. On one side is a person who is quick on their feet and can improvise. On the other end is a person who requires time to think and organize their thoughts before acting. There are benefits to both sides as certain circumstances require quick wit and others poised judgment. But this can only be achieved if you have the ability to act both ways. People often handicap themselves by only practicing one way of thinking. They either think themselves quick-witted or not. Or they only reap the rewards of one approach and not the other.

Montaigne urges people to be both a preacher and a barrister. Someone who is well thought out but is also able to improvise on the spot. For myself, I know I lean heavily towards the organization side of the spectrum. Ad-libbing isn’t something I’m comfortable with. Perhaps overthinking is the reason for the lack of wit.

In addition, a soul worrying about doing well, straining and tensely drawn towards its purpose, is held at bay — like water which cannot find its way through the narrow neck of an open gutter because of the violent pressure of its overflowing abundance.

The desire to perform well, to not fail, to not embarrass ourselves can lead us away from exercising our wit. It can stop us from exploring this other side of ourselves, the more unconscious, unstructured and free-flowing aspect of our personality.

The occasion, the company, the very act of using my voice, draw from my mind more than what I can find there when I exercise it and try it out all by myself.

Montaigne exercised this part of himself through speech. By just talking and letting the words come out and then following this spontaneous line of thought and seeing where it takes him. He also exercised his wit through writing. Often going with the flow of his thoughts without forcing judgment on what he’s writing.

Where I seek myself I cannot find myself: I discover myself more by accident than by inquiring into my judgment.

This did lead to writing that didn’t make sense. But it also lead to unpacking what he truly believed in, what he thought to be important and what he cared about. Because the actions committed without judgment speak volumes of your true form. In this way, embracing the flow aspect of your thoughts can shine a light on what you really want to say. Once that is out there, on paper or in a conversation, then you can add organization and structure to the argument and present it as a complete package.

You don’t want to be limited by your own perceptions. Montaigne suggests that we can be both, quick-witted and have good judgment. He also suggests that this needs to be practiced. The practice may involve sitting down and writing an essay on a topic just to exercise your judgment. It may also involve a stream of consciousness type journaling where you’re not bogged down by the desire to present a concise argument. By practicing both sides we move towards the middle of the spectrum where we can then pick and choose how to act and be ready depending on external situations.


Montaigne On The Displacement Of Anger

Montaigne on The Importance of Emotional Moderation

Montaigne On How To Judge Someone’s Actions

Bad Memory Has Its Benefits

Reflections: Get Out Of Your Head


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Poem: Electric Self-Help

Article: Stoic Lesson: Aim For Internal Growth

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out

Lessons From Stories: James Joyce’s Dubliners & The Necessity of Action

James Joyce was a novelist, short story writer, and poet. His short story collection, Dubliners, is comprised of fifteen stories all of which depict and explore the Irish middle class in the 20th century. A common theme that runs through these stories is of inaction. Where the characters wish to live a different, more fulfilling life but fail to take the necessary steps in order to achieve their dreams. This is exemplified in the stories “Two Gallants,” “A Little Cloud,” and “Eveline.” Joyce’s ability to capture realistic human behavior is one of the reasons why his writing has lived on. The failure leaves the characters frustrated and disappointed with life. A common occurrence in the everyday life of many people who wish they had acted differently in the past so their present could be more satisfying.

In the story, “Two Gallants,” we follow the characters, Corley and Lenehan. Both men are frustrated and disappointed with their lives. Corley wishes to be respected, to be a man of power. Lenehan tells us how Corley was “Fond of delivering the final judgment,” and how “His conversations were mainly about himself.” But Corley doesn’t have the abilities to earn this respect so he is left to trick and charm women into fulfilling his needs. This is shown at the end of the story where it is implied that he convinced the girl he was seeing into stealing money from the family she worked for.

Corley is almost an archetype of the kind of person we need to look out for in our lives. The selfish individual who uses his cunning to trick people. Someone with enough charm to manipulate the actions of others. He is also only focused on the short-term gain which will unlikely break the cycle of disappointment. Such action only brings temporary relief, something many of us can relate to with our own experiences.

Lenehan, on the other hand, has his own frustration which stems from how his life has turned out.

This vision made him feel keenly his own poverty of purse and spirit. He was tired of knocking about, of pulling the devil by the tail, of shifts and intrigues. He would be thirty-one in November. Would he never get a good job? Would he never have a home of his own? He thought how pleasant it would be to have a warm fire to sit by and a good dinner to sit down to.

