What is stoicism I hear you say?
Stoicism takes us back to ancient Greece where the scholars of that time taught themselves to endure pain and adversity with perseverance and resilience.
The popularity of Stoicism became more prevalent in Roman times when a chap by the name of Marcus Aurelius, who just happened to be the emperor of the Roman Empire, used to sit down each day and write notes in his diary, after having sheathed his sword and engaged in bloody battles, to write about restraint, compassion and humility.
One of his famous quotes is to do with waking up each morning and having to deal with meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly people. And another one has actually been used as a tagline for a famous Oscar winning film, and yes – it’s to do with echoing in eternity.
As well as Marcus, there was also a Stoic named Epictetus who came from slavery and set up his own school, teaching the greatest minds of Rome. And Seneca, who was an advisor to emperor Nero who later turned on him and demanded his suicide. Seneca could think only of comforting his wife and friends in his time of death.
So, what do these three individuals have in common?
Apart from living during the Roman empire they practiced what they preached. They’d exercised their stoicism and lived up to their teachings.
And it’s amazing how their teachings from two millennia ago still has the same reverence and appeal to how we should live our lives in modern day society. The practices that they exercised still holds true today and can be performed by each and everyone of us. There’s no excuse. So, here are some of these methods, if you will, which are worth considering and doing:
Practicing your misfortune
A lot of us creatives who are just starting out, whether its filmmakers, actors, writers etc. live from hand to mouth when it comes to getting projects made. Therefore, this particular exercise shouldn’t be too gruelling for you to overcome. Seneca said to set aside a certain number of days each month to practice poverty. Eating a little food, wearing your worst clothes and getting away from the comfort of your home is the best thing you can do to make you face your wants in life. This type of exercise will eventually get you to ask yourself is this really what I dreaded?
The whole point of this exercise is for you to live your misfortune rather than dread it. Comfort tends to keep us complacent and a slave to our needs. But by practicing misfortune we actually get to experience these emotions of uncertainty and fear head on which is great since we get to practice what we fear.
Perceiving Good or Bad
Another exercise that the stoics had fun with was taking every obstacle they had and spinning it on its head. Taking a problem and turning it upside down eventually gave out some source of goodness.
The idea is to take advantage and even create opportunities from the situations you see as obstacles. Whether its messing up an audition, losing out on a script pitch, or botching up a film project these situations are actually directing you towards new virtues, which you may have to discover for yourself.
These hidden opportunities will rear their ugly heads every once in a while to the extent of showing up as obstacles. But for you, the Stoic, your aim is to turn every obstacle into an opportunity since there is no good or bad to the practicing stoic – there is only perception. And you CAN control perception. So start to perceive and create your opportunities.
Life is ephemeral
We are all but fleeting and insignificant beings in this universe so remember that your achievements no matter how big or small are all ephemeral and your possession of them is for just an instant.
So be humble in your endeavours and don’t let worry or fear get to you if someone is after what you have for life is transient.
I once heard a wise man say ‘in the cosmos of time we’re all but a fart in the wind.’
I’m sure he said it in jest although he did prove a certain point. To be a stoic you ought to have a laugh at life and exercise happiness while you’re at it surrounded by what’s valuable to you. Your ultimate goal is in fact just that.
To round off about Stoicism –
Be a human doing young Jedi film maker rather than a human being; practice misfortune to make you stronger in the face of adversity; flip the obstacles upside down to turn your problems into opportunities; and remember how small you are to keep your ego in check.
Stoicism should be a soothing ointment to an injury whenever you might have one. And on the days when you feel that life has kicked you in the shins, spat in your face or wrenched your heart just follow this modern day stoic quote: