Did you have/enjoy a spring break? We went up to state park for a few days with some friends, then have been spending the rest of this week quietly as a family. The weather switched from one day being cloudy cool and rainy to the next wit us switching to the air conditioner and digging out shorts and flip flops. Feels like full on summer already!
I finished two books over the break. The second John Flanagan book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series. My Lovely Bride teaches 5th grade and loves pushing these so I want to familiarize myself with the whole thing eventually.
I came by the next book in a circuitous way. I’ve always enjoyed the work of skeptic and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci so when I read this in the NYT I was intrigued. It’s about how he’s been studying the philosophy of the Roman Stoics (mainly Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and such) and has basically adopted the philosophy as his own. Then he created this blog about his studies of this philosophy of life. So I decided to start working off his reading list and began with the first and most accessible book written by William Irvine. Irvine gives a brief history on the travels of Stoicism from the Greeks to the Romans and gives an overview of the main Roman Stoic thinkers (whose work survives). Then he gets into how he believes the ideas can be applied to us moderns. It was great and even though I’m not into self-help nonsense I liked this because it harkens back to Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, book I reviewed long ago. Burkeman looks into Stoicism and Zen Buddhism among other things.
Interestingly enough, Irvine was more into Zen Buddhism but was looking at other, similar philosophies which were based on tranquility and the more he read about Stoicism, the more he decided that it was actually better than Zen in many ways. The main problem with Stoicism is they don’t have a good PR guy. Zen evokes tranquility. Lower-case stoicism evokes stiff-upper-lipped folks repressing emotions. That’s not what capital S Stoicism is. The name comes from the Stoa that Zeno taught his philosophy from beginning around 301 BC. A Stoa is a big portico. So the Stoics were basically the guys hanging out on the porch discussing how to live a more joyful and tranquil life.
Sounds good to me.