The Daily Stoic for April 24th. “A Productive Use For Contempt”.
“Just as when meat or other foods are set before us we think, this is a dead fish, a dead bird or pig; and also, this fine wine is only the juice of a bunch of grapes, this purple-edged robe just sheep’s wool dyed in a bit of blood from a shellfish; or of sex, that it is only rubbing private parts together followed by a spasmic discharge—in the same way our impressions grab actual events and permeate them, so we see them as they really are.”
—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 6.13
When I started to delve into Stoicism, one of my biggest gripes with it was the feeling that this philosophy tends to trivialize emotions. While letting our rational mind having a say on our decisions and actions is great, feelings are part of what makes us humans.
If you have a look at those Instagram profiles promoting stoicism, they always focus on the most “inspirational” and “politically correct” stuff. Something everybody can agree like one of the overused Seneca quotes:
“we are more frightened than hurt, and we suffer more in imagination than in reality”
Take this Marcus Aurelius quote, for example, you won’t see many Instagram pics with this text:
“sex, that it is only rubbing private parts together followed by a spasmic discharge.”
Does that sound inspiring to you? I don’t know about you, but for me, sex is more than two people merely rubbing together some parts of their bodies… it actually happens in my mind, and manifests in my body.
I think that, while it’s legit to take the best from everything, you can’t really consider a philosophy without analyzing it in its entirely.
A Productive Use For Contempt
In my mind, today’s Daily Stoic showcases the worst of Stoicism. Namely, disregarding our emotions in order to control them. Take for instance this quote from today’s stoic meditation:
“That beautiful, perfect person you’re admiring from afar? Remember that if they’re single, other people must have dumped them at some point. There must be something wrong with them.”
That, to me, sounds more like a jealous person speaking than a rational person.
While I can understand the general concept behind it -not being deceived by fancy facades or appearances-, there’s a difference between that and assuming that there must be something wrong with a good looking person just because they’re single. That goes one step beyond pessimism.
So, all in all, not really keen on today’s stoic meditation. I will apply contempt to my life, but I don’t want to loose some things that make me human. Things like illusion, hope, the ability of being amazed, and yes, sometimes letting my feelings have a say too.
In my mind, today’s Daily Stoic showcases the worst of Stoicism. Namely, disregarding our emotions in order to control them. While there’s nothing wrong in applying contempt to what we experience, see, hear and read, we are still humans. An excess of cynicism can turn you into a pessimistic, grumpy and perfectly rational person.