Todd’s Thoughts – November 2019

Zeno, the founder of Stoicism in 300 BCE, taught that our virtue is the greatest good because it’s the only thing that’s useful in all circumstances. I take this to mean it is our moral values that hold us steady, even when change, chaos, and disruption are happening all around us. Today we live in a world of exponential change, especially in the areas of technology, communications, and globalism. In a few years, some predict, we’ll live in a world of almost daily changes. Humans, like most beings, aren’t wired for constant change. We’re creatures of  habit. We need time to adapt and adjust. No wonder anxiety disorders are so widespread these days. For me, Zeno’s wisdom helps me cope well during anxious times. Recalling my values, and living by them, no matter what, is akin to standing in the center of a storm, in the eye of the hurricane, where I can experience calm even when everything around me is outside my control. “Some things are up to us and some are not up to us,” the stoic, Epictetus said, meaning we can’t calm the rage around us, but we can calm the rage within us. James Bond Stockdale, who used his stoic philosophy to survive years of torture as a Vietnam POW, said, “Up to me, within my power, within my will, are my opinions, my aims, my aversions, my own grief, my own joy, my attitude about what is going on, my own good, and my own evil.” In these changing times and uncertain waters, it is such qualities of character—our virtue, our moral values—that anchor and hold us steady.

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