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Philosopher Superheroes: 5 Times The Stoics Displayed Superhuman Courage

Philosopher Superheroes: 5 Times The Stoics Displayed Superhuman Courage

The world loves superheroes, and so do I.

When you check out the highest 20 highest grossing films of all time, you will notice than in almost each considered one of them there’s a story of an bizarre one that embarks on a unprecedented journey.

On this journey, the hero leaves their unusual world and units forth on a path crammed with enemies, mentors, trials, and setbacks as they ultimately rework into the hero locked inside their potential.

Heroes, in fact, exist all over the place. We see heroes in our faculties, in our police departments, in our hearth providers, in our communities, and in ourselves. Superheroes, nevertheless, are a rarer breed.

A superhero is a hero amongst heroes—a hero who has gone the additional mile and is ready to carry out feats of character or willpower approach past any typical exemplary human.

Historical past is scattered with superheroes. The most well-known ones that come to thoughts for me are the spiritual or cultural icons reminiscent of Jesus Christ, Buddha, and Socrates. Newer superheroes of business and thought embrace Elon Musk, Leonardo da Vinci, and Isaac Newton.

However there’s a small group of historic superheroes with whom I’m notably impressed. I see these people because the philosophical model of The Avengers. And what’s particularly fascinating about these superheroes is that they have been self-made. They adopted a system for brave dwelling that’s nonetheless accessible to us immediately.

The people I’m referring to are The Stoics.

Stoic philosophy (to not be confused with the dictionary definition of “stoic”) is an historic blueprint for dwelling a joyful, sensible, virtuous life freed from pointless struggling.

I like to think about Stoicism as a kind of Buddhism filtered for Western tastes. The Stoics practiced their philosophy exhausting, and appeared to come across states of awakening just like these described by skilled Buddhist meditators.

The Stoics believed that as a way to reside a very good life, one should stay in accordance with their nature. Meaning, when you’ve got social or artistic presents, you’d be sensible to make use of them. Because of this, the Stoics tended to achieve success and lively gamers in society similar to emperors, troopers, playwrights, psychiatrists, politicians, and academics.

There are lots of tales of historic and trendy stoics displaying superhuman braveness, however under I’ve narrowed down my favorites into an inventory of prime 5.

1. James Stockdale

On 9 September 1965, whereas flying on a mission over North Vietnam, Commander James Stockdale was shot down, crushed, and brought as a prisoner of struggle in Hoa Lo jail, also referred to as the “Hanoi Hilton.” Stockdale remained right here for the subsequent seven and a half years and was subjected to horrendous torture—together with the repeated breaking of his leg when it healed.

One of many main goals of Stoicism is to scale back pointless struggling and obtain emotional tranquility. Stoicism is usually touted as a type of psychological resilience coaching—a device for remaining calm and composed in probably the most difficult conditions.

However can philosophy alone assist us cope when issues get really f**ked up?

To seek out out, we might take a look at the traditional Stoics and see how they lived. There’s nice worth in studying and studying concerning the ancients, and we’ll do that shortly, however us trendy readers might all the time argue that “things were different then,” as a result of they have been.

So to completely recognize the facility of Stoicism we’d like a contemporary practitioner of this philosophy to be thrust into a very abhorrent state of affairs, say one the place they should endure torture and solitary confinement over a interval of years, apply Stoic methods, then report again to us how issues went. In fact, no sane individual would volunteer themselves up for such an experiment.

That’s why James Stockdale’s story is so profound: he was a scholar of Stoic philosophy.

Stockdale stated, “I had not only the Enchiridion, but the Discourses on my bedside table on each of the three aircraft carriers I flew from. And I read them.” Whilst Stockdale was parachuting down after his aircraft was shot, he whispered to himself, “Five years down there at least. I’m leaving the world of technology and entering the world of Epictetus.”

In fact, Stockdale’s actual Stoic resilience coaching started when he was captured:

“Everything I know about Epictetus I’ve developed myself over the years. It’s been a one-on-one relationship. He’s been in combat with me, leg irons with me, spent month-long stretches in blindfolds with me, has been in the ropes with me, has taught me that my true business is maintaining control over my moral purpose, in fact, that my moral purpose is who I am. He taught me that I am totally responsible for everything I do and say; and that it is I who decides on and controls my own destruction and own deliverance. Not even God will intercede if he sees me throwing my life away. He wants me to be autonomous. He put me in charge of me. ‘It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll. I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.’”

