martes, 2 de julio de 2019

Bite-sized New New-Stoicism, ep. 7

And so here we are at last: This is where the rubber meets the road!

I'm sure you're wondering, "Yeah, but how can anyone possibly do anything to act rationally all the time, avoiding the Four Vices, and aiming for the Four Virtues?"

Oh, you weren't thinking that? Well, I'm gonna tell you, regardless.

It's not as complicated as it seems. In fact, it's actually very simple. You want to act right all the time, in every situation, both at home and at work, whether you're alone or with company?


See? It's easy piecey, lemon squeezie.

Granted, it might be a little bit difficult. Oh, alright, I'll admit, yeah, it's pretty hard, 'cuz the body wants instant gratification, and the mind sometimes is weak. Or distracted. But if you aim at the Four Virtues, doing your duty above anything else allows you to side-step many of the pitfalls of irrational behavior.

Also, in order to modify your behavior so that your wants start aligning with your values, you need to be introspective, and approach every day as an opportunity to learn how to view your individual life from the perspective of the Four Virtues.

There are some tools which I will explain with more detail in later episodes, but I want to name them here, so that you can start thinking about these things.

Every day, in every instance, you have to approach the things that life throws at you with skepticism, reminding yourself to feel apathy, so that you can achieve happiness. Those words in italics do not mean what you think they mean, but I promise I'll explain later.

In the meantime, go and do your duty, first, always, and you will notice how very little time you have left in the day to get in trouble.

See y'all next time!

sábado, 18 de mayo de 2019

Bite-sized New New-Stoicism, ep. 6

You know? I was going to launch full-speed ahead into the concepts of apathy, skepticism, stoicism, happiness, etc., but I think instead I should explain this "New New-Stoicism" crap. I admit is a little bit of a conceit of mine, but bear with me while I try to put it in a historical context.

The ancient Greek dudes came up with Classical Stoicism (that's a link to Wikipedia), where their philosophy was a set of personal ethics which depended on a system of logic. According to them, you had to get down with nature. They had a regular bromance with nature. Everything was about being one with nature, 'cuz that's the only way to be happy and what not. Actually, most of the Western virtue ethics are based on those classical stoic concepts. Of course, with the rise of Christianity in the Western world, the ancient Greek dude stuff got left by the wayside, 'cuz they were a bunch of pagans and of course nothing good could come out of them.

But then, in the Renaissance there was this Belgian guy, Justus Lipsius, who invented the Neostoicism. He wanted to grab Christianity and Stoicism, put 'em in a blender, and make a smoothie of goodness. Actually, I think all of those guys back then didn't think of themselves as Neostoics, or whatever. That's more like a historical designation… Anyhoo, yeah, those guys back then were thinking that they could take the best parts out of Stoicism and apply it to Christianity. All of that pagan, naturist crap should be replaced with thoughts about God and Christ and stuff. I mean, people like Saint Augustine had tried without much success to do just that since, like, the 4th Century. It didn't stop them from trying again in the 17th Century, though.

Then, in the 20th Century, we had some dudes who wanted to see how those good-ol' ancient Greek dudes would've done their thing if they were, like, in modern times. So now we have Modern Stoicism. You know what? If all this I've been talking about sounds a little bit familiar, it's because the Stoic concepts (Classical, Neo, or Modern) have been filtering down into the mindset of the common people for a long time. For my medical peeps, if this blog sounds suspiciously similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it's because the philosophy behind CBT actually is the Modern Stoicism.

That brings us to this: my pretentious New New-Stoicism. I've got to tell you, I do believe in God. Maybe not the Sunday-school version, but an all-powerful one. One who takes zero shit from no one. Oh, He cares for us, but He does whatever He wants, and no one can stop Him. But I believe we live in this body, and everything human is also of the flesh. And so, when I discovered the Stoic concepts in my youth, I thought to myself, "Hey! How can I possibly get all spiritual and shit if I'm a prisoner of my body?"

Well, I believe that, by behaving ethically and morally, by always striving to act rationally, by trying to reach the ideals of the Four Virtues and avoiding the Four Vices like the plague, I should be able to get my spiritual mojo on.

Thus, this thing: The New New-Stoicism. (Applause!)

See y'all next time!

domingo, 5 de mayo de 2019

Bite-sized New New-Stoicism, ep. 5

Now, don't get me twisted, bruh! When I say that The Four Vices are irrational, I don't mean that whoever feels that way is silly or ridiculous. By irrational, we mean to say that people have those feelings without thinking them through. That is really the whole point of this series: you've got to think things through. That's what I mean by "rational."

