Thursday, December 30, 2021
Epictetus was a Greek stoic philosopher. He was born into slavery in what is now Turkey AD -50. He lived in Rome as a slave and was given permission to study philosophy. Being banished from Rome by Emperor Domitian he went to Greece for the rest of his life. His teachings were written down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses and Enchiridion. Epictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are beyond our control; we should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. Epictetus gave European scholars of the Enlightenment an example of a system of ethics that was secular, based not on God's law but on reason and observation of the natural world. Epictetus meant that whatever the other person did is on them. Whatever your reaction is to their remark or action, that’s on you. No one can make you angry, only you have that power. Someone can certainly say something stupid or mean but no one can make you upset – that’s your choice. It is worth remembering that you should never give away your power over yourself. You should not let others bait you. You should not allow yourself to be provoked. Most of all, you can’t blame others if that happens. You control yourself and nobody else.
Stoicism is no longer a part of our society. Stoicism is a philosophy of our ancestors, Grandfathers, and Great Grandfathers that no longer exists. This absence of philosophy coupled with our belief in the almighty creator of the universe is the direct cause of civil unrest, and the underbelly destruction of our society as our elders created. This destruction should be evident to all and now I know why. It should be obvious to all. How many times do we read something on social media and become angry? How many times do we see something on television and become distraught with anger? We no longer receive the news of the day; we receive another person’s opinion, and we react with malice. The writer, news anchor, or social media influence distracts us from living a better life. We know not how to handle this opposition because Stoicism is no longer taught. Stoicism is an education, a knowledge few possess today and without it, our society crumbles. That is not to say we should become complacent.
There are politicians who mean to change our society to their vision. There are those in higher education who mean to use indoctrination to change our society. The local college President is paid well over 600k to indoctrinate our youth with hate for America is my observation. There are those who control our media with opinions meant to change our minds or provide propaganda for a cause.
We write our Senators, and local academia asking for clarification and all we get back are form letters that do not answer our questions. We write our local opinion editors, and some do not respond. This of course is not the case with our most excellent editor, Shana Gray. These changes some seek to our society, and the methods used as described, have devastated our society, and not helped anyone move forward. There seems to be a lack of civil discourse, an apathy if you will. An apathy invoked from those we elect and those who use media to form our opinions, using apathy to garner a reaction is evil. We see this in the “last word” every week.
We need not lower ourselves any longer to the level of our politicians, writers cloaked in darkness and media hype. We vote politicians in; we vote politicians out until we find those who can serve without malice and are willing to genuinely care to converse the issues of the day and are not agenda-driven. At the same time, we the people need to be reminded of Epictetus. We to need to show restraint, and respect for others and not allow politicians and the media to control us using hate and anger. Once we get angry the politician hides and will only speak to those they agree with because that is the easy way out. In this respect, Politicians can be cowards. We expect our politicians to be better than us, to be leaders. I say it is us who need to be better than them if we seek a good life.
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
When Americans are confronted with American politicians whose greed dictates their reason, America ends divided. In part, we are divided because the individual American no longer takes the time to know thyself. Americans today allow politicians, the media, and others to tell us how we feel, who we are and why. In my last column, an attempt was made to reflect upon my own feelings and processes. I am not so sure American generations have ever given much thought to "know thyself." Past generations have focused on knowing God. In 1940 seventy-three percent of all Americans belonged to a church. Today 47% of Americans belong to a church. While church attendance declines, division in our nation through political bias has increased, so what happened? Does the lack of understanding "know thyself,” combined with a decline in church attendance, affect societies' interaction with each other?
Sigmond Freud had said, civilization is constantly being created anew, and everyone being born must work their way up to being civilized beings.
To know thyself is not knowledge you are given at birth. If we are born into nontraditional families, if we are born into poverty, if we are born into predilections, if we are born into a society where low moral values dictate our reason, if we are born into a society whereby our faith in God waivers, we as a society will not obtain the education or indoctrination as to the health and well-being, of our divided society. Both his parents were illiterate, but being a devout Christian, his mother sent him to a local Methodist school when he was young. Baptized a Methodist, Mandela was given the English forename of "Nelson." Nelson was a man of great faith. He hid his Christian faith to continue his work of unifying South Africa. Many ministers who preyed with Nelson regularly knew of his faith while in prison and throughout his life. "He was a profoundly religious man: he believed sincerely in the existence of the almighty. Nelson also understood the importance to "know thyself."
When we reflect upon our lives, we should ask this one question. Do I know what I take myself to know? Knowing ourselves, understanding our weaknesses, and our strengths are paramount. Knowing oneself is easy when deciding what I like. Example: I like ice cream. Yet, we seem to be gullible when it comes to politics, history, science, or religion. We believe what other people say, and the individual believes without due examination. We are like a flock of sheep, ignoring our Shepard, following another off the edge of a cliff without thinking or reflecting what the lead sheep feels or knows to be true. Americans today tend to say, I think, without even considering another point of view when we disagree, we disagree with malice. This malice towards others has been taught in colleges all across America and for decades. Knowing you live an imperfect life, learning, and acknowledging your limitations is but one key to introspection. A great leader will know thyself and God.
Nelson Mandela, a great leader, was such a man, as was Martin Luther King. They were great leaders because of their faith and not a lack thereof. In America today, we lack faith and reflective thought when selecting our leaders, and subsequently, why our leadership is so poor. We know not what good leadership looks like today; we know not better. We Americans are not blind to this truth; we are blind because we do not take the time to understand ourselves and God first. Take some time to write about yourself, your beliefs, and what you want out of life. Being honest with yourself will be the hardest part. Once you have this idea of self, like what I wrote about myself, your path is clearer. A person who knows themselves well knows how to spot characteristic ways in which others spin or otherwise distort positive and negative information. We can remove ourselves from harsh reactions towards one another; we stop believing everything we see in the media, every word spoken, every page of the internet. We begin to see the positive qualities we want and expect in our leaders. We can push our limitations and poor qualities into closets where they reside like skeletons. Knowing these skeletons may come out to dance, we have a place to put them back and try again. Believe in yourself, aim high, be forgiving, seek high moral counsel from those who are not agenda motivated. Maybe, we can start to respect each other again. The Lord knows I am trying how about you?
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