Facing Challenging Circumstances

“Hey Tom, welcome to my second blog on How To Become a Stoic.”

“Great Dave, I can’t wait to delve further into the Stoic philosophy.”

“This is what we will focus on today:

Stoicism helps not only those who face challenging situations, but also for those who face PERMANENTLY challenging situations.”

“Dave, do we face permanently challenging situations?”

“Of course we do, Tom, we face permanent discomfort and illnesses of aging.

This is a daily struggle of ours. We are a victim of our aches and pains and depression of aging.”

“So, what do we do, Dave?”

“Well Tom, Stoicism will help us develop a personal philosophy about life in old age.

We need to feel like an agent in the world. Agency is very important.”

“Agency? What’s that?”

“Agency is the human capability to influence one’s functioning and the course of events by one’s actions.”

“Oh, I get it, Dave, agency is taking charge of our lives.”

“Yes Tom, old age discomfort and disability take away some of our agency.

So to live with old age we need to Reclaim Our Agency.”

“Sounds like a tough call, Dave.”

“It is my friend, BUT we have to do it for our peace of mind.

We need to maintain agency under permanent challenging circumstances.”

“I think I know what to do next, Dave.

We need to focus on our abilities, NOT our disabilities.

Focus on what Can we do, NOT what we cannot do.”

“Right on, Tom, I’m proud of you!”

“The next thing is to “Know Thyself.”

You have to know your limits as you age. Also, we need an alarm system to tell us when To Stop Suffering and begin taking charge.”

“How about our life plan, Dave, we probably have to keep revising that.”

“Right, we need to figure out what we want to do with what life is left.”

We both stopped to digest our discussion so far.

“One goal of Stoicism is to achieve tranquility. We need to accumulate positive thoughts and  reject negative ones. We have to learn equanimity in the face of Adversity.”

“That’s also a tough call.”

“Our problem, Tom, is that we are too self-aware.

We fix on problems and negative thinking.

We keep forgetting Epictetus’s dichotomy of control.

Things under our control are: our responses to problems and our behaviours.

Not the situations we find ourselves in.”

We chewed on that for a while.

“We need to reflect on our condition and make an effort to see things in a different light, one that is more rational and compassionate.

This change of perspective will help us to cope better with our situation.”

“I get it, Dave, what we are aiming for is Peace of Mind and Inner Tranquillity!”

We chewed on that also.

“Dave, do you think we can change our future?”

“You can change how you will feel in the future by how you respond to your situation.

The choice is yours, Resist or Accept the situation.

Acceptance means a reduction in your suffering!”

“Lets talk about the road to Serenity.

In the morning remind yourself that the only thing you truly possess are your choices.

In the evening remind yourself how much is out of your control and accept it.

At bedtime remember sleep is a form of surrender and this calms you.”

We both tried to digest all these points.

“The cards were dealt and we played them the best we could.

Think of the life you have lived as OVER.

See what’s left as a bonus and live it as fully as possible.

Once you pass 80 you’re living on borrowed time!

Let us be the best people we can be–TODAY!”

“Anything else, Dave?”

“One last thing:

Don’t mind me, I’m only dying slow!!!

What if you found out you only had a year to live?

This question is designed to make you consider how different your perspective of life would be if you had a year to live.

Nothing like a terminal prognosis to wake people up!

But here’s the rub–You already have a Terminal Diagnosis.

We All Do!!!

Every person is born with a death sentence!!!


Once you realise this, it will have a profound impact on what you do, say, and think.

Remember you are a dying person.


So, live your present moments as enjoyably as possible and be kind to yourself and others.


With that, Tom and I waked out into the sunshine,,,


Troubles? Problems? Be a Stoic!

“Hey Tom, I’ve decided to become a Stoic!”

“Why Dave?” said Tom, with a perplexed look.

“Because to cope with aging you need the teachings of Stoicism.”

Tom had a quizzical look on his face.

“Here’s a definition of a Stoic: a person who can ENDURE pain and hard times without showing their feelings or complaining plus the ability to ACCEPT the hard times of aging. You can’t fight or resist the uncontrollable or the unchangeable, if you try, you SUFFER!”

“What are some of the teachings of Stoicism?”

