Report on my fourth day of Stoic Week 2014: virtue and relationships with others

Today was Thanksgiving in the US, a surprisingly appropriate day to be in the middle of observing Stoic Week.

Thanksgiving dinner

I’ve reported on yesterday’s theme of self-discipline and simplicity. At Thanksgiving dinner this year, I decided for the very first time to limit what I ate. I’ve always overeaten in the past, with poor results. It was just something I did.

This year, I did not eat any of the cake or pumpkin pie that was offered. For dessert (after the turkey etc.), I limited myself to one scoop of pistachio gelato and one cookie. Actually, I ended up regretting that cookie, because it was more substantial and sugary than I expected, so I’ve made a note to watch myself with the cookies. The gelato I may not have needed, but I enjoyed it all the more knowing it was the one main dessert I was allowing myself.

Fourth day of health habits

It’s my fourth day now of daily meditation and exercise. Actually, I overdid it on the exercise today, but not intentionally.

I’ve been increasing the intensity of my short (seven-minute or so) daily workouts every day, lifting heavier weights and working more muscles. What I didn’t expect was that at the Thanksgiving party, two young sisters (of ages around five and two) were bored and wanted to play, and I rather exerted myself. The older one was the ringleader. We played at scaring each other and I pretended to be sitting on the couch sleeping and suddenly spring up and boo or growl, and I accidentally pulled something in my right arm during one of these explosive, sudden movements. I also pulled my left shoulder when the two challenged me to lift them repeatedly, and the older one (tall for her age) was heavier than I expected and not so easy to repeatedly lift, given that I’d already had a workout in the morning at home. All in good fun, but left me a bit overextended.

On today’s theme

I find sensible the Stoic teaching of developing our “natural affection”, and expanding outward from ourselves. I feel I have been the beneficiary of much good from many people in my life and am grateful for this. The Thanksgiving dinner that Abby and I went to today is one we have attended for some years now. The hosts I met through Abby, who met them (and other dinner guests) through music and dance circles. I appreciate and deeply admire the generosity that they have shown us and to many others. I look up to them as role models for the kind of genuine affection that human beings can display and share, not only with immediate family or closest friends but outward to larger communities (such as local music communities) and beyond.

The tragic shooting and death that happened this year in Ferguson, Missouri has been in the news for some months now, and this week the grand jury decided not to indict. I haven’t commented in public or in private on any of these events, or on any of the commentary about them, but I do not dismiss what has happened as irrelevant to my life. In fact, I feel that what has happened has been so important, in the biggest possible picture of what has been going on in American history for a long time, that I cannot afford to lightly spew sound bites about it. I do ask myself, how can I best talk about what I am feeling? How can I make a positive difference, in the Stoic “cosmopolitan” “love of all humanity”? I don’t know the answer yet, but I know what is not the answer: fanning the flames of passion. But simply being silent is also not the answer.

(Update of 2015-01-19)

I wrote something in observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


I take seriously the Stoic call that we are ethically responsible for more than just ourselves, that we are to develop ourselves outward (not just on inner virtues) and work to honestly consider all human beings our brothers and sisters. I see how I have been treated in such a way by others through my life and aspire to expand beyond myself.

How do you feel about cosmopolitanism? Do you feel it is naive, that it is best to just look out after family and clan? If you have been following the Ferguson tragedy, do you easily choose a simple “side”, an “us” versus “them”?

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