So, let's say something happens. Your body reacts to it. You react to your body with an emotion... Then what? Well, then you must re-direct your feelings towards The Four Virtues, which are:

  • Wisdom: It's the ability to discern (or value) what is true, correct, or durable. It's accumulating this knowledge for yourself.
  • Prudence: It means to demonstrate foresight, precaution and discretion in the actions you take; it means to abstain from acting carelessly or recklessly. It is closely related to the concept of Temperance (moderation) and gives rise to the virtuous attitudes of abstinence, chastity and modesty.
  • Courage: It's the mental strength that allows you to endure pain or adversity with determination.
  • Justice: It's the defense of any one thing that agrees with what is morally correct, especially unbiased interactions and fair recompense according to honor, to discretion, or to the law.

Whoa! When you read them like that, it sounds so lofty and highfalutin that surely no one can possibly achieve these goals, am I right? And it's true that it is very, very difficult to act according to The Four Virtues all the time, but that's why they are the ideals. They may rarely be a destination we reach, but they must always be our road map.

And, talking about road trips, which tools can help you to keep motoring along the road of life, trying to think things through to avoid reacting irrationally?

We'll talk more about that on the next episode. Today, I want you to look at those definitions closely, and figure out how many times a day you are acting according to The Four Virtues on purpose (or failing to do so.)

See y'all next time!

sábado, 4 de mayo de 2019

Bite-sized New New-Stoicism, ep. 4

So, let's all agree for the moment that our bodies do whatever the hell they want, and that us (the singing, dancing, amazingly conscious "us") are just here for the ride. What could go wrong with that, you ask?

Well, let's look first at some definitions. I should mention that, throughout these episodes, I will talk of certain concepts that usually have a different connotation in the modern usage. Instead, for our purposes, the definitions we will be handling will be either the literal definitions, or the traditional ones (sometimes even archaic).

For instance, we must distinguish between emotions and feelings. Emotions are an affective state of consciousness. It's involuntary. Your body reacts to its environment, and the aftermath of it is that you yourself have an emotion as a reaction to that reaction. Someone pokes you in the eye? Your body reacts by feeling pain. You react by getting pissed off. In contrast, feelings are a cognitive and volitional state of consciousness. In the eye-poking example, your emotion is anger because of the pain, which is an irrational reaction to a bodily reaction. You don't need to think about it. That's it: you're poked, it hurts, now you're angry. But your feelings about this are on purpose. You might feel vengeful and want to poke back. You might feel resentful and never speak to that eye-poking person again. There's a difference because, when it comes to feelings, there is intent, you see?

And so what does that have to do with anything?

When you go through life without trying to control your feelings, you can get stuck in the pitfalls of The Four Vices. Remember: emotions are inevitable. They are part of your hardware. Feelings? Well, those you do on purpose.

I'm going to leave you with the definitions of The Four Vices, so that we can finally start getting into the nitty-gritty of this series.

  • Affliction: It's when you become overtaken by the irrational idea that something bad is going on, and your only reaction is to feel depressed about it.
  • Fear: It's the irrational avoidance of a danger which you think might be coming to you.
  • Greed: It's the irrational and unwarranted wanting of an anticipated good.
  • Vanity: It's the irrational boasting for something good that is present, and for which you give yourself the credit.

As  you can see, the common thread in those vices is that they're irrational. What would happen if you and I were rational in the way we react to our emotions? And how can anyone do that?

See y'all next time!

Bite-sized New New-Stoicism, ep. 3

"Wait a minute!" you might be thinking right now. "So, you're saying there's nothing I can do against the flesh? Why even bother?"

Well, yes... and no.

Like I said before, it's your reasoning which mediates between the body and the mind. You ought to know that if you do nothing to curb your body's natural cravings and reactions you will be no better than any other animal. Actually, you'd be worse than all other animals, because you can bring a lot of harm to those you hold dear (and to all those unfortunate enough to be around you) if all you do is give in to your basest instincts. Animals are just fitting in the natural scheme of the world. As humans, we can actually bring destruction to everything around us when we go happy-assholing around getting up to no good.

You see, when you allow your body free rein to do whatever it desires, you become a prisoner of what the ancient Greeks called "The Four Passions." For our purposes, we should call them "The Four Vices." These are Affliction, Fear, Greed, and Vanity. We will talk about these in more detail in another episode.

Instead, we should strive to achieve the ideals of what is morally and ethically right.

How to do that? Well, a lot of us think that it's enough just to know the difference between right and wrong. We think, "Well, it's hard to be so black-and-white about the world, because there are a lot of gray areas..." But, come on, to be sincere, that's just us trying to cut ourselves some slack for all the times we might fail to live up to our own standards. It is true that it'll be almost impossible to live up to an ideal, but that doesn't mean one should not try.

So, what ideals work better than just the basic concept of knowing right from wrong? I like the name "The Four Virtues" (again, courtesy of those ancient Greek dudes). These are Wisdom, Justice, Prudence, and Courage. Yes, we are gonna talk about them later, too.