These thoughts are easy to recognize and empathize with because most of us have had something similar to them. However, it’s not in the simple connection with these thoughts where the lesson is derived from but rather the actions of Lenehan prior to these thoughts and after which reveal the truth about human behavior. Before, he is simply walking around, wasting time, buying into the schemes of his friend. Directly afterward, Lenehan meets two friends and he spends time talking to them and telling them how the previous day he was with another friend, drinking and having a good time.

This action is also recognizable. The repetitive routine which kills your time as you get no closer to your dreams. Lenehan is unhappy with his life, he recognizes this fact but he doesn’t take any steps to improve it. Rather, he gives in to the feelings of self-pity and says that this “Experience had embittered his heart against the world.” Although he adds that there was hope left, it’s hard to imagine how long that will last if he doesn’t bring about change in his life. This goes for anyone who wishes to improve their lives. The longer you wait, the more concrete your foundation becomes and harder it is to break free.

The inability to undertake action is also seen in the story “A Little Cloud.” This story contrasts two figures, Little Chandler, who is the protagonist and Ignatius Gallaher. The story shows how the inactions of Little Chandler leave him envying the life of Gallaher. Gallaher is a poet and he travels the world, something Chandler wishes he could do. However, Chandler relies on two false narratives to ease his disappointment with life.

First, Chandler claims that if he had really wanted to, if he had truly dedicated his mind to the task, he could also write great poems. He believes that he could write “Different moods and impressions he wished to express in verse” however, he is too shy and timid to do so.

Secondly, he believes that he isn’t like Gallaher because he is married and has to take care of a wife and child. While Gallaher is still single and is able to travel to different cities and enjoy life.

If you wanted to succeed you have to go away.

With such thoughts he consuls himself and gives himself an excuse to why he isn’t a poet. When in reality, it’s the lack of ownership and action that has resulted in his unfulfilled life.

Such excuse-making is common in everyday life. It’s a coping mechanism in order to keep your self-esteem high. By having outlets to blame, we can then avoid the true reality of our failures. However, in this manner, we also forgo any hope of growth. This is also seen in Chandler’s story. He has just been dreaming and hoping for that magical one day where everything will work out for the best. Instead of taking action, he lives passively and so, his character doesn’t grow and his life doesn’t change. While, Gallaher took the risk, put his work out there to get criticized, figured his way out and now can live his desired life.

The lack of action is also present in the story “Eveline.” In this story, a young girl named Eveline has fallen in love with a sailor and wishes to leave with the boy. However, instead of her accepting this call to adventure, she refuses it.

A bell clanged upon her heart. She felt hims size her hand:

‘Come!’

All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would down her. She gripped with both hands at the iron railing.

‘Come!’

No! No! No! It was impossible.

Her refusal to accept this new life was due to the promise she had made her deceased mother. The promise is that she would look after the household.

She felt her cheek pale and cold and, out of a maze of distress, she prayed to god to direct her, to show her what was her duty.

It’s this duty she felt she owed that stops her from taking action. It’s the same kind of commitment many of us feel we owe other people that act as a barrier to experience our own life. It’s also our own insecurities and nerves which cling to some possible excuse to not be uncomfortable, to not go into some unknown path. But by doing so, we limit the possible experiences we can have. Just as Eveline cuts off this adventure with her love or how Little Chandler stays dreaming about being a poet while he works an office job or how Lenehan fails to make any progress in life. It’s the inability to make an uncomfortable choice that forces these characters to live lackluster lives. Lives which can be empathized with by many readers.

However, if we were to act opposite of these characters then perhaps we can get closer to achieving fulfillment ourselves. Lenehan dreams but has no plans to improve his situation. He repeats his bad habits which have lead him to dislike his situation. So, if we were to plan the course of our life for the next month or two months or however long, that will get us going down our desired path. Along with the recognition of bad habits which comes through self-reflection. Little Chandler, on the other hand, has excuses as to why he isn’t living his preferred life. These excuses deny ownership and responsibility. By taking on ownership we also take on the ability to have an effect on our life. We can overcome being timid and shy and take action in this manner. While, Eveline is afraid to experience life, to be uncomfortable and so, she falls back to pleasing other people rather than living her own life. Sometimes being selfish is good. To put yourself before others in order to live your own life. This can be difficult, especially when you have to disregard the opinions or wishes of your loved ones. However, opportunities don’t come around often and they certainly don’t wait around for you. If you wish to be fulfilled then that uncomfortable decision must be made.