“The basic teachings are: That we don’t control external events or nature. All we can rely on is ourselves and our responses.

It seeks to remind us that we live in an unpredictable world and how brief our life is.

How to be strong in the face of life’s problems.”

“Sounds good, Dave, tell me more.”

“Well Tom, here’s something to lighten your day.

Think of a marble bust of Writer Dave right alongside the busts of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca!

They were the Big Three of Stoicism.”

“Sounds great, Dave. I suggest you get a bunch made up so you can sell them at the car boot sale!”

We both laughed uncontrollably.

“Now lets get serious, Dave. What led you to Stoicism?”

“Well Tom, I came across an article on “Changes in the Body and Mind with Aging.”

The article was twenty pages long!

It read like a horror story, everything was going to pot!

I then realised I would need come powerful philosophy, such as Stoicism, to cope.”

“Anything else, Dave?”

“Next to the article on Aging were some existential questions for the Elderly:

How will you deal with mortality?

How will you deal with transitoriness?

Do you feel the senselessness of being old?

These questions shook me up even more.”

“Wow! That’s scary, Dave.”

“Right! So I propose we have a few discussions on how to be a Stoic.”

“Okay by me, Dave. Where do we start?”

“Well, lets start with the Stoic idea of turning an obstacle upside down.

If you turn a problem upside down, every bad situation or experience becomes a new source of good.”

“Hey Dave, run that by me again!”

“To a Stoic, everything is an opportunity.

Lets say you’re living with a bad situation which is unchangeable. You endure it by accepting it completely, which in turn makes you strong and resilient.

This eases your suffering.”

“Dave, I read somewhere that everything is Ephemeral, lasting only a short time. Is that a teaching?”

“Right Tom, you just had a philosophical moment!!!

If everything is ephemeral, the present is all that matters, it’s the only life you have.

Being a good person and doing the right thing, right now, that’s what matters to a Stoic.”

“One of the most important stoic exercises is: Amor Fati, a love of fate. In other words, bear what is necessary and embrace it. By accepting your fate, your situation, you ease the mental suffering.

This is the stoic mindset that you take on for making the BEST out of anything that happens, no matter how challenging.”

We both pondered our discussion so far.

“Well Tom, what do you think?

Will Stoicism give you peace of mind?”

“Yes Dave, but I think we have to delve into it further and practice it on a daily basis.”

“We will, Buddy, in further blogs.

In conclusion I will say:

Stoicism is for us who live our lives in the Real World.

That’s good for us because you and I are Realists!!!”

Creating a Cultural Ape (Human)

This cultural ape would live in a collective organisational system (industrialised society).

One day when my buddy Tom and I were in the End of the Line Tavern sitting on our green-padded stools, I posed this question.

Could you redesign a chimpanzee to be a human, in other words a cultural ape?

“Well Dave, this would be a good question to ponder on our stools and it would be fun.”

“Okay Tom, what’s the first trait you would build into your cultural animal?”

Tom’s eyes lit up, I knew the stools (green-padded) would work their magic.

“Well Dave, the chimpanzee would need a very strong urge to form social connections with others.”

“That’s right, Tom, our creation would need a strong need to BELONG.”

We both sipped our soft drinks. Tom had got me onto less alcohol.

“Second, it would need to identify with large groups such as a Nation.

Tom spoke up, “Third, our creation would need a MIND that recognises that others have inner states similar to his,, which makes communication and empathy and understanding possible.”

“Bang on, Tom, our creation would need to belong to a commune of others so they could shape knowledge and work together.”

“Fourth, so our creation could work with others, it would need the ability to make themselves act appropriately and according to the norms of society.”

“To do this our creation would need self-awareness.”

“Dave, I just thought of the Fifth trait.

The creation would need to be able to PROCESS a large amount of information.

His brain would need an extremely large storage capacity to hold the info.”

“Sixth, to be cultural would require a Socialization Process to learn the Rules for behaviour in society.”

“Seventh, our creation would need a decision-making apparatus. It would need to make Choices as to what to do that’s best.”

“Dave, I’ve got the last trait.

It would need SELF-CONTROL to override bad responses and regulate itself.”

“That’s right, Tom, it would need to be able to handle ever changing social circumstances and control its own inner states and action tendencies.”

