Stoicism, First Things First, The Power Of the Gods
The first principle of practical Stoicism is this: we don’t react to events; we react to our judgments about them, and the judgments are up to us. — Ward Farnsworth
All right, it’s time to get to the Stoic basics, again, cause they are so easy, so painfully easy, forgotten.
Things happen in life. Some are good, and some are bad, but are they? Are they really? Are they good or bad in an ultimate way? Is the rain bad? Or is it bad for you? Because you wanted to go out with your friends? Or that girl from Bumble? What if someone in your city was hoping for some rain to shower his Begonia flower? Rain’s good for him.
I get it, that is the classical silly example of the subjectivity of good and bad. But the Stoics were getting somewhere with this teaching.
There is an amazing video by Jocko Willing, the US Marine. In the video, he claims that for every situation, you can always say the word “good”.
You didn’t get into that college you wanted? Good, more freedom to live wherever you want. You can’t cook dinner because you ran out of gas? Good, you can practice fasting. This idea can even be comical. You lost your legs, good! No more leg days!
Obviously a joke, but, you can see where this is going. You ARE able to say good, whenever, wherever. And this is tripping. Because, once you say good, your mind has to start looking about ways as to why that situation can be good indeed, and then work with that newly created reality.
You create your own reality, that’s the idea. That is the idea that the Stoics want to throw out to the world. This is the freaking amazing power that Stoicism offers you. The power to choose how you take reality, as something good, or as something bad. They even compare it to a Godly power.
Grief, then, is a recent opinion of some present evil, about which it seems right to feel downcast and in low spirits. Joy is a recent opinion of a present good, in response to which it seems right to be elated. Fear is an opinion of an impending evil that seems unbearable. Lust is an opinion about a good to come — that it would be better if it were already here. — Cicero