Echoes

Feels like yesterday.

But it feels like forever,

At the same time, there are moments when I feel like I can hardly remember.

Your face fades in and out from view,

The details of conversations past,

Scattered across time,

With only bits on the brain.

Your words of wisdom,

Now in a staccato rhythm,

Bounce, echoing in the caverns of my mind.

You would bring order to the chaos of the unit.

You always assured us that everything would be fine.

Now with physicality dissolved,

Ever on my mind,

Especially when I’m not sure that everything will be fine.

But it was an honor and a pleasure to have served with you, 

Regardless of how brief the stint ,

In this thing called life.

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“GIVE AN IMPECCABLE PERFORMANCE,” THE ROLES WE PLAY

Actors in a Play

To pick up where my friend left off in our discussion about integrity, I want to bring forth something interrelated. It involves the various roles we have to step into throughout our lives. We believe this is important because how we play our roles determines how those close to us will think about us long after we are gone. Does this sound grim to you? Only if you hold a negative opinion of your own mortality.

The Stoic View on Roles

If you have been reading our articles up to now, you probably know that the Stoics are not emotionally repressive and boring individuals, but dynamic human beings who attempt to utilize reason in their daily lives. This extends to how we could fit into society because the Stoics were not like the Epicureans, a rival philosophical school that encouraged distance from politics and society due to the psychological pain these topics cause. I could talk all day about these historical curiosities, but I have subjected myself to the role of a blogger not a scholar; I only write these articles to help illuminate how this ancient philosophy could help us live better lives. My scholarly desires will have to wait. Whether you like it or not, we all have multiple roles to play, for example, I have to play the role of a brother, an uncle, a son, a clerk, a friend, etc. The Stoics came from all walks of life, Epictetus being a former slave turned mentor had this to say about roles:

“We are like actors in a play. The divine will has assigned us our roles in life without consulting us. Some of us will act in a short drama, others in a long one. We might be assigned the part of a poor person, a cripple, a distinguished celebrity or public leader, or an ordinary citizen.”

A Day in the Life of a Courtesy Clerk

Let’s take my job as a courtesy clerk as an example of a role. I have to greet customers with a smile and ask how their day is going; this is essentially small talk so topics like politics, sex and religion are forbidden to bring up. And if you have to ask why, then I’m going to assume you haven’t lived in polite society for that long. Jokes aside, the manual on what a courtesy clerk has to be is that they are the diplomats of the grocery store because courtesy clerks are often the first face a customer sees and the last person they interact with; this extends to helping customers carry their groceries to their vehicles. The ultimate goal is to leave a lasting impression on the customer so that they return to see our warm personalities. The reality is that we are all human and stress and personal issues sometimes interfere with the execution of that role. Like I mentioned in a previous article, I had to deal with social anxiety and depression, once I got a handle on these issues my next question to myself was, how can I execute my role?

Courtesy Clerk Service

Recently, I had received a compliment from a customer for going out of my way to provide her with helpful information and options. This person has GI issues and, according to the advice of her doctor, she could only eat gluten-free foods. She was searching for a specific brand that my store used to carry and I discovered that it was no longer sold; I could see the disappointment on her face and proceeded to ask my boss if there were any options we could give her. He told me and I relayed the information to her and then I apologized on behalf of the district and told her that we are thankful for her continued loyalty. This is an example on how to be amiable and courteous. I could have told her, “oh well, we can’t do anything,” or simply asked another colleague to help her so I wouldn’t have to deal with her, but that would have been a decision made by my anxious self; I didn’t want to feed that emotion.

The Inevitability of Playing a Role

This is only one example of how playing a role is inevitable when you become aware of what people are struggling with and how you fit into the larger world. And there are moments when life calls on us to step out of a role briefly. When I assist some customers to their vehicles, they start to tell me very personal details about their lives, including grieving and divorce; in these moments I have felt uncomfortable because it is not my place to dispense advice, but when they are going through something that I have personally gone through myself, for example grief,  I briefly step out of my worker bee role and offer a little of my experience with the matter. Often times, the person feels better and this actually causes them to come back to the store, glad that there are empathetic workers. I’m not a grief counselor nor am I a Machiavellian, but I look at it as fulfilling two roles, a courtesy clerk and a human being. And to leave one more quote from Epictetus, he had this to say:

“Although we can’t control which roles are assigned us, it must be our business to act our given role as best as we possibly can and to refrain from complaining about it. Wherever you find yourself and in whatever circumstances, give an impeccable performance.”

