We all feel inadequate at times. We can’t help it – in modern Western society, with media and social media all around us, we are constantly looking at each other’s lives and making value judgements not only about them, but in comparison to ours. We often forget that we are only looking at a tiny fraction of the truth, of the facts, of the life being lived in that present moment.
People raised in capitalistic societies learn to compete from a very young age. Not all competition is wrong, but we have to take a deep look at just why we feel the need to compete in the first place. Life is not a competition, after all. We’re all gonna die, end of story. No one wins. We perhaps need to realise just what is important in our lives, and what is irrelevant. Maybe then the desire to compete will lessen, and we can free ourselves from such restrictions, supporting instead of competing, making the world a better place. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try our best; far from it. However, we might lessen our feelings of inadequacy.
Having studied Eastern philosophy for many years now, I’m trying something new. After a wonderful conversation with a very dear friend, the concepts found within Stoicism intrigue me. Already I can see how similar they are to, say, Zen Buddhism, and also how they differ. I should imagine it will be a great journey of discovery.
We spoke of value, and the importance of judgement, not externally but internally regarding our perception of self-worth. She explained that in Stoicism, it is in the striving, in the living, in the journey towards being the most awesome human being you can be that is important. This related on so many levels to what I already understood from many Eastern traditions, but also clicked in various different ways that I am excited to explore. I liken it to creating a work of art: it’s not the finished product that is important, but the creative process of making it that is the most important (and the most exciting). Relating this to my Druid path could open up possibilities I have never explored. How wonderful!
I am keen to explore the value judgements others make upon me, and how I respond to them. I am intrigued to understand more about how to listen to my own value judgements on a deeper level. This differs from Eastern philosophy, where we learn to let go of all value judgements. What is our worth? How do we value that worth? I am reminded of the root of the Saxon word, weorthscipe (worship), how we deem something to be worthy. What are the tools, the philosophy, behind this?
We never stop learning. I’ve always had a keen desire to learn history, art, biology, theology and philosophy. Indulge in your passions, for life is far, far too short. The steps on the journey are what makes the journey worthwhile; not the destination.
That’s an interesting prospect. I wonder if one could adopt a similar process with Cynicism? Nowadays the common understanding of cynicism is that of being distrustful of things, and yet, for the original Cynics, the purpose of life was to live in virtue, in agreement with nature…..obvious links with Druidism.
Yes – Stoicism has its roots in the Cynics. It’s something I’m very much looking forward to exploring: virtue = nature 🙂
I do love a bit of Stoicism! The “Stoicism Today” project from Exeter University has some free online courses if you fancy a structured intro to Stoic ideas/practices: https://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/stoicismtoday/introduction-to-online-course/. I’m intrigued to see where you find overlap/parallels with Druidry and Zen.
Thanks Ryan! This course mentioned in the blog post is also free, and a friend has done it, so I’m giving this one a go so that we can talk about it together, having done the same material. But I shall look at that one afterwards – ta! x
You know, I totally missed that hyperlink in your blog post. The perils of reading it on a phone I suppose! That Stoic Mindfulness course does look good, I might give it a go myself!
“Life is not a competition, after all. We’re all gonna die, end of story. No one wins.”
As a biologist (or at least an ex-biologist) I’m not sure that I entirely agree with this statement. Whilst it’s true that life as a whole (from a Gaian perspective) may not be a competition, Darwinism suggests that life for the individual is, in fact, just such a competition. It may not be the individual organism that competes for eternal survival but, borrowing from the Dawkins/Williams model, it’s the “selfish gene”.
This may seem irrelevantly scientific for the philosophical point that you’re making but I wonder if denying human survival instinct is denying that we are, after all, just animals and, like all animals, driven to survive as long as possible and work for the survival of our genes in future populations. Is there a danger of over-romanticising Nature?
I’m not sure how this viewpoint would factor into your arguments – it always takes me a while to absorb the full implications of philosophical points! I’m reminded of Maslow: perhaps we need to have achieved a certain level of “comfort” before the sheer need to survive ceases to be the driving factor in our behaviour. Are we, as humans, any closer to this than we were thousands of years ago?
As always, you leave me with a lot more to think about than at first sight.
Hi Gwion! Interesting thoughts! With regards to Darwin, perhaps if we take him at his word, “survival of the fittest” rather than what everyone thinks he said “survival of the strongest” we are closer to a Stoic perspective. Then it doesn’t become a competition, but more just trying to be excellent at what you are, being true to your nature. Then that doesn’t exclude our survival instinct, or romantisizing nature to any extent. It’s embracing nature, and our nature. But this is just from what I’ve gotten so far, and I’m only week one into the course lol! I could be totally wrong 🙂