Stockdale received by means of his time within the Hanoi Hilton by embracing two paradoxical viewpoints: religion and realism. Stockdale by no means misplaced religion that issues would work out properly, however he was additionally all the time prepared to take a look at probably the most brutal information of his state of affairs rationally. Such a reasonable optimism has come to be generally known as The Stockdale Paradox.

Study extra about James Stockdale: Courage Beneath Hearth: Testing Epictetus’s Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Conduct

2. Diogenes

And when requested what he had discovered from philosophy, Diogenes replied, “To be prepared for every fortune.“

— William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

Diogenes is the most famous of the Cynics, a branch of philosophy that served a the precursor for traditional Stoicism. Diogenes was a very strange fellow for a number of reasons. He lived inside a barrel and shunned any form of luxurious living. Diogenes only ate when he was starving hungry and drank when he was gaspingly thirsty. This allowed him to enjoy a simple cup of water as if it was the world’s most expensive wine.

The core of Diogenes thought was based on his observation that “bad men obey their lusts as servants obey their masters,” and since we’re so dangerous at controlling our wishes, we will by no means discover contentment. This is the reason Diogenes was so intent on being the grasp of his personal lust and attachments.

Maybe Diogenes biggest and most memorable show of Stoic superhero power was in his assembly with Alexander the Nice. Alexander was taught by Aristotle and had sensible admiration for nice thinkers. Someday when driving by way of Greece Alexander encountered Diogenes, a thinker he had heard many nice issues about. The legend states that upon assembly Diogenes, Alexander requested the thinker if there was something he might give him.

Alexander at this time limit was probably the most highly effective man on the planet, and he was extraordinarily hot-tempered. There have been tales of Alexander having his greatest pals executed for disrespecting him. So when he provided Diogenes a present, no one would have anticipated the phrases that may have come out of the unusual thinker’s mouth:

“Yes,” stated Diogenes, “stand a little out of my sun.”

Diogenes was so steadfast in his Stoic way of life he even risked the wrath of Alexander the Nice to reveal it. Diogenes was not somebody who simply lived his philosophy, he was constantly looking out for alternatives to show it and his assembly with Alexander introduced one.

It labored. So stunned by this reply, and admired the braveness and wit of Diogenes a lot, he has stated to his followers laughing, “But truly if I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.”

Study extra about Diogenes: Diogenes the Cynic: Sayings and Anecdotes, With Different Widespread Moralists

three. Seneca

“The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.”

— Seneca

Emperor Nero rose to energy when he was younger and his management was something however admirable. As an alternative, his reign turned the portrait of the quintessential psychopath.

The solely hope for redemption of this archetypal mad king got here within the type of his tutor, Seneca.

Seneca was already a seasoned Stoic. He had already witnessed nice tragedies as Earthquakes wreaked havoc on Pompeii and nice fires ravaged Rome. He had endured a bout of tuberculosis in his early twenties which lasted six years and led to suicidal melancholy. Later in life, Seneca was additionally exiled for eight years to Corsica for a wrongdoing he didn’t even commit.

However the vastness of his braveness was but to be revealed. He discovered himself in his prime years serving Nero. For a few years, Seneca acted as a loyal advisor for Nero. That might not exonerate him from Nero’s insanity.

Upon discovering an assassination plot that might see his reign of energy ended, he determined it was time for Seneca to pay despite the fact that there was no proof linking him to the conspiracy.

Seneca was instructed to take his personal life by slicing his personal veins on his ankles and behind his knees. Although the blade went deep, the blood didn’t movement quick sufficient to kill Seneca, so he requested for a cup of poison hemlock. Seneca drank this cup, however this too didn’t work. Lastly, Seneca requested to be put in a vapor-bath, the place he slowly suffocated to demise—a very appalling and disastrous ending for this legendary Stoic thinker.

What’s really superhuman about this story, is how a lot calmness and equanimity Seneca projected all through the entire hellish ordeal. Round him, Seneca’s companions wept. However in an account offered by Tacitus, Seneca’s final phrases revealed simply how superior in his Stoicism Seneca was:

The place had their philosophy gone, he requested, and that decision towards impending misfortunes which that they had inspired in one another over so a few years? ‘Surely nobody was unaware that Nero was cruel!’ he added. ‘After murdering his mother and brother, it only remained for him to kill his teacher and tutor.’