Conclusion

There are so many other examples we could give about playing our roles. It is everywhere from roles in the military to roles in political positions (we won’t do president bashing here, regardless of our personal opinions). Roles are definitely related to the Stoic theme of fate, integrity and facing our mortality because if you can’t play a role decently, you either have to take a hard look at your own priorities or reconsider what is actually in your ability to play. Until next time!

 

Clipped and Songless

Little bird, tell me

Who clipped your wings?

Who told you that you could no longer fly?

Or how the blue bird sings.

Little bird tell me,

Who implanted a burden so hard?

That One Day in Silence,

You felt you had to play the paranoia card?

Singing your own virtue, hardship, praise,

While other’s dreams,

You cast in doubt

Or fail to raise,

Caged in your own mind,

You pretend to be secure,

You only sing to shout,

So that others will demure.

You tell the younglings

To reach for the sky,

Even though you’re a tether,

So that they’ll never fly to high.

Sometimes even clipped their wings,

So they’ll forget how to fly.

Little bird, tell me

Who clipped your wings?

Who told you that you could no longer fly?

Or how the blue bird sings.

“You Can’t Do It.” And Other Negative Things in My Mind — The Armchair of the Socratic Buffoons

What the Depressed Mind Says to You My fellow Socratic Buffoon just talked about his experience with depression, now it is my turn to angle the magnifying glass to my own mind. I have struggled with depression for awhile, I would say for 12 years now. It manifests as a low mood with irritability and […]

via “You Can’t Do It.” And Other Negative Things in My Mind — The Armchair of the Socratic Buffoons

A Little Intro to Stoicism

A Philosophy of Repression?

So, what is Stoicism exactly? Is it the quiet, sullen pessimist who has a cynical perspective of the world and represses all emotional reactions and moods as irrational or rather as unhelpful? Well, not quite.  Antiheroes like Wolverine are commonly described as “stoic,” but this is a stereotype; Logan detaches himself from any sort of feeling for his comrades, the X-Men, because of trauma and his own murderous animal rage, and he copes with heavy drinking and various drugs. Mostly this is out of fear, but this attitude and the word used to describe it, is a far cry from the Ancient Greek philosophical school that bears the name Stoicism. So, again what is Stoicism?

Where Did It Come From?

No it was not founded by a Vulcan, it was founded by Zeno of Citium around 300 BCE, Stoicism was influenced by the legendary philosopher Socrates in the sense that virtue was the chief good in order to live a fulfilling life. Zeno established three things to study in order to live this philosophy which included Physics, Logic and Ethics. Physics in the ancient world meant the natural world, today this would be the findings in modern science, Logic was the study of epistemology and how to use reason to combat automatic judgement of things both external and internal. Ethics was the principle by how you led your life in “accordance with Nature.” What is meant by “Nature” is related to the Stoic’s view of the universe as orderly and rational and that human beings are by nature rational and social creatures.  These three principles are interconnected so accumulation of knowledge, using one’s reason to figure out what is virtue and what is not and formulating a way of life that is beneficial not only to yourself, but to your fellow human beings. The three topics are usually bundled together as an image: Physics is the fertile soil of a plot of land, Logic is the fence or wall that protects that soil and Ethics is the fruit of that soil.   

 

Virtue Ethics

The concept of virtue has existed for millennia, and in Ancient Greece it was hailed as the chief good by which one should live their life. In Stoicism, virtue is held in high esteem and its cultivation necessary to live a eudaimonic life. Since the time of Socrates and Plato, four aspects of virtue called the Cardinal Virtues were identified as components to the good life:

  • Wisdom or Prudence
  • Justice; (includes how parents treat children)
  • Temperance or Moderation
  • Courage or Fortitude

It must be noted that these are translated from Ancient Greek terms and that you should not define these words as they are understood today. For example, according to Don Robertson, Justice is to be understood as one’s relationship to their society, parents or the gods (piety) and has two sub-virtues, kindness and fairness. We won’t delve deeply into the Cardinal Virtues in this post, but stay tuned for more articles on these essential cultivations.