“Well Tom, we have created a human being from a chimpanzee.


We both smiled and finished our drinks.

THE GREEN-PADDED STOOLS HAVE DONE IT AGAIN: pondered life’s great questions!!!


Green-Padded Stool Psychology

I entered the End of the Line Tavern through a revolving door.

There was a mist inside, it was like walking through a fog.

I climbed up on a stool, it was green-padded and very comfy.

Then I noticed I had sat next to a big chap, looked to be in his eighties just like me.

I ordered a beer and said:

“What are you drinking, I’m buying?”

“A soft drink”, he replied.

“Barkeep get this fella a soft drink.”

“Thank you sir”, said the big old fella.

“My name is Dave”, I said, holding out my hand.

“Mine is Tom”, he said, shaking my hand.

“Tom, I just turned 81 and I’m trying to figure myself out, sort of old age self-understanding.”

“I’ve been trying to do that all my life.”

A friend told me:

“Self-understanding, oh that’s just common sense.”

“So, what’s common sense?”, said Tom.

“That’s a good question, Tom, because common sense isn’t so common.”

I took a long gulp of my beer.

“These comfy stools seem to give me energy that I didn’t have before I sat on them.”

“Yeh Dave, it’s like a small electric shock.”

“I’ll have to buy one of these stools.”

We both took a sip of our drinks.

“Common sense is defined as collective wisdom.

So, lets turn to the proverbs:

Opposites attract, would tell us about relationships.

Many hands make light work, gives us insight into group behaviour.


Birds of a feather flock together, contradicts the first one.

Too many cooks spoil the broth, contradicts the second one.

The point is:

Common sense can be contradictory at times and may simply be one person’s point of view.”

“Wow! That’s interesting, Dave. So, what are the ways to get self-understanding?”

“Two ways, Tom, Introspection and Self-Perception.

Lets take Introspection first.

It’s the process of looking inwards at your internal states, such as thoughts and feelings.”

“I always have problems being introspective.”

“No wonder, Tom, there’s three big problems with introspection.

First, we are constantly processing so much into at the same time that we really don’t know which into is causing our thoughts and behaviours.

Second, we overestimate our positive attributes.

The other day I was asked to rate my looks, I said:

“Oh, I am definitely “over average.”

Now that doesn’t really mean much, what’s average?

Three, for self-protective reasons we drive bad thoughts and experiences out of our heads.

So, how can we learn from our bad experiences?”

Self-Perception, what’s that all about, Dave?”

Tom was eager for education. The stools were working their MAGIC!

“It has to do with one’s observation of one’s actions from this we could deduce how we feel and what we are thinking and who we are.”

“Is there any problem with self-perception?”

“Yes, the problem is “CONTEXT”, the circumstances under which the action occurs.”

“Can you give me an example?”

“If you went to the theatre because your wife wanted you to, you wouldn’t say you were a theatre lover.

But…if you went on your own volition or by yourself, then you could call yourself a theatre lover.

It’s the CONTEXT that matters.”

We both finished our drinks.

“Well Tom, I’ve got to be going now.”

“I’m going as well, Dave.”

As we left the tavern, I said:

“Talking to you Tom I feel like I’ve known you all my life.”

“Ditto for me, Dave, hope to see you again.”

Out into the sunshine we went–two old men facing life with a SMILE!!!


Past, Present, Future

This blog is sort of a three question “horror story” to ponder.

What if your Past disappeared completely?

It was completely wiped out!

All your new memories in the Present are forgotten because they have become your Past, which is wiped out (dementia comes to mind).

You don’t remember anything that happens in the Present.

What would happen to your world if your Past disappeared?

Would you be a different person?

Are we defined by our Past?

We certainly are molded by our Past.

I think we are only partially defined by our Past because we are in a constant present state of becoming, which of course then becomes our Past.

But, I will say early bad childhood experiences can define a person. forever, they leave a trauma that may never heal and create the illusion a hostile world.

This can cause a person to grow up depressed (one of the themes of my novel, “The Becoming”).


What if your Future became non-existent?

Planning would not exist, you couldn’t create goals.

The Future would become a dark place!

What if this was the world you lived in?

You would lose your motivation to plan.

