January 21, 2017 – A Morning Ritual

“Ask yourself the following first thing in the morning:

  • What am I lacking in attaining freedom from passion?
  • What for tranquility?
  • What am I? A mere body, estate-holder, or reputation? None of these things.
  • What, then? A rational being.
  • What then is demanded of me? Meditate on your actions.
  • How did I steer away from serenity?
  • What did I do that was unfriendly, unsocial, or uncaring?
  • What did I fail to do in all these things?” – Epictetus, Discourses, 4.6.34-35

When do you reflect? I have yet to make it habit of meditating in the morning, and I’m not sure I have to. Sometimes I purposely plan my Daily Stoic before I go to be because I want to use it as a means of reviewing how my day went as opposed to using it as a means of setting the tone of the day.

As I reflect upon the day preceding, the day of and the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, I wonder how many people are actually thinking about how they are going to respond to the next four years. Are they thinking of ways to be the example for others, or will they simply react to the comments/actions of others? On Saturday I met my friend Chuck. We drank a few beers, talked family, politics and Spartan races. We have friends who are Blued Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter. Friends who are unfailing in their Republican or Democrat ideologies. Since we both have teenage daughters we shared how we have handled the questions they are asking about Trump’s policies, words and plans.

One of the things I love about Chuck is his ability to see multiple sides of a position. Of all the answers we gave our daughters, maybe the most important is whether a Trump presidency was bad for America. We both answered along the lines of, “Even what you may see as a bad situation allows you to find a way to change it.”

It is important to clarify what the Stoics saw as passion. (source)

The Stoics defined passion in several ways, each emphasizing a different facet of the term. The four most common accounts or definitions of passion are:

  • An excessive impulse.
  • An impulse disobedient to (the dictates of) reason.
  • A false judgement or opinion.
  • A fluttering [ptoia] of the soul.

It is false to think the Stoics wanted a life devoid of emotion. What they sought was an emotional balance. Rational behavior will bring about emotions that are not excessive, or unreasonable. In this light, if we fear a Trump presidency what is our rational reaction? Is it breaking windows, looting stores and causing public unrest? No. Is it a peaceful march to express a position we want to be heard? Yes. Is it name calling? No. Is it listening, and disagreeing with a civil tone? Yes.

As yesterday asked us to consider our principles, today asks us to respect rituals that remind us to be mindful. This Daily Stoic reading is my ritual. I have noticed a change in the person I was before I started. If you are one of my readers, I hope these posts are helpful to you.

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