Conclusion

These are the broad strokes of Stoicism as a school of thought, but we hope that this introduction was a good taste of what is to come from these Socratic Buffoons. Our goal with these writings about Stoicism is not to delve into its theories and whether it is the “right path” (as philosophy is not to be taken as religious dogma); our goal is to share personal experience and frame it from the Stoic perspective. In the Ancient days philosophy was used as therapy for the human psyche, not just an attempt to explain the universe or imagine what the perfect society would be, philosophy is a toolkit and we want to show you what you could do with these tools. It is through exposing our own examined pieces of life that we hope to inspire some rational inquiry into your own soul.

Welcome to the Socratic Buffoons!

Hey Guys! I’m retiring Musings of a digital Vagabond.  I’ll be putting that content up on another blog soon.  Nothing will change for you guys, I’ll be posting everything from The Armchair of the Socratic Buffoons right here.  And I’ll be migrating my work with disability to a new site. Hope you guys keep reading

A Blog on Philosophy by Non-Philosophers? Why Are You Doing This?

Photo of bloggers wearing clown noses

The answer to that is a fairly straightforward one, at least for us. We were both introduced into philosophy in a way that caused us to examine our own beliefs, and in a way that made us feel as though philosophy was entirely practical. Especially for me, (Ronald Brady). When I was about 15 years old, I met a homeless man at a shopping mall who noticed that I was reading the dialogues of Plato. I soon found out that he was a retired philosophy professor who fell on hard times for various reasons but even then, he couldn’t give up on philosophy. So we made a deal: he would walk me through Plato’s dialogues, teaching the key philosophical concepts in exchange for a couple of meals a week. Needless to say, I readily agreed. My partner in crime (deviant jester a.k.a. Joey), received much the same treatment of philosophy as I did mostly because it was the only thing I knew how to do. And so here we are! We still think philosophy is a really important way, for us to test what we believe, examine our assumptions, and live fuller lives. We try our very best to bear in mind “the unexamined life is not worth living.” That’s why we’re here doing this.

What Is Philosophy?

Quote from Socrates

That’s a sticky and tricky question. As many philosophers as there are in the world both professional and informal, there are probably an equal or greater number of definitions of what philosophy is. To borrow one of my former philosophy professor’s definitions, “philosophy is that discipline primarily concerned with formulating, asking, and answering fundamental questions insufficiently addressed by either science or religion.” If I may add to that, philosophy is a way of life to both of us, and philosophy is made fully alive when the things we learn from it can be put into practice.

Why Stoicism?

Quote from Marcus Aurelius

Well, I would say because it’s old. But that’s not even close to the reason. Many of the philosophies we learn about are old, or at least older than us. Without explaining too much about what Stoicism is (because that’s coming in the next post), we chose to begin our exploration of practical philosophy with Stoicism because it is probably one of the easiest philosophies to understand with little to no philosophical training, and many of the techniques that the ancients used for modulating one’s more fiery emotions line up quite well with modern cognitive behavioral therapy practices. For that reason, we decided to start there. Later on, we will be talking about other philosophers and other schools of thought like Plato, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill and utilitarianism generally, and probably a lot of others. There are no set plans yet as to who we’ll cover, what topics, or when we will cover which things, but were going to keep plugging away. We hope you enjoy it.

Conclusion

We feel that philosophy matters. For us, it is a fundamental part of the human experience. Whether you know it or not, every time you sit down and wonder about the fundamental parts of something abstract, or you ask the very basic question of why something is the way it is, or you ponder the meaning of life and existence, you are in some sense, engaging in philosophy. So we hope you enjoy the beginning of our own very personal explorations of Stoic philosophy. Just as a treat, I’ll leave you with a Ted talk by that very same philosophy professor whose definition of philosophy I just happened to borrow. Thank you, Dr. Schubert.