Seneca used his personal dying to point out his family and friends how Stoic philosophy can shield us towards any disaster. How did he get by means of this with tranquility? Seneca as soon as wrote:

“I owe my life to [Stoic philosophy], and that is the least of my obligations to it.”

Seneca’s life, not simply his writing, factors towards the profound energy of Stoicism as a philosophy of life.

Study Extra About Seneca: Dialogues and Essays (Oxford World’s Classics)

four. Viktor Frankl

“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.”

— Viktor Frankl

Man’s Seek for Which means is likely one of the most unimaginable books ever written. The writer of this masterpiece, Viktor Frankl, was a psychiatrist who ended up as focus camp prisoner in Auschwitz throughout World Struggle II. However what makes Frankl’s story distinctive is that he used his time in a Nazi dying camp to develop a whole principle of human flourishing. This concept he referred to as logotherapy. Frankl argues that the great life resides not within the pursuit of delight however within the which means one provides to their struggling.

Frankl believed that struggling is part of life, and that man’s final freedom is his capacity to decide on how to answer any set of given circumstances, even probably the most painful ones.

When one learn’s Man’s Seek for Which means, one can think about Epictetus having comparable ideas and concepts throughout his enslavement. Frankl, in my estimation, is a contemporary Stoic and has brazenly stated he was influenced by Stoic philosophy in his formation of logotherapy. The following passage from Man’s Seek for Which means is a superb instance of Stoic philosophy:

“In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom. Only in this way can one explain the apparent paradox that some prisoners of a less hardy makeup often seemed to survive camp life better than did those of a robust nature.”

Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who was put inside some of the dire locations in world historical past. However there was no higher container for understanding the character of ache, trauma, worry, and hopelessness than Auschwitz, and Frankl used this chance to determine how we’d transcend such merciless, brutal, pointless struggling and discover which means. Viktor Frankl is a superhero who has consequently helped tens of millions of readers to stay extra fulfilling lives.

Study extra about Viktor Frankl: Man’s Seek for Which means

5. Marcus Aurelius

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

— Marcus Aurelius

The politician and decide Lord Atkinson stated, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This, usually talking, is true. What human have you ever ever witnessed who has had unimaginable energy throughout a number of dimensions and has not engaged in some type of corrupt conduct?

There’s, nevertheless, one exception to this rule:

The Roman Emperor / Stoic “Philosopher King,” Marcus Aurelius.

I contemplate Aurelius to be probably the most spectacular human being who ever lived. Why? As a result of Aurelius did have absolute energy. He was the ruler of the recognized world, he was above the regulation, he might have anybody he needed killed, and he had entry to hundreds of sexual mates. However there isn’t a proof that he ever abused his energy.

Moreover, in his reign of 19 years, Aurelius would expertise fixed struggle, devastating plagues, threats to the throne, the demise of eight youngsters, and a number of political infidelities. And from what we find out about him, he used every of those obstacles as a method to follow his Stoicism.

A narrative that illustrates the superhero advantage of Marcus Aurelius was when his previous pal and most trusted basic, Avidius Cassius, rebelled in Syria after listening to Marcus was near demise. Avidius needed to grab the throne by killing Marcus and his household. What would you do on this state of affairs? Would you’ve been indignant a minimum of?

Marcus did nothing, and he even stored the betrayal a secret from his troops. He waited some time to see if Cassius would settle down and are available to his senses. When this didn’t occur, Marcus got down to “settle this affair well and show to all mankind that there is a right way to deal even with civil wars.” He marched on Rome to grab Cassius and forgive him.

When Marcus received to Egypt, he discovered that Cassius had already been killed by a lone murderer. However what was he to do with Cassius’ conspirators? Allow them to free too. He stated: “I implore you, the senate, to keep my reign unstained by the blood of any senator. May it never happen.”

For a person to have as a lot energy as Marcus Aurelius and to persistently attempt to train self-control, braveness, advantage, justice, and integrity is nearly superhuman. What’s notably superb about Marcus is that he wrote a ebook to himself, Meditations. That is type of like a private improvement ebook he wrote to himself. He by no means meant this guide to be revealed, however it was. And inside we will see how he thinks, and the recommendation he provides himself to comply with.

Study extra about Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

Unlock Your Internal Stoic Superhero with The Quest

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We’re creating a brand new expertise referred to as “The Stoic Quest: An 8 Week Journey into Unshakeable Confidence.”

We’ve but to open the doorways. If you wish to request an invitation, click on under and enter your identify and e mail.

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