Wednesday, September 28, 2022

So apparently stoicism was the answer all along for the Lebanese

Zeno of Citium (Founder of the Stoicism) - Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

So lately I read an article about stoicism (here). As a Lebanese person in the middle of the never-ending storm, who lost all his finances in the crash despite all the measures I had taken, and as someone who struggles daily with the multitude of problems surrounding us, the word "resilient" gets on my nerves.

I don't want to be resilient anymore, there's really limits to everything and we have crossed these limits long, long ago. But as Watson (Lucy Liu) told Holmes (John Lee Miller) in that wonderful episode in Elementary: "What if we are looking at it the wrong way?" (Episode's name "blood is thicker than water" in case you are wondering), maybe looking at things from a skewed angle could help.

What if with a "rebrand" or a "reword" we can actually look at the situation differently. First, let us remember that there is something called "Jantalagen" in the Nordic societies - basically it is that no one is better than anyone else. As a matter of fact, basically people in Nordic countries simply do not talk about their salary or about money. A CEO or a company once confided in me that what's with taxes being higher in Sweden with larger salaries he was bringing home less than his employees, so much that he had to construct his "summer home" (a term Swedes use for their second houses usually in peripheral or countryside towns) with his own hands because he could not afford workers.

So basically, if we replace "resilience" by "stoicism" - a fancy word related to a philosophical thought which has clear principles, perhaps this is the answer which was eluding us. To learn more about stoicism please go here.

I think what most impressed me in that discourse is (and I am copying from this source) the words of stoic philosopher Epictetus: "Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions." 

Now, I am short, thin, and diabetic since 2013 - this covers the body part. Reputation? Well, depending whom you ask I have been either praised to the highest level or trashed to the lowest one - I developed a thick skin so it is fine (my record still remains 23 hate mails from a local agency in 2011 though). Property is the tricky part - the financial crash affected me mentally more than I dared even imagine - sure I am very proactive so I saved whatever I could save no matter how big or small but all this was incredibly challenging to me because the money was supposed to some "future insurance" for my old age. 

Marcus Aurelius one of the most famous stoics wrote: "When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil." which makes me wonder which Lebanese bank exactly did Marcus Aurelius place his money in. 

Because at this point things are indeed that way, and one needs to be resilient stoic to deal with it on daily basis.