Posts Tagged ‘stoics’

It is in the nature of things all life forms seek to fulfill their inner most urges in the manner they are most suited for. Even unicellular organism like amoeba will shrink from pain and seek source of food. Pleasure and pain have different values on the Nature’s trading floor. When man with his higher capacity to think and hold back the currency of happiness for a higher gain it demonstrates Nature-plus. A scholar who foregoes easy living and roistering with fellow scholars late into the night in some stewpots, foresee certain advantages by his restraint. He is banking on the foreseeable future he shall be in command to please himself. A higher capacity to negotiate with future means he can also enter into the nature of things and modify changes. For example a dog cannot tell us it is under stress but by measuring changes in hormonal level we can find it out. Man with his higher ability to abstract thinking has entered into the suffering of fellow creatures. But what use is if he would know feelings of fellow beings but does not want to help?

Philosophy of man has helped man to explain the nature of pleasure and pain.In that case how do we explain happiness?

Consider a middling tree in a rainforest dwarfed by other trees. This would mean other trees have cut it out os its share of light. Its circumstance do not give much to be happy about. But in the nature of things wind works rubbing trees at the top sending them down in time. The tree could only hope the nature is in control. It means the one who is in control of natural laws is not nodding of. Meanwhile the old trees have sent their seeds far and wide or birds have done it for them. Trees that enjoyed uninterrupted sunshine shall one day hit the dust. Hope of the tree is justified. It is in line of the sun. Living and dying is part of making opportunities to others as a whole. Happiness for a tree is not thus not limited in one per se but being part of wind, weather sun and connected with the earth. Does it necessarily justify to be passive accepting happiness while we can change the terms of engagement?

The Stoics (from the word “stoa” = porch, where the founder Zeno sat to teach) taught a less extreme philosophy: not to withdraw from the world, but to be indifferent to it.

They were determinists, and believed everything that happened was pre-ordained by God according to a divine plan. Virtue therefore consists in learning to accept everything that happens, understanding it as part of a divine arrangement we are powerless to alter.

Indifference to events means that they have no power over a person; this is how one becomes truly free – virtue is a purely personal matter, residing only in the will of the individual. From modern history we realize indifference to events breed much worse discontent that shall drown everyone in it. Brutal regimes have used terror as its instrument to browbeat opposition to complicity. We have seen in the emergence of Hitler exploiting the apathy of the Allies to impose his will on Europe. A similar situation we see in the Middle East. Brutality of groups feeding on indifference shall create an atmosphere that can imperil peace of the whole. Happiness is not guaranteed by indifference but from active involvement of all parties for the general good.

(To be Concluded)


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