Why Read Mythology

The individual has to find an aspect of myth that relates to his own life. Myth basically serves four functions. The first is the mystical function—realizing what a wonder the universe is, and what a wonder you are, and experiencing awe before this mystery […] The second is a cosmological dimension, the dimension with which science is concerned—showing you what the shape of the universe is, but showing it in such a way that the mystery again comes through […] The third function is a sociological one—supporting and validating a certain social order […] But there is a fourth function of myth, and this is the one that I think everyone must try today to relate to—and that is pedagogical function, of how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances. Myth can teach you that. (Joseph Campbell)

It’s the ‘How to live’ function of the myth which interests me. Life can be difficult to navigate. It’s unknown and random at times which can bring about unexpected situations. How to deal with these hardships and struggles? Or what’s the best way to improve yourself? How to build a strong character? One which is courageous and active. Or how to get connected with your spiritual side, your feminine or masculine side? Questions like these and others like it are always at the forefront of my mind.

One way myths can set you down the right path is by understanding that you’re not unique in these thoughts. All of these questions and troubles have been thought of before you. The fact that other people have had them and have dealt with them and have immortalized possible solutions in the format of stories and myths is an important reason why these myths should be studied.

When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your own life. It gives you perspective on what’s happening to you. With the loss of that, we’ve really lost something because we don’t have a comparable literature to take its place. These bits of information from ancient times, which have to do with the themes that have supported human life, built civilizations, and informed religions over the millennia, have to do with deep inner problems, inner mysteries, inner thresholds of passage, and if you don’t know what the guide-signs are along the way, you have to work it out yourself.

Instead of blindly trying to get through life and only relying on your own experiences to come up with some manageable way to solve your problems, you can instead lean on past stories for support.

You may find comfort in Odysseus‘ struggle to get home. The repeated obstacles that he has to somehow overcome in order to get back to his family. The story may give you hope that there is a possible way to achieve your goal if you keep facing your own obstacles with grace and a calm mind. In modern-day such a story is exemplified in Rocky where the character is repeatedly beaten down but refuses to stay down, each time he gets back up and it’s the value of that simple motif which can allow you to keep facing your own troubles, as it did for the former navy seal and ultramarathon competitor, David Goggins.

Or understand the negative effects of greed can have on a family through the story of King Midas. Or even see how the overabundance of fatherly love can be harmful to your children as shown in Balzac’s Old Goriot.

These simple stories can guide you into being a better parent, a more cohesive family unit or simply to accept the continuous struggles of life.

Additionally, mythology is littered with the idea of death and rebirth but in the sense that in order to move up in life, to transition from one phase of your life to the next, you must sacrifice something.

Mythology has a great deal to do with the stages of life, the initiation ceremonies as you move from childhood to adult responsibilities, from the unmarried state into the married state. All of those rituals are mythological rites. they have to do with your recognition of the new role that you’re in, the process of throwing off the old one and coming out in the new, and entering into a responsible profession.

The rituals of primitive initiation ceremonies are all mythologically grounded and have to do with killing the infantile ego and bringing forth an adult.

Once again we see the importance of initiation and sacrifice in the Odessey. Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, is a boy who is simply hoping that one day his father returns restores stability and order in his life. However, Athena comes and gives the boy advice in which she tells him to set out and seek his father. It’s action that Athena advices. And by undertaking this action, Telemachus has to sacrifice the comforts of his own home and by doing so, he beings his transition from boyhood to manhood.

Many of us cling on to things from our past as we attempt to grow into the individual we wish to be. It’s usually the things we enjoy the most, the ones which bring us the most comfort, that need to be abandoned in order to grow and enter the next phase in life. It’s this letting go that is hard which is why we may see grown adults behaving like children. Because these people haven’t made the right sacrifices. Unlike Bilbo, who gave up the comforts of the Shire in order to venture out into the world and face challenges, these people hold on to the comfort and in doing so, remain the same while their bodies grow older.

This theme of embracing what is uncomfortable runs throughout the myths. Of how long-lasting character growth only comes by facing hardship and struggle.

All these different mythologies give us the same essential quest. You leave the world that you’re in and go into a depth or into a distance or up to a height. There you come to what was missing in your consciousness in the world you formerly inhabited.

And what all the myths have to deal with is transformations of consciousness of one kind or another. You have been thinking one way, you now have to think a different way […] Either by trials themselves or by illuminating revelations. Trials and revelations are what it’s all about.