Your ambition would be gone, life would become boring.

You would have lost all direction!


What if your Present moments disappeared?

Your life would be gone, because you can only live in the present.

If only your Past and Future exist, then

You would be physically Frozen because your body would only be in the Present.

Your Past would be Dead because your Present wouldn’t be creating new memories.

If your Future existed without the Present, then it too would be frozen and your life would have already been planed without your input!

That’s the end of the ‘horror story” because to live fully you need all three time periods,

Past, Present and Future.


You have 24 hours a day and you have choices.

You have a choice on how your mindset will be and how you will allocate your daily time.

Accept your Present situation and choose NOT to focus on the unpredictable and uncontrollable Future.

Hobbies keep you in the Present.

I fully immerse myself in the writing and researching of my blogs.

I treat my blogs as ART.

Art is limitless and it’s a wonderful way to use the Present.


Some situations are unchangeable, uncontrollable and unforeseeable.

Accept the unchangeable, it will lessen your mental suffering.

You allow the Future to be what it is, you then relax and feel like a weight is lifted.

You change the way you look at things.

You’ll feel pain and you’ll get frustrated but you’ll lighten the load.

Be thankful that you’re ALIVE and have the opportunity to embrace life in the Present.


In conclusion:

The Present is the most important time period.

Whatever happens in the Present it positively or negatively affects everything in your life.

It’s the only time you can LIVE!


You MUST live most of your time (90%) in the Present.

You must fully take in each moment you have.

Every feeling you have, everything you learn, everything you experience happens in the Present.

A small amount of time (5%) should be spent in the Past to learn from your past experiences, good or bad.

A small amount of time (5%) should be spent in the Future to create goals.

This is the recipe for contentment.


Three Liberating Practices

I’ve found these “Death Awareness Practices” very liberating, especially in my old age.


Because repeating “memento mori” which is “remembering you will die”, you realise  you have to ENJOY LIFE WHILE YOU HAVE IT.

I firmly believe:

Each day is a separate life to enjoy as much as possible, even with the aches and pains of old age!

Death Awareness gives me a greater appreciation for the gift of each new day.

I know to have COMPLETE PEACE I’d have to be at peace with the prospect of dying.

Points to Ponder:

Courage, Integrity, Humour–We are ultimately ALONE and these three words are values to get you through.

We are all on a journey, good or bad, and we have NO choice but to ENDURE and come to terms with what afflicts us.


Practice One:

Remembering you will die!

This could be your death day!

When I awake, I think, “This could be my last morning.”

Then a warm appreciation arises in me–appreciation for this morning in which I am very much ALIVE!

Practice Two:

Remember the time of our death is uncertain.

Thankfully, we don’t know when we will encounter death.

So, I treasure each day that I’m ALIVE and that those I love are alive.

Practice Three:

All grasping is finished at death.

What does that mean?

It means that all the things I preoccupy myself with will dissolve at death…all my opinions that I think are so important, all my worries about the future, all the material things around me that I think of as mine–all the grasping will be gone!

I find this life-affirming and liberating because I then consider what IS important to me in life.

It’s NOT opinions, worries or possessions.

What I value most, as I get older, is my relationship with other people.

Was I patient and caring?

Perhaps my blogs have helped someone live better.

All this death awareness has helped me live in the present moment and embrace the world as it’s unfolding right at this moment.

In conclusion:

Being conscious of death makes each day more precious to me.

I’m living more purposefully and I am living my present better.

Each day is a separate life!

So, get on with it…

Embrace it and accept it “AS IT IS.”

Enjoy it as much as possible with equanimity.

Makes sense doesn’t it?

Live Forever?


This is the story of a man who was given a potion that gives immortality and he drank it!!!

Now, 180 years have passed and the man figured out that he cursed himself by drinking the potion.

His wife, all his friends and lovers and relatives had grown old and died, leaving him alone, bored and weary.

Now he longed for the grave!

With no death in his future he lacked drive and ambition and curiosity because he had forever to live!!!


What do we glean from this story?

We know everybody dies.

Knowing this is liberating because it teaches us to make good use of our time and live as fully as we can.

No matter how much life we have it never is enough.

People are always hoping for more time.

