16/01/2017

Resolutions, meditations and stoicism

I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions; if you're going to do something why wait until 1st January and add the stigma associated with possible failure.

This year, however, I decided that I would read more, especially philosophy which is a long standing but under explored interest.

I have been interested in the Stoics for a number of years having quoted and expanded on the likes of Seneca in the past. When I questioned the validity of my daily posts as a body of work they were compared loosely, and favourably, to Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. Good company to keep.

So it was to my surprise and delight that I came across "The Daily Stoic" by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman (366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living) in a local branch of a chain of book shops. Curiously, it was the only philosophy book in the store and happened to be tucked away in the religion section.

A lucky find.

The book is written as to be consumed in bite sized chunks - one meditation (stoic quote) per day accompanied by a thought or explanation for added context, although there is nothing to stop you from reading it all in one go.

I think that defeats the purpose.

Having one thing to focus on per day, a kind of philosophical devotional, is a great way to step back from the bustle of life and may serve as inspiration for a post - although that won't be every day.

Spirituality

I'm not a religious person but am increasingly spiritual in a non-religious sense. Spirituality may have originated with religion but its meaning and concept has expanded over time.

According to Wikipedia, spirituality:

"aims to recover the original shape of man," oriented at "the image of God"

What is philosophy if it is not trying to establish the original shape of man? With or without the divine.

Because always

So, in the majority of other things, we address circumstances not in accordance with the right assumptions, but mostly by following wretched habit - Musonius Rufus.

Today's Daily Stoic meditation began as above, and the added commentary reminded me of this Write365 post:

Because always

There is an amazing hypocrisy in the actions of some. They complain when things don't change, when suggestions are made but passed over, when they feel they are being ignored.

They complain that things are stuck in a rut, that things are done because that's the way it has always been.

However, when reorganisations are made and new management is introduced an overwhelming cynicism prevents them from accepting that change can occur. So, when that new management says that processes will be re-examined and re-evaluated, that things won't be done just because that's the way it always has been, the very same people get defensive.

Better the devil you know?

No one likes change for the sake of it but when genuine change is introduced to improve process a fear kicks in - a fear of that change.

Those previously criticising existing process suddenly defend it, argue against the new ideas, claim that introducing them will be a mistake.

Their argument for doing so? Because this is the way we've always done it!

They can't have it both ways.

Some people get stuck in the same old rut but mistake it for a fond familiarity; they bury themselves so deeply within their comfort zone that they have forgotten how it feels to be outside, to be tested, to have to think for themselves.

No amount of justification can persuade them that change is good, change is an improvement, change is vital.

They just don't listen.

They feel threatened, under attack as if their integrity and work ethic are being questioned. They feel that they are not trusted to do their jobs - how could they be if someone wants to change things?

So, the question becomes: how do you break down that wall? How do you shine a new light into the darkness?

Because it's always been that way is neither a justification nor a defence.

Write365 - 7th October 2014

Further thoughts

"How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one, but it's really got to want to change"

It may be a silly old joke but many a true word is said in jest. People must want to change and, if they are unsure, that change must be sold effectively.

We demand good reason to change our habits but should always be open to doing so. If we never try a different way we miss out on new experiences and the possibility of finding a better path.

Perhaps a proposed change, even fully embraced, does not provide the expected benefits but we won't know unless we try. We lose little but gain affirmation, surety, the knowledge that we are doing things the best way we can.

And that is all we can hope for.

Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog