A message from the co-founder and the co-author of Being Better: Stoicism for a World Worth Living in.
Stoicism is a philosophy that speaks to my heart, mind, and soul. It isn’t a cold calculating philosophy that only makes sense in the classroom or in the very analytical minds of university professors. Stoicism is a practical philosophy that can help you work out how best to care for your dying relatives, re-think your relationship approach after a heart-breaking divorce, or even play your part in reforming aspects of the prison system.
Stoicism helped me re-frame the death of my grandparents from something negative into a positive driving force that gave me meaning, because it showed me that I could always chose to honour them.
One way I chose to honour them was by writing a book on Stoicism. My co-author, Leonidas Konstantakos, and I wanted to highlight the human capacity for good. We wanted to explain the importance of recognising that humans are rational and social creatures that can achieve a great deal when working together. We wanted to show people how we can all take reasonable steps to improve the world around us.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, writing Being Better was a stepping stone to developing the non-profit Wisdom Unlocked with my co-founder Santara Gonzales. I met Santara at a Los Angeles Stoicism meeting, where she impressed upon me the extent of which imprisoned and recently released individuals could benefit from Stoic principles. A key Stoic teaching, and one Leonidas Konstantakos and I reflect on in Being Better, is that we are all only in control of three things: our thoughts, actions, and attitude. This is an empowering belief for anyone who has had everything else taken away from them – whether that be because they were convicted of a crime, struck down with illness or happen to have fallen on hard times economically.
While the Roman statesman Seneca the Younger and the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius were powerful Stoics, not all of them were. The founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Citium, was a penniless immigrant. Epictetus was a physically disabled slave and Cleanthes of Assos was probably brain-damaged from his time as a boxer. All these Stoic stories indicate that while our starting point is not insignificant it doesn’t have to define us. This is why our flagship program is the 9-week course Ancient Wisdom, New Ways. In this program, we teach the Stoic principles identified in Being Better to show participants how they can reclaim their sense of agency, perhaps even their sense of humanity, by working towards the cultivation of a good character.
If you have an incarcerated or recently released loved one who you think would benefit from or enjoy a copy of Being Better, please reach out to us via our contact page. Please consider buying a copy or borrowing one from your local library so that more people can learn the power of Stoicism.