It Takes Effort to Get There

7 June 2022

It has been a while since my last newsletter… You could say that current world events have taken the ginger out of me. One of my sons is married to a Ukrainian, so it’s personal.

Have you ever watched a snail, stoically determined on its arduous path?

There was a time in my life when I equated stoicism with the stiff upper lip.

How wrong I was!

The ancient Stoics were not at all against showing their emotions – having emotions is perfectly human. However, they focused on self-mastery, on being in control of their response to any given situation. Theirs is a philosophy about what you will actually do in the practical, real world.

The Stoics, oil on canvas, 46cm X 56cm

The Stoics were striving, aiming high like these snails. They aspired to the cardinal virtues such as wisdom, justice, courage and moderation.

By the way, ‘cardinal’ has nothing to do with religion, as I first thought. It comes from the Latin cardo, or hinge. So everything hinges on these values.

When you read Seneca’s letters to his mother where he describes – from his exile on Corsica in the year A.D. 41 – how many humans have been displaced over the centuries, and how mass migration was not a new thing even then, you realise how little has changed over the past two thousand years.