Most of us trust fate and we believe whatever we do is a process of something that is predetermined for us. If you in any case lose all your money, wealth, and earnings far away from your hometown in an unknown city, you surely will curse your fate. However, for Zeno of Cyprus, it became the building block for his lifelong endeavors and achievements.
Around 300 BCE, the once affluent merchant lost everything in a shipwreck in Athens. Having lost everything and nothing more to lose or gain he entered a bookshop. There he read about Socrates and his philosophy, as he was influenced by Socrates, he moved with the known city philosophers and sought more knowledge. Zeno then started teaching his students and soon came up with his philosophy named Stoicism, which included the wisdom of self-control, virtue, and tolerance. His philosophy still influences great leaders and thinkers.
In ancient Greece, Stoicism was named after the Stoa Poikile, the magnificent public space where Zeno and his devoted followers gathered for discussion. In modern times, we commonly use the word stoic to describe one with a strong sense of self-control under pressure and who avoids extremes of emotion. Yet, while this encapsulates important traits of Stoicism, ancient philosophy was far more than a way of thinking.
Thoughts of Stoicism Philosophers
The Stoics were convinced that all that exists around us proceed in accordance to a link of cause and effect, deriving from a systematic model of the cosmos, referred to as logos. And although we might not often have authority over the events around us, we have control over our response to them. Rather than creating an envision of an ideal society, the Stoic prefers to cope with reality as it is.
Stoics promoted self-improvement by practicing four fundamental virtues:
Practical wisdom, the capability to handle challenging circumstances in a logical, informed, and calm manner;
Tolerance, the virtue of temperance and balance in all domains of life;
Equity, judging others with equity even if they have been wrong;
And courage, not merely in extreme conditions, but addressing daily hardships with dignity and honor.
Stoicism emphasizes personal growth and improvement, but it’s not a me-centered way of thinking. During the time when slaves were considered property under Roman law, Seneca advocated for their righteous treatment and insisted that humanity is universal. Stoicism never encourages a passive attitude.
Stoics definition of life.
The principle is that only individuals who have developed integrity and self-control in their own lives can bring meaningful change in society. One of the most renowned Stoic philosophers was the great emperor of Rome. Over the span of his 19-year term as Emperor, Stoicism gave Marcus Aurelius the will and determination to steer the Empire through two devastating wars, while struggling with the death of many of his children.
Centuries later, Marcus’s journals would support and encourage Nelson Mandela throughout his 27-year prison sentence during his campaign for civil rights and racial harmony in South Africa. After his release and ultimate victory, Mandela emphasized peace and harmony, acknowledging that while the irrationalities of the past couldn’t be undone, his nation could deal with them here and now and attempt to build a brighter and more just society.
Stoicism was an influential branch of philosophy for several millennia in Greek culture and the Roman Empire. As a traditional institution, it withered away, but its legacy has lasted to this day. Catholic philosophers, notably Thomas Aquinas, have appreciated and embraced its focus on the values, and there are similarities between stoic tranquility, or peace of mind, and the Hindu concept of liberation. One of the most notable Stoics was the philosopher Epictetus who said that hardship arises not from the circumstances in our lives, but our perceptions about them. This has been reflected heavily with mainstream psychology and the self-help movement.
For example, practical emotional coping therapy concentrates on altering the self-defeating perceptions people form about their life experiences. Then there is Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy. Inspired by Frankl’s own experience as a concentration camp prisoner, logotherapy is built on the Stoic philosophy that we can utilize our inner strength to infuse our lives with purpose, even in the darkest situations.