Professor of Philosophy, Wright State University
from ClassicalWisdom Website
Besides giving us our word for crisis, the Greeks also provided us with a splendid strategy for dealing with crises:
Contrary to popular belief, Stoicism does not advocate that we keep a stiff upper lip - that we stand there mutely and impassively, and take whatever the world throws at us.
One component of the Stoic strategy is to distinguish between things we can control and things we can't.
Our life, say the Stoics, will be miserable if we spend our time worrying about things over which we have no control. That time and energy is far better spent thinking about things we can affect.
To quote Roman Stoic Marcus Aurelius,
The Stoics have a simple technique for making our days go better: we should think about how they could have been worse.
Notice that I didn't say dwell on how they could have been worse; that would be a recipe for a miserable existence. Instead, we should allow ourselves to entertain flickering thoughts about the loss of our friends, money, lover, job, health - all the things we value.
And if we don't lose these things, we will find ourselves far more appreciative of them than would otherwise have been the case.
If we have self-control, we control ourselves; lack it, and it is someone or something else that controls us. Do we really want to spend the one life we have controlled by someone or something else?
They didn't advocate anything extreme:
The Stoics instead advocate that we periodically go out of our way to make ourselves somewhat uncomfortable.
Fail to do this, and we will lose our tolerance for discomfort, meaning that the slightest inconvenience will have the power to ruin our day. Those inured to discomfort, the Stoics realized, are almost always happier than those who lead a pampered existence.
While there, he took an interest in philosophy and ended up founding his own school, which became known as the Stoics because he gave his lectures at the Stoa Poikile, a colonnade in the Agora of Athens.
This occurred after he somehow managed to annoy Emperor Nero (Tacitus says it was because Nero envied his fame as a philosopher) and was banished to the Greek island of Gyaros, in the Aegean Sea.
The island was desolate, bleak, and nearly waterless, a miserable place to be put; indeed, even in the 20th Century, the Greek government used Gyaros as a dumping ground for its leftist enemies.
He discovered a new spring and thereby made the island more habitable. Those who visited him reported that they never heard him complain or saw him disheartened.