The Daily Stoic for May 17th. “The Stoic Is A Work In Progress”
“Show me someone sick and happy, in danger and happy, dying and happy, exiled and happy, disgraced and happy. Show me! By God, how much I’d like to see a Stoic. But since you can’t show me someone that perfectly formed, at least show me someone actively forming themselves so, inclined in this way. . . . Show me!”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.19.24–25a, 28
Finally, today’s stoic reconciled me with stoicism. During all my journey through stoicism, reading the daily stoic book and writing my thoughts on this blog, I’ve found some teachings that were hard to accept or even agree with. One example is avoiding seeing things as good or bad or neglecting our human emotions and feelings.
However, Epictetus words here remind us that we are only humans. Stoicism does not expect us to be perfect, it’s just a series of guidelines to try to make us happier, calmer, and in peace with the world around us.
I can definitely agree with that.
The Stoic Is A Work In Progress
Curiously enough, the more you know, the more you realize you know nothing. I think the naivety and courage of ignorance are in fact a blessing. It allows us to do things we won’t do when we are aware of our limitations and try to seek perfection.
However, it’s that humility that comes with wisdom what allows you to keep on learning constantly, looking for self-improvement, not for others to recognize and praise your work, but for you to feel better with what you do.
As an example, I started playing piano on my own, practicing at home by listening to the composers I admired (Arvo Pärt, Chopin, Satie, Michael Nyman, Debussy, Yann Tiersen…). In less than 6 months, I recorded and published my first self-released album.
Listening to that album now makes me smile because it’s just so imperfect and naive. If I had listened to that album in 2007 with my current ears, I would have never released it. However, imperfect as it is, it started the Bosques de mi Mente‘s project and took me on an amazing journey that gave birth to 14 albums.
Nowadays, I am proud to listen to many of them on a regular basis. Nonetheless, starting from 9 Días de Invierno -the album I consider my first “true” album, the first one that sounded like myself instead of sounding like a mix of my influences-, I realized that I would never stop learning to play, improving my technique and my composition skills.
You never stop learning, and this applies to stoicism too.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “The Stoic Is A Work In Progress”, reconciled me with stoicism. During this stoic journey, I’ve not always agreed with stoicism. Sometimes, the stoic teachings were just too weird or hard to apply in my mind. Thinking about it as a constant work in progress, a mere ideal of behavior, helps me understand that we should not strive for perfection, but try to improve every day.