An Exploration of Stoicism

by Alexander Vincenti, Freelance Writer

Most people associate the word stoic with a person who is able to endure hardship and struggle without feeling any pain. In a sense this image of a feelingless person gives a general idea of the philosophy of stoicism, but stoic philosophers do not just urge people to be emotionless beings with no feeling, they set out ideas and methods to help people limit pain in their life and make the most of their time on Earth. In this article we will explore what stoicism is and how this ancient philosophy is still extremely important and relevant to teenagers living in a particularly uncertain time.
Before we discuss how stoicism applies to our lives, we must first learn what stoics believe. The Roman emperor and famous stoic, Marcus Aurelius, wrote, “The business of life is more akin to wrestling than to dancing.” This quote reveals one of the major teachings of stoicism. While many philosophies try to teach that life is full of happiness to encourage their followers to make the most of life, stoics, however, say that it is a painful truth that life will go wrong for everyone at some point. Everyone has to deal with death, rejection, and failure and at some point or multiple points in our lives, everyone will encounter these moments. This is why Aurelius believes life is more like wrestling than dancing. Getting through life means battling hardships and setbacks, and it isn’t a rhythmic motion that always goes as planned.
The fact that life is full of things which can make us miserable is difficult to deal with and often hard to accept. However, stoics say that this should not deter people, because there are still reasons to live and find happiness. We all find joy in something, and stoics want us to dive into our passions and make the most of life.
This finally gets to the heart of stoicism. First one must accept that everything in life will not go their way. Life will not always be smooth sailing, and there will be times when you will face hardship. Next one must realize that a lot of the misfortune and hardship we face is out of our control. Lastly, we must focus on the things that we can control to maximize happiness in our lives.
Now that we know the basic principles of stoicism, we can explore how they apply to the lives of many students who are experiencing stress from factors which are beyond their control. In particular COVID has drastically changed the way we live. Many have lost loved ones, businesses have been shut down which has cost people their jobs, and students were forced to learn remotely which was hard for many. This is on top of the other stress factors most high schoolers have to deal with. However, COVID and all of its effects are out of our control, and a stoic would urge a student in today’s society not to worry about these things or let these things get to you. Instead, focus on trying your hardest in school, try to connect with friends and family virtually, and do what you can to help your community. Doing these things will bring you joy and it would be making the most of a terrible situation. This is what stoicism is really about.