Think about Hercules’ 12 labors or Buddha’s revelations through stillness. It’s going beyond your comfort zone that myths embody. Self-growth and self-improvement is the goal of many people but it can be difficult to know how exactly how to go about achieving these aims. The myths tell us the embrace trials or to go into a depth or height which we are avoiding. It’s what we are consciously avoiding that may be the exact thing we need to get better.

Whether it be a relationship that we aren’t happy in, or a job that we dislike, or an opportunity that scares us or an activity that intimidates us, it’s only in facing these trials and figuring out how to overcome them do we experience transformation in our consciousness.

Our life evokes our character. You find out more about yourself as you go on. That’s why it’s good to be able to put yourself in situations that will evoke your higher nature rather than your lower.

Your higher nature is often revealed when you tackle something that is difficult. When you have to make difficult choices and decisions. While the lower nature is when you constantly expose yourself to immediate pleasure and comfort. At least that’s what the myths which have stood the test of time tell us. The heroic quest doesn’t start and end with you avoiding engagement with life. Rather, it starts when you begin to embrace of experience of life which includes failures and disappointments. Just understanding that life is full of obstacles may be enough reason why you should read the ancient Heroic tales. It can brace you for the inevitable and if you care enough, it can also guide you through these universal troubles.

Book referenced: The Power Of the Myth By Joseph Campbell


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Poem: The Many Yous

Article: Stoic Lesson: Aim For Internal Growth

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out

 

 

Stoic Lesson: Aim For Internal Growth

A change of character, not a change of air, is what you need […] whatever your destination you will be followed by your own failings.

In life, we often look for some external change which we hope will bring us fulfillment. If only I got that promotion or if only I can lose another five pounds or if only that girl had said yes or if only I can travel more I’ll be happy and so on. Always looking for something other than ourself. However, it’s also true that when those external things we wished for do come true, we only find temporary relief, if that, before we begin to crave something else.

Seneca would say the reason for this repetitive living is that you’re not aiming to improve your character so no matter the circumstances, you are still stuck with yourself, with your own thoughts and feelings.

And if you want to know why all this running away cannot help you, the answer is simply this: you are running away in your own company. You have to lay aside the load of your spirit. Until you do that, nowhere will satisfy you. 

I believe that a lot of us know that we are capable of doing more but lack the work ethic and discipline. So you’re left with this itch that keeps reminding you of what you can become while you distract yourself with external concerns and in this day and age, distraction through social media.

I know I’m one of these people. It’s hard to find happiness and joy in life when you’re internally unbalanced.

Recognition of this is just the first step. The passive understanding will not do. Action has to follow this understanding.

A consciousness of wrongdoing is the first step to salvation.

For myself, there are two things that have helped bridge the gap between who I am and who I wish to be and that’s self-reflection and voluntary hardship.

Often self-reflection and meditation go hand in hand but I’m yet to find benefits of meditation. However, another form of self-reflection is writing. Through journaling, I’m able to remind myself to stay on the path as cliche as that sounds. The reminders are necessary. Also through writing, I’m able to work through all the noise that’s in my life, all the different things grabbing my attention, in order to concentrate on what I want to do with my time. Working out what I want to do and who I want to be has certainly helped bring more stability to the internal me which has taken focus away from the external cravings.

Voluntary hardship is another way to “lay aside the load of your spirit” as Seneca said. The idea is that you consciously move towards something that makes you uncomfortable, something that pushes you into the zone of proximal development where you will have to grow in order to overcome some challenge. This doesn’t have to be a great struggle. If you can only run a mile, going to a mile and a half is an accomplishment. If you can’t run at all then just walking half a mile is something that can help you grow. The little steps of discomfort strengthen your internal resolve and make you internally proud. In this way, you don’t have to seek external validation to feel good.

Once you have rid yourself of the affliction there, though, every change of scene will become a pleasure. You may be banished to the ends of the earth, and yet in whatever outlandish corner of the world you may find yourself stationed, you will find that place, whatever it may be like, a hospitable home.

When the inner state is in balance then you see the brilliance of life in everything. The mundane, everyday life seems unique.

So–to the best of your ability—demonstrate your own guilt, conduct inquiries pf your own into all the evidence against yourself. Play the part first of prosecutor, then of a judge and finally of pleader in mitigation. Be harsh with yourself at times.

