Friday, January 07, 2011
A Guide To The Good Life: the ancient art of stoic joy
by William B. Irvine
This was a great read over the holidays. In fact, I liked this book so much that it is the defacto birthday present for each of my siblings this year (spoiler alert? Too late?).
“What is the purpose of life, your life?” This question is loaded with religious and feel-good pop psychology cheese. But for the ancient Greeks, and later the Romans, this was not a question to be pondered but one to be vigorously answered. The ancients thought the worst thing that could happen to a person was, on her deathbed, to realize she had wasted her life. So, philosophical schools took root, with differing opinions on life’s purpose and instructions on how to live accordingly. This was above and beyond any religion that students also practiced. Many of these schools believed that the purpose of life was tranquility - Stoicism was one of these schools.
Today, the word “stoic” conjures up many images that would conflict with the original school of Stoic philosophy. The Stoics had a different view of the word “tranquility” than we might have. Stoics in their day were extremely successful, athletic and professional overachievers, very engaged in the world around them as movers and shakers and exhibited genuine and appropriate emotional responses.
A Guide To The Good Life chronicles the author’s (a philosophy professor) rediscovery of Stoicism as not only a valid academic philosophy, but a valued guide to living one’s life. In this light, he also tackles modern psychiatry, current social values and the cult of victimization. It’s an entertaining read and was hard to put down.
Bonus - You may discover that you have been living a fairly Stoic life already. This book might answer why.
Whether you are a religious person or an atheist, and no matter your political leanings, I think this book would be enjoyed by anyone who cares about: the way he lives his life, how his life affects others, how to get the most joy out of life and how to live a purposeful life.
I can't find it for sale at Aunties, online. I have contacted them to see if they have it. In the meantime, here is the Amazon link.