So, prepare yourself, because in the next episode we'll talk about The Four Vices, and why they should be actively avoided. I say "prepare" because, when talking about them, some people may feel personally attacked. I swear I'm not trying to make you feel bad. That, my dear reader, you'd be doing on your own!

See y'all next time!

Bite-sized New New-Stoicism, ep. 2

You might be thinking, "Yeah, but what if I really want to eat the whole pint of ice cream? My ego and my super-ego can go and take a flyin' fuck at a rollin' donut, for all I care!!!"

That's your prerogative, of course, my tubby friend. True: You can't avoid your body's cravings and reactions. But there is a danger in over-indulgence. First, let me take a little detour and tell you something interesting.

In the past few decades, the Neurolinguistics peeps have had some interesting discoveries while they were trying to figure out how come our brain can give us language. They really got a lot more than they've bargained for, because they realized that, in order to figure out language, they had to figure out how we acquire knowledge. And, in order to do that, they had to figure out how our bodies perceive the world.

Let's just say that things got real complicated, real fast.

And it's not as if I understand everything they've discovered so far. I don't even know most of it. But, from what I can gather, it's been discovered that we, as humans, are mostly just this pile of hot and sweaty flesh, quivering with multiple automatic reactions ruled by our genes, in a world full of inputs and sensations. And it seems that our "mind," the conscious process which we believe is who and what we are as humans, is just an event after the fact.

In short, we humans are mostly body, and there's just a smattering of brains behind everything we do. We are like a Texas-sized toast with a smear of butter on top, where our bodies are the toast, and our minds are the butter.

Like I said, you can't avoid your body's cravings and reactions...

But you must try like hell, if you want to consider yourself a decent human.

See y'all next time!

Bite-sized New New-Stoicism, ep. 1

Once before I wrote about the set of ideals I use to guide myself through life. Back then, I made a mess of it all! It was sooooo convoluted and, well, boring! (But, if you're brave enough and want to read that tangled essay, here's a link to it.)

So I've decided to explain myself again, but in small chunks, little by little. It's because recently, by recommendation, I listened to a few podcasts of the series "No Ego," by Cy Wakeman, and realized a lot of my personal beliefs might be useful in the work setting. Hell, in all settings. So maybe I'll even make my own podcast one day, who knows! I think I'm gonna name it, "Yes, ego, dammit!"

In the meantime, I'm writing to you here, where it's dark, and it's just you and me...  Here we go.

Let's begin with basic concepts. First of all, as humans, we always feel torn between what the body wants and what the mind knows. For instance, your body might want to eat a whole pint of ice cream in one sitting, but your mind knows it's not good for you. So you kinda feel stuck between both of them, like some sort of referee in a lucha libre match between a huge, hairy, dumb monster (your body), and a sleek, tiny-but-deadly, ninja assassin (your mind.)

This dichotomy between body and mind has long been thought by many people in the past to be irreconcilable. Standing between them, we have our reasoning. This is the active part of yourself, which has to mediate between everything your body experiences and its frankly embarrassing reactions, and the always lofty and unreachable ideals your mind has. Sigmund Freud named them the id, the super-ego, and the ego. The id is the hairy, slobbering caveman our body is. The super-ego is the haughty, smug brainiac our mind is. And the ego is the part of you which you think it's actually you, although ALL of them are you, you know?

Sorry, that got confusing.

Think of the ego as the part of you which you identify as your identity, as your center. That's why I say, "Yes, ego, dammit!" because we definitely need that ref standing in the ring, pounding the id on it's head with a mallet to curb its lecherous desires, and telling the super-ego to chill and stop being such a prick.

Think about it for a while... and realize which part of you is doing that thinking!

See y'all next time!

viernes, 4 de agosto de 2017

Thirds: A Love Story

kami no sangeki

My life, neatly trisected by a capricious heart:
First part, years of yearning for Evermore She to find;
My mind, then, just as long spent convinced that so it had;
How sad, now, whatever comes after, decries it all.

(I taught myself in her gaze
To seek the worth of my days,
To know the Me I could be,
'Till she, that day, turned away.
Absent her Light, bereft
Of charity, the clefts
In a soul rent and torn
Fester slowly with scorn.)

After, a stone replaced the heart, much too cold and small
To do naught but, torpid, avoid yet another fall;
And to wish I were a better man, though I am not;
And to wish I had chosen better, but I did not.


miércoles, 22 de marzo de 2017


Deseo, abusión,
pasión y cisura;
la premura de germinar ambiciones
lleva a sinrazones.

¿Dónde, esos votos?,
¿cuándo, si no siempre?
Mis cotos asediados, que ya ni siente
resistencia absente.

¿Corazón? Jirones.
No, esperanza no,
perdón tampoco, apenas el olvido…
tan inmerecido.

Having been found wanting

Having been found wanting

Two things in life I thought I'd be
Not a warrior nor an artist,
Not a leader nor a server,
Just a father, just a husband.

I am nothing.


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