By holding yourself accountable, by holding yourself up to an inner standard you experience true growth. External standards and cravings come and go. They change like the weather and your left thinking whether you have actually grown which brings feelings of disappointment and shame. But when you consistently meet the internal standards then you can compare the previous you to the present you, you see your development. In this manner, we get closer to internal peace and with it true fulfillment and happiness.


Stoic Lesson: How To Keep Yourself Accountable

Stoic Lesson: The Right Mindset For A Happy Life

Stoic Lesson: Concentrate On What You Can Control

Stoic Lesson: You Have To Acknowledge Your Sickness Before You Can Be Cured

Stoic Lesson: Epictetus On Progress

Stoic Lesson: An Exercise In Being Grateful


Youtube: Learned Living

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Poem: Four Swordsmen

Article: Indirect Battle Strategy and How It Can Help Us Overcome Our Own Obstacles

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out

Indirect Battle Strategy and How It Can Help Us Overcome Our Own Obstacles

B.H. Liddell Hart (31 October 1895 – 29 January 1970) was a British soldier and a military historian. He is perhaps most famous for his 1954 book, Strategy, in which he argued that an indirect approach to a battle is superior to a direct approach.

It helps us to realize that there are two forms of practical experience, direct and indirect and that, of the two, indirect practical experience may be the more valuable because infinitely wider.

Now, most of us are never going to be in a position where we have to direct armies and win battles. However, by using a different perspective on Hart’s theory, we can perhaps apply the indirect approach to our life. We all have obstacles and problems in our lives which require different solutions. By broadening our possibilities through the inclusion of an indirect approach we also broaden the number of solutions available to us.

Direct experience is inherently too limited to form an adequate foundation either for theory or for application. At the best it produces an atmosphere that is of value in drying and hardening the structure of thought.

If our mind is set on one way of thinking, then that thought pattern gets engrained and hardened. This limits our possibilities which limits the probability of success.

To move along the line of natural expectation consolidates the opponent’s balance and thus increases his resisting power.

Hart cites the example of the Peloponnesian War where the different Greek states, primarily Sparta and Athens, fought for twenty-seven years. The majority of which was spent using a direct approach in battle. Often times this lead to a stalemate or just small swings in momentum. The two major shifts in the war occurred when the Athenian general Alcibiades decided to attack the Spartan economic stronghold in Sicily and when the Spartan general Lysander attacked Athens lines of communication. Lysander found success with his approach and was able to make Athens come to terms which favored the Spartans.

I can think of many instances where I used the same approach to an issue I was having and it didn’t result in any proper solution, just temporary relief before the problem came back again. Fortunately, it wasn’t twenty-seven years of stalemate.

This example reminds me of issues that can arise between parents and children where the parent wants the child to act in a certain manner but instead of communicating it properly, they end up simply ordering the child to do. This rarely works for the long term. Instead, if the parent shows the benefits of proper behavior perhaps by even behaving like that themselves the child can observe and begin to mimic them. Or perhaps rewarding the child each time he/she behaved in the correct manner. This can stick with the child for the long term. So, the indirect approach can get the result the parent wanted rather than the direct approach of compliance.

Effective results in war have rarely been attained unless the approach had had such indirectness as to ensure the opponent’s unreadiness to meet it. The indirectness has usually been physical, and always psychological.

An example of this unreadiness can be seen in Hannibal Barca‘s war tactics. Hannibal was a Carthaginian who had successfully invaded the Roman territory with his army. Although he was outnumbered and his supply chain severely depleted, he continued to have success against the Roman armies because of his indirect approach, this was most famously exemplified in the Battle of Lake Trasimene. Instead of waiting for the Romans to gather their strength and fight them on an open field, Hannibal decided to ambush the Roman army as they crossed a heavily forested area where the lake fell on one side and the woods on the other. Hannibal worked his army day and night in order to ensure that they would reach the woods in time to enact the largest ambush in military history. Hannibal succeeded in his aim as the Romans were caught off guard and Hannibal’s army fell upon them from three different sides and with the lake to barricade them in position, many of them were killed and those who decided to jump into the lake drowned from their heavy armor.

What we can take away from Hannibal’s indirect approach is to think of the future problems that can arise and tackle them before they grow into something powerful. Often times we wait around until an issue matures and gets overwhelming. Hannibal would advise us to plan for the future and act before the problem grows.