If we had endless time, the concept of living fully and making full use of your time would be meaningless.

Endless life would be a pointless burden!

In conclusion:

We are RESPONSIBLE for how we use our time.

Every day we are given is precious and the older we get the more we realise this.

We should stop thinking “if only I had more time”, and think instead, “if only I made better use of the time I’ve got.”


What do you think?

Live Together With Self-Interest?

The vicar said when Tom and Jane, who were both divorced, were married:

“To make your marriage work you MUST put your collective interest first, and your individual interest second.”

They both thought this. might be difficult to ACCEPT without question, but they would try.

Tom, with his calculating brain, reasoned that if he put himself second and Jane put herself first, Jane would get the better of the marriage.

His self-interest would be lost!

Jane had similar thoughts.

Both their egos were quivering.

They didn’t trust the other to honour the bargain.

So, secretly, they both looked out for themselves.

The marriage would suffer. But was this the best rational course to take?

This is a conundrum. Two people fighting with themselves to decide what is in their best interests.

We know that cooperation is required to get a good marriage, but neither Tom or Jane can guarantee the other will do the right thing.

Because of their previous relationships their trust had been eroded.

But without trust the second marriage might fail!

What is the moral of the story?

Trust is required to get the most out of life even though we may open ourselves up to exploitation.

But if we don’t trust we close ourselves off from the good things in life.

In the final analysis:

Tom and Jane’s SAFE STRATEGY protects them from the worst of their union, but it also separates them from the best!


Two Futures

What if you had the choice of two futures!

Lets look at fictional John’s choices:

In one future John’s prospects were bleak, he had a hum drum office job which seemed to be going nowhere, his dreams of business success were slim.

In the other future he would be a very successful businessman making loads of money and he was guaranteed to be happy!

The first future would be in the REAL world, the second would be in a virtual-reality environment.

Once in the virtual-reality machine you think you are in the real world but it is just that in this future you are a complete winner and everything goes right! Life is great!

BUT, John holds back from entering the machine.

He thought life in the virtual-reality world would be bogus and unreal!

But why should an AUTHENTIC REAL life, with its ups and downs, be preferable to a bogus happy one?

In the REAL world you would become someone on MERIT and LUCK, where in the VR machine you are a winner automatically!

Maybe you would be better off in the VR machine because in the REAL world success depends so much on LUCK.

Were you born in the right place and at the right time?

Were you blessed with the abilities to get your success?

Do you know the right people that could help you get ahead?

So, it probably would be better NOT to be at the mercy of Lady Luck, when you could choose to be successful and happy automatically in the VR machine. RIGHT?


When you think about it, we would rather determine our own futures by our WILL and EFFORTS.

So, in the long run, when we consider what’s in our best interests, we care for more than instant success and happiness.

We want to create our own journey!

Goodbye to the VR machine!

Bring on the HARD WORK!

Computer Government!


Computer A has just won the election and will be the new leader in the White House!

In the past leaders and cabinet ministers who knew little about economics or other subjects were trusted to make decisions.

Could a computer do better?

Computer A will be able to determine the effects of policies on the general happiness of the electorate.

It will remove humans from politics altogether!

What a scenario that is!!!

Do you find it creepy?

Well, whether we realise it or not, we put our trust in computers all the time.

Computer run our finances in the bank.

Computers run railways and plane flights.

So computers could also run our economy.

Economists rely heavily on computer models and predictions already.

Could a computer get rid of politicians altogether?

Well, getting rid of humans altogether is NOT easy.

The problem is that the GOALS need to be set for the computer and this is done by humans.

There are many grey areas in political decisions.

For example: One policy might make many people happy at the expense of a minority of the population.

Or we might prefer a less happy society where no one has to live a miserable life.

A computer can’t decide which of these outcomes is better, only we can do that.

Also, what we desire changes with circumstances.

The richer a society becomes they might feel obliged to help others in less prosperous countries.

Computers can’t decide this.

Even if a computer knew what we wished there would be questions–such as:

Should a democratic society simply follow the will of the majority or should the opinions of the minority also be taken into consideration?

Maybe someday computers will take over most of the political decision making.

BUT…I don’t see how they could decide what is best for the electorate and get rid of all the politicians forever.

What do you think?