Thoughts on Nature from the Stoic Perspective

Today is a bit of a toughie for me. The Stoic idea of nature is a bit of a challenge for me to grasp, and I’m going to lunch this afternoon with a friend and that very much goes to my personal nature.

Stoics are said to consider nature on three planes: our inner nature which includes our capacity for reason, the nature of society and our relationship with mankind, and the nature of our external or physical environment as a whole. I am suspicious of the latter two because they are not things over which we have control other than in our attitude.

We are Earthlings in what is arguably an infinite Universe. Climate change is arguably a thing. All that’s left then is how and where we live within our environment. Our capacity to control the nature of society and our relationship with mankind is impossibly speculative, but I see no evidence that they’re likely to listen to you now if they weren’t listening to you before. All that’s left then is how I am to relate to nature. Am I to live in harmony with my environment? Am I to painfully stand out like a boil on the ass of my environment? (Sorry; I get a little political.)

Someone I cared about kicked me to the curb not too long ago because I didn’t take up every cause that she cared deeply about. I do what I feel that I can do, and I give what I can give freely. I love dogs, for instance, more freely than I do people, but if I were to shelter homeless dogs before seeking shelter myself I’d never get indoors again.

In my view, if a thing is not given freely it isn’t a gift. There’s nothing wrong with duties and obligations, but we should call things what they are and not what we wish them to be. I sent a donation to Bernie Sanders campaign, but if you know me you know that hell would freeze and fall off before I participated in a phone bank.

For some time now I’ve been taking a moment before hitting “Send” to consider whether it would fulfill a need rather than a want, and if it was the right thing to do. It’s become pretty much of a habit now, and I’m happy with it. I’m also less likely to say “yes” to every volunteer opportunity that gets sent to me which has caused me a little angst but feels right to me.

Again, I don’t know whether or not I’m a “true” Stoic or something else according to the wonks at Stoicon, but I do recognize a capacity for reason and a level of discernment and conscience within myself. If I continue to respect and honor that in my behavior and commit to trying to do a better job every day as the fates allow, I think I’m in pretty good shape.

It’s been an interesting week, but don’t get used to daily posts here. That isn’t happening.

This entry was posted in Philosophy/Ethics. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Thoughts on Nature from the Stoic Perspective

  1. Wallace Blue says:

    I can identify with what you’re saying. Like you I’m at a point in my life where I’m curious about the concepts taught by history’s philosophers. I’m reading a book right now that particularly resonates with me: To Have, or To Be? by Erich Fromm. It describes the differences between having and being. The having part is not just the possessing of material goods, but also having a political ideology, a religious dogma, or any of the modern “isms” that promote dominance over nature and our fellow man and fosters greed and violence. The being mode of existence on the other hand allows a human to develop into the ideal person, to realize their potential and lead lives of productive activity.