In a candid conversation, Dr Vikas Kumar Singh, author of the upcoming book ‘Return Ticket’ gives his insights about Stoic Philosophy and how it can help us carve out a better life.
The world is fighting a pandemic and everyday there is a new record, a new headline of how life is impacted by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Everything said and done, life is still uncertain. COVID-19 has impacted several economies across the globe, irrespective of color, religion or race. The deprived have suffered huge blows in their life and even the privileged have had their own fair share of struggles.
While the world was earlier all about wealth, pomp and show, the year 2020 highlighted that the biggest necessity in life was “ life” itself. Even though many countries are working towards preventing and resolving challenges to the pandemic, we haven’t reached a solution yet. Most of us plan all our lives as if we are here to live forever while the truth is that we really don’t know how much time we have in this world. In these tough times fueled with uncertainty, one can still find solace in ancient Greek philosophy. The teachings which are although over 2000 years old but can still help us to achieve Eudaimonia, a Greek term , to live a happy life .
In a candid conversation, Dr Vikas Kumar Singh, author of the upcoming book ‘Return Ticket’ gives his insights about Stoic Philosophy and how it can help us carve out a better life. His learning is to live the life with ethical moral code – life with vision, purpose and stoic excellence.
He adds , “Stoicism originated as a Hellenistic philosophy in Athens and slowly spread to the Roman empire. As per legend, the founder of Stoicism was a wealthy merchant named Zeno of Citium (modern day Cyprus). In 312 BC, when he was bringing his cargo of Tyrian purple dye to Greece, he suffered a shipwreck and lost everything – the cargo and his fortune. Devastated, he made his way to a bookstore in Athens where he was accidentally introduced to the teachings of Socrates. Inspired by his philosophies, Zeno started his school in Athens, the teachings of which we now know as Stoicism.”
Pillars Of Stoic Philosophy
There are some key core concepts of Stoicism that give this philosophy a unique niche in ancient teachings. Author Dr Singh highlights some of these ideas for readers to have the right perspective while reading the book.
Summum Bonum: Introduced by Roman philosopher Cicero, Summum Bonum is the concept of ‘the supreme or highest good’ which refers to the four main virtues: courage, wisdom, justice and temperance. These are the pillars of Stoic Philosophy. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in his journal “Meditation “ stated that what’s bad for the hive is bad for the bee . Altruism i.e. living for the common good of society, is the key takeaway and Stoic philosophers like Zeno, Seneca, Cato, Chrysippus, Musonius Rufus, and Epictetus always worked towards this key thought for all their life. In simple words, Summum Bonum is the idea that irrespective of your circumstances, you should do the right things in life – nothing else matters.
Dichotomy Of Control: Ta eph’hemin, ta ouk eph ‘hemin in Greek, the Dichotomy of Control is a concept that simplifies life by reminding us that certain things are in our control while others are not so we should focus our time and energy on things we can control. Things like our thoughts, perceptions, actions and emotions are in our control and we should exercise our control and focus on them to improve our circumstances. However, things like the stock market, weather, traffic, long lines at airports or people’s opinions of us are not in our control so there’s no point stressing about them or losing our temper over them.
About the current global scenario of stress given the pandemic, author Vikas Kumar Singh adds that change is the inevitable law of nature and one should always be prepared for unexpected blows in life. Although we may feel that the current situation is unjustified, we must simply accept it and move on.
No amount of cursing or anger can change the facts and only acceptance of it can bring peace and serenity in our daily life. Dr Singh reminds us that time is ticking and we all have a confirmed ‘return ticket’ from this planet. So we should try to live each moment to the fullest and Stoic philosophy can guide us in doing so, leading to a life of peace, contentment and happiness – a Eudaimonic life.
(Dr Vikas Kumar Singh is an International marketing strategist with over two decades of corporate experience. He is passionate about ancient Greek philosophy & is actively involved in his upcoming book ‘Return Ticket’, that explores some of the concepts of ancient Greek philosophy. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at LinkedIn.)