This is clearly evident in bad habits. Most of us know what is good for us, what the proper way to act is, what we shouldn’t do and yet, we end up indulging the bad habits, telling ourselves it’s okay, just one last time, one last drink and all of this only strengthens the habits we are trying to break. Instead of waiting for the habit to become overwhelming, we should take Hannibal’s approach and stomp it out in its infancy.

The goal is to grow as an individual and overcoming obstacles is the best way to do that. However, solutions from the previous obstacle may not apply to the next one. This is why being open-minded, approaching issues with different perspectives, tackling the problems with an indirect approach can be beneficial.


Youtube: Learned Living

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Poem: Electric Self-Help

Article: I’m A Son Of A Bitch If I’ll Be Defeated By The Everydayness

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out

Why Read Philosophy

First of all, without it we can make no sense of the world in which we live. Philosophy is the best training for living, better even than history and the human sciences. Why? Quite simply because virtually all of our thoughts, convictions and values exist and have meaning — whether or not we are conscious of it — within models of the world that have been developed over the course of intellectual history. We must understand these models in order to grasp their reach, their logic and their consequences. (Luc Ferry)

The way we live, the way we function and interact with others, the values and beliefs we have are all knowingly or unknowingly influenced by the society and culture we live in. When you begin to explore why you believe in the things you do or harbor the opinions you have or consider some values to be greater than other, you come to realize how much of it is just preconceived notions passed down to you which you have accepted without really examining them.

There is a realization that your personal views, your political views, your religious views, your societal views are not yours. They are the views of others. However, there is a logic behind these views which stems from generations of thoughts and of trial and errors of the different modes and systems which have come before you. But simply accepting them without adding your own reason and logic to it does a disservice to the intellectual history which you are a part of because you are simply following the herd instead of coming to your own understanding.

The issue is that to think for oneself is difficult. It’s much easier to accept what others say. The parroting culture is quite evident on social media. But in order to lead your own life, to find your own mode of living which will provide you with happiness and fulfillment, you can’t simply rely on other peoples words. You have to discover for yourself what is meaningful.

All you have to do is see all the miserable people who followed the words of other people and ended with degrees they don’t like, jobs they hate, a life which brings them minimal pleasure to understand why it’s important to find your own path.

Philosophy acts as a guide in this discovery. It can teach you how to think, how to apply reason and logic, how to formulate your own thoughts, how to pick apart your beliefs and in doing so create more solid ones with a better foundation. Philosophers like Socrates, Montaigne, and Nietzsche come to mind.

Another benefit of philosophy is that:

Many individuals spend a considerable part of their lives anticipating misfortune and preparing for catastrophe — loss of work, accident, illness, death of loved ones, and so on. Others, on the contrary, appear to live in a state of utter indifference, regarding such fears as morbid and having no place in everyday life. Do they realize, both of these character-types, that their attitudes have already been pondered with matchless profundity by the philosophers of ancient Greece? (Luc Ferry)

Simply put, for centuries people have been thinking and studying the problems that trouble you. From the Ancient Greeks to now, man hasn’t changed much. We all still have the same problems more or less. The concerns over our mortality, failure in love, the disappointment of passionate work, struggle to find a purpose or meaning, dealing with the ups and downs of life. You aren’t the first person to feel these things and you won’t be the last. By delving into philosophy, you can discover the best thinkers mankind has produced and see what they had to say on these topics.

This is personally why I read philosophy. I don’t care much about metaphysics or whether or not this life is real or if I exist and so on, such things have given philosophy a bad rep. Instead, I rather read about Marcus Aurelius and find some comfort in the idea that this individual, the Roman Emperor, the most influential person of his time, still had to remind himself to be good, that life is short, to concentrate on what he can control like his own attitude. Or read about Ralph Waldo Emerson and his ideas of how in order to be an individual we cannot give into conformity which plagues society. Everywhere you look you see people giving up their own thoughts and opinions and following the lead of someone else. That’s not how you become an individual.

Learning to live; learning to fear no longer the various faces of death; or, more simply, learning to conquer the banality of everyday life — boredom, the sense of time slipping by: these were already the primary motivations of the schools of ancient Greece. (Luc Ferry)

Philosophy is rich in such ideas and others like it. It can help you simplify your life. To get rid of the clutter that infests the mind of most people who are overly concerned about things which are out of their control. It can center your thought and show you the mistakes you made in your reasoning. Philosophy can bring to the forefront the simple principles of life which can result in your personal growth, improvement in relationships and overall fulfillment and happiness.

Book referenced: A Brief History of Thought