One of the running themes that can be seen throughout Greek philosophy, but especially Stoicism, is the concept of calm detachment. Whether it’s Marcus Aurelius, Seneca or Epictetus, they all stress the same thing- that when you remain calm, those around you do as well. And it is through a calm investigation of the facts, of the situation, that progress can be made. Progress in a steady, methodical fashion.
Unfortunately, this is probably one of my biggest weaknesses. I’m a worrier, a panicer, someone who is the exact opposite of calm in stressful situations. But it is also a blessing, because I have something significant to work on. Something that could bring real change to my life if I can master it.
“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything up close.” Chuck Palahniuk
Who knew the author of Fight Club was a closet Stoic, because this sentiment is mirrored by none other than Marcus Aurelius when he says, “Stay focused on the present situation and ask yourself why it’s so unbearable and can’t be survived.” In other words, when you pay attention to what is right in front of you, you can handle just about anything.
Struggling under crushing debt? Just deal with your next paycheck and pay off what you can. Make that small dent, and over time you’ll work your way out.
Over weight with health problems? Don’t keep thinking about losing 50 lbs and running a 5K, just walk around the block, just pass on that ice cream. Just do what you can now.
The power of now really should be considered a super power when you think about all it can help you accomplish.
Reading: Ever read a short story and think it should be made into a full length novel? That’s the exact experience I had when I read Painless by Richard Larson. It is about a man who can’t feel pain and has been bioengineered to be a killing machine, but he refuses to give in to his fate. It’s gritty, cyberpunkish, in parts shocking and it left me wanting more.
I’ve been reading and blogging my way through Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic, which is something I do from time to time- must be the amateur classicist in me. I also stumbled across this great explainer on the whole Stoic idea from Dr. Donald J. Robertson. If you were ever curious about what exactly stoicism is, this is a great place to start.
Watching: Three things to share in the film department. First, I saw an interesting art house horror film, HAGAZUSSA, a German language film available on Amazon and Shudder. This is a haunting, intentionally paced, auditorily stunning, terror. Reminiscent of 2015’s THE WITCH although bleaker, and at times harder to watch, but I couldn’t turn away either. Chilling.
Second, I saw a one night only theatrical release of the classic Kevin Costner film FIELD OF DREAMS this past week. Aside from being a baseball fanatic this movie is special to me because I proposed to my wife while watching it all those years ago. And yes, I still cry at the end when he plays catch with his dad. #noshame
Finally, we went to a pre-release screening of the upcoming film YESTERDAY. (I’m a big deal like that). The movie has a unique premise: the entire world has forgotten The Beatles ever existed except for one down-and-out singer. He then releases the songs as his own. There is a low grade rom-com subplot as well. Cute film with a killer soundtrack- obviously.
Listening: Chelsea Wolfe’s HISS SPUN album as preparation for her upcoming release BIRTH OF VIOLENCE. Her work has blended elements of gothic rock, doom metal, and folk music. I know that sounds odd, but it works.
Reading: Finished ARISTOTLE’S WAY: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life and it was just meh. On the one hand it was nice to get back to a classic thinker that I really enjoyed reading in college. On the other hand there was just too much modernizing going on. It was Aristotle-as-life coach with a dash of the liberal elitism that is the telos of most modern self-help books. I kept waiting for something deeper to come out but it was just a cursory overview of his thinking with plenty of platitudes and pop psychology. Oh well, if nothing else it has motivated me to go back to the source material, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Watching: I REMEMBER YOU- Icelandic ghost story combined with just enough Nordic noir to make it perfect for a foggy morning viewing.
The film, based on a novel of the same name by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, tells of the entwining fates of three victims of horrible, and perhaps otherworldly, misfortune. This type of film is totally in my wheelhouse and I strongly recommend it. (Unless of course you can’t handle subtitles. But, really, you should be able to handle subtitles. You’re missing out on so many great films otherwise.)
Went to see a one day theatrical showing of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN with my 13-year-old for the anniversary of D Day. It’s been over 20 years since I have seen it on the big screen and it really does hold up. Gut-wrenching cinematic experience, but one that I think is important to pass on to the next generation. Sparked some great conversations later that night.
Listening: GAETIR THE MOUNTAINKEEPER – Ritual / Norse ambient channeling of the Old mythos. Inspired by mythology, ancestral life & Nordic landscape. So cool.
BOTTOM OF THE WORLD on Netflix, was OK. A mysterious disappearance of a young woman leads her boyfriend on a journey for truth and reality in this dark thriller that plays around with traditional narrative structure. Overall it felt like a David Lynch- lite film, which is to say it was trying really hard, even when it didn’t fully connect.
“I am afraid that our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and that we have more curiosity than understanding. We grasp at everything, but catch nothing except wind.” ― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays
It’s like he’s in my head. I’m curious about everything, but sitting down to master something is a constant struggle. Because, hey, look at this cool thing over here and…
Like smart horror? Check out THE ASCENT on Prime- veteran detective faces off against a murderer claiming to be something more than human. Come for the chills but stay for the sharp dialogue and superb acting all with an indie budget of $15k. Punches way above its weight.