If you haven’t noticed, I can’t quite get enough of Stoic wisdom.
In fact, I can’t quite get enough of ancient (Stoic) wisdom AND modern science—which is why I’ve been on a little streak of reading one positive psychology book then a Stoic book then another science of flourishing book then back to the Stoics.
In my quest to read all things Stoic and, more importantly, become a better practitioner of the ancient wisdom in our modern times, I found myself reading Tom Morris’s book The Stoic Art of Living.
As we’ve discussed, Tom is one of my favorite authors. He has a joint Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Yale and is one of the most popular professors in Notre Dame’s history.
But what I most love about him is the fact that every time we connect I’m blown away by the depth of his wisdom and the enthusiastic joy with which he shares it. It’s palpable.
When I saw that he had this book on Stoicism I got it and was eager to read it. Tom wrote it nearly 20 years ago—before Stoicism made a resurgence in popularity.
Here’s my favorite passage from the book—which is ESPECIALLY relevant in turbulent times.
“Too many people seem to view the toughness of the world, the difficulties of life, as undermining the possibility of any sort of strong confidence in our pursuits. Seneca looks at this in the opposite way, seeing the obstacles we face as a proving ground for that inner attitude of resilient self-confidence that we all need:
The powers we have can never inspire in us a genuine inner self-confidence until we have confronted many difficulties along the way, and even now and then have had to struggle fiercely with them. This is the only way our true spirit ever can be really tested—the inner spirit we have that will never consent to be ruled by outer forces. The nature of such a spirit can be seen in the fact that no prizefighter can go into a contest with high spirits if he has never been beaten black and blue. The only man who can enter the ring with confidence is one who has seen his own blood, has felt his teeth rattled by an opponent’s fist, has been tripped up and has experienced the full force of an adversary’s charge, who has been knocked down in body but not in spirit—one who, as often as he falls, gets up again with greater determination than ever.
He even goes so far as to say in one place that:
Disaster is virtue’s opportunity.“
I’d like to shine a VERY BRIGHT spotlight right on that last line.
It’s virtue’s opportunity.
It’s a call to PRACTICE our philosophy—with more intensity than ever.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at our cardinal virtues and figure out how we can put them to work for us TODAY.
Ancient Wisdom says, practice these four cardinal virtues: Wisdom + Self-Mastery + Courage + Love.
– Wisdom: We know the game we’re playing and how to play it well. (Hint: Live with virtue! High five your inner soul!)
– Self-Mastery: We’re actually playing the game when it matters most. (Hint: Right now!)
– Courage: We’re willing to act in the presence of fear. (Now what needs to be done?!)
– Love: We remember the ultimate WHY of it all: Love. (Let’s be kind, present and encouraging!)
Modern Science says, practice your Top 5 signature strengths (what’re yours?) and THE Top 5: Zest + Hope + Gratitude + Curiosity + Love.
– Hope: We know our future will be better. (Why? Because we’ll do whatever it takes to make it so. Starting TODAY.)
– Gratitude: We appreciate all the blessings in our lives—especially (!) when things are tough. (“God, thank you for blessing me with the gift of…”)
– Curiosity: We are eager to see how the future will unfold and we shine a flashlight on what’s working and what needs work. (So… What’s working? What needs work?! +1 +1 +1!!)
– Zest: We know that ZEST or Energy is the #1 predictor of our eudaimonic flourishing. (As such, in the toughest times, we’re the MOST committed to our fundies: Eat! Move! Sleep!)
One more time…
“Disaster is virtue’s opportunity.”
How can you put your virtues into practice?!