Last month the Stone House Center for Public Humanities sponsored SRU’s fourth annual Live Like a Stoic week—a program co-opted from Modern Stoicism’s event by the same name. Modern Stoicism is a non-profit organization consisting of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals ranging from philosophy professors to psychologists, aiming to help people better their own lives through the practice of stoicism. Each year the organization builds a seven-day program based around a topic, such as this year’s theme: Living Happily. Each year the organization sees worldwide engagement in the event, coupling an online course with conferences, speakers, and other events. 2017 saw Stoic Week’s largest numbers, with over 7,000 participants. Based on this theme, the Stone House created a three-day event from October 16-18 in SRU’s Ski Lodge, bringing members of the university and greater local community together to discuss how a 2000 year old philosophy can contribute to happiness and flourishing in today's society.
Stoicism originated in ancient Greece and remained popular through Roman times… but how does that apply today? While Stoicism is far too vast a philosophy to sum up in a blog post, there are a few central tenets which unify the discussions had on the stoic view of happiness:
Each evening, the participants were welcomed into the candlelit Ski lodge (the stoics didn’t have electricity!) to openly ponder their own morals and the things in their lives which deserve less attention. On the first night, participants discussed the stoic meaning of happiness, and what it means to be indifferent to things outside of our own control. To demonstrate this point, the participants were asked to remove their jackets, and go for a walk in the 45 degree October darkness, resisting the urge to shiver, complain, or huddle up, acknowledging the cold, but being as unaffected by it as possible. On the second night, the discussion centered around the relationship between happiness and emotion, and how we should work to control intense emotions (known to the Stoics as Passions) such as rage, fear, and bliss, as they would interfere with our natural, rational nature, instead opting for hope, caution, and joy. The third and final night centered on our sociable nature, our duties to our community, and how important and natural it is to care for those around you.
SRU’s Stoic week was a very brief foray into the philosophy of stoicism, but provided an opportunity for like-minded individuals to reflect on their own personal path and methods of personal growth and happiness. It also provided students not just a refuge from the stress of midterms, but also coping
mechanisms for dealing with the stress of our complex world by providing an idea of our own roles within it, and how to fulfill those roles gladly.
Our vision is to create a community of learners enriched, engaged and enlightened through the humanities.