A Stoic Symphony

From The Daily Stoic, one of my favorite websites (and books), here are some notes about making progress as a Stoic.

You are making progress if you find yourself...

  • criticizing no one

  • praising no one (I don't entirely agree—a kind word can go a long way; but I understand the idea)

  • blaming no one

  • accusing no one

  • saying nothing about yourself to indicate being someone or knowing something

  • when frustrated or impeded, you blame yourself (*warning: lots of language on link!*)

  • if complimented, you laugh

  • if criticized, you ignore

  • relaxed in motivation

  • banishing harmful desire

  • watching yourself as though you were an enemy plotting an attack

I find that last one very important. As with most artists, I have an amazing capacity to self-sabotage. My harmful desires, my nihilism, my darker fascinations—such things are always at the ready to undo me. Positivity and a growth mindset (traits that don't come naturally to me) are keys to success, while balancing such aspirations must be in harmony with wisdom, a lack of naivety, measured discernment, and love. It's not enough to pretend to be optimistic and positive all the time. I have to embrace my natural Stoicism, my faith, and my five-ness. There's simply no way around the makeup of my brain and my soul. So why fight it?

“I go to sleep content, but my final thought is of Resistance. I will wake up with it tomorrow. Already I am steeling myself.” — Steven Pressfield

Harmony. Harmony is key. Polyphony. Multiple melodies acting in accord. The macro is the whole symphony. The micro is every line, every note. People will only understand the symphony (the thing I’m trying to build and communicate) if each note is properly in place.

So what are the notes of your life? The melodies? How do they weave together? Ask yourself that today.

—G

Responsibility

song in my head — “no tears left to cry” by Ariana Grande

Sometimes doing the responsible thing feels somewhat irresponsible.

Maybe this is because what is "responsible" is often determined by the culture or society around us, and any step outside of that lane is viewed as a break from tradition and, thus, irresponsible. But such a deviation from the norm may be exactly what you're built for. There develops friction then.

An actor friend of mine has been living in Alaska for the last couple years. He has no home, no job while up there, though he returns from time to time to work on films. He lives out of his Jeep, sleeps in a tent most nights, and spends most days writing in his journal, documenting and getting to know himself on a level most of us will never experience. To many, this would be an envious life, an adventure along the lines of which many of us dream. But whatever our "Alaska" is, there’s an echo in our mind (often put there by someone else) telling us that it's "irresponsible.”

We put the importance of average, everyday work on a pedestal in our societies and scoff at the outliers, the travelers, the circus freaks. But what if you truly feel you were meant for something different?

There's a twofold response, I think.

  1. Embrace that difference and run after it. Let it be what defines no matter what you face.

  2. Do the routine, everyday work when you have to and do it (as my wife would say) with a smile on your face. Let it be what empowers you to do what defines you.

What it's really about is freeing yourself from judgment—your judgment of yourself, your judgment of others, the judgment others place on you.

No work lasts forever, and Alaska isn't going anywhere.

Work and dream, and when the time is right, jump.

— G