A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
3 words: joyful, quietly enthusiastic, encouraging
Reading this book during the onset of a global pandemic turned out to be a really good idea. As things were getting scarier and stranger by the hour, I was bolstered by the calm, quiet, gently encouraging tone of this book, which offers guidance on how Stoicism can offer a sense of peace.
I needed to find a way to experience peace.
And I have to say thank you to Bybee of Blue-Hearted Bookworm, whose review of this book made me sit up and take notice when she posted a few years ago. Sometimes people and their words reach us at just the right time. Thanks, Bybee dear.
William A. Irvine is a kind guide through the ideas of Stoicism, and for me, the book really got going once he started describing the actual practices of Stoic living.
For example, imagine the loss of everyone and everything you love, because this will increase your appreciation for them.
Clearly, that sounds dreadful (especially when the world’s so frightening), but he describes how this approach can actually lead to our living the way we really want to live — in loving appreciation of the gifts we’ve been given.
And another… determine which aspects of life you have some control over, and focus your efforts in those areas — and let go of the areas where we have no control. This reminds me of Viktor Frankl’s words: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Irvine distinguishes between our setting a goal of winning a game vs. setting a goal of playing our best. The first goal is outside our control, while the latter is something we can actually achieve if we put our mind to it.
And there’s much more…
So I’ve determined to begin practicing Stoicism in small ways, and then perhaps in larger ways. And this means I’ll be re-reading this book, because the first reading of this kind of life-changing book can inspire me, but it’s the second and third readings where I’m actually able to grasp the ideas and put them into practice.
Anyone else like that? A single reading just isn’t enough, if I think there’s potentially life-changing stuff at hand.
What strategies and mindsets are getting you through this difficult time?
Give this book a whirl if you like… developing a philosophy for living, envisioning the worst so you can appreciate what you you have, diminishing anxiety, finding peace