STOICON 2016

I was fortunate enough to attend STOICON this year, so I decided to do a write up about my thoughts and experiences from the event.

Arrival

Being a native New Yorker who currently lives in Brooklyn, it was pretty easy for me to hop on the subway and head down to where STOICON was being held, at the Houston Street Center in Lower Manhattan between Little Italy and East Village.

I had never been to the Houston Street Center before, the best way I can describe the center is that it almost feels like a YMCA. It has a large gym for basketball, a workout room with exercise equipment, and a few small classrooms scattered throughout the building.

dsc_0101Upon arriving at around 8:30am I was prompted by the organizers to find my name tag from those alphabetically sorted on a table. I was then told to insert my name tag into a plastic pouch, and was provided with an untied shoelace. Combine all three of these things together and you get yourself a lanyard!

This process seemed a little strange to me as I have been to my fair share of conventions before, such as PAX East and NYCC, where they tend to go all out with the lanyards and badges. I am sure doing it this way allowed the organizes to save money on materials, and provided an interesting exercise in knot tying for the attendees.

They had also printed out a very nice convention guide booklet which contained a schedule of the days activities along with mini bios of all the speakers. In addition it contained a page of Greek terms that might come up during the conference, as well a list of basic Stoic resources, on the web and elsewhere, that would be helpful for people who are new to Stoicism.

I was surprised that as I entered the convention, nobody checked my ticket. My guess here is that the organizers believed that anybody interested enough to attend a conference about Stoicism, where people would be talking about morality and virtue, would not be so immoral as to attempt to sneak in without paying, or steal somebody else’s name tag.

Convention Start

The convention itself was setup inside a large basketball court, with a podium up front, a projector, and seats laid out throughout the court floor. Massimo Pigliucci came up first to do a quick welcome and introduction, mentioning that there were about 330 attendees at the conference that day, ostensibly being the largest gathering of Stoics in all of history, an amusing fact to ponder.

From the beginning it seemed as if the Stoic gods, if there are any, were testing us. There were constant issues with the microphones and sound, making it difficult to hear many of the speakers at times throughout the conference. It was also very difficult to see many of the presentation slides due to the lighting in the room. I do think however, that everyone got through these issues fairly well, without anybody losing their cool. Stoicism at work!

Convention Morning

There were three speakers arranged to talk in the initial morning session, from 9am – 10:30am consisting of Donald Robertson, Julia Annas, and Bill Irvine. I found all of the speakers in this session to be interesting and engaging, as each approached Stoic philosophy from different perspectives.

Donald Robertson talked about Stoic Mindfulness and how it relates to many of the techniques practiced in CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy).

Julia Annas approached the Stoic philosophy more directly, taking about how the Stoics viewed virtue and vice along with their ideal sage. She tackled the rather off-putting concept of how the Stoic philosophers say there are no degrees of virtue, you either wholly virtuous or wholly vicious, and explained why the Stoic philosophers thought of it that way. I found this talk helpful in resolving some of the common “Stoic Paradoxes” that come  up as you dig deeper into the philosophy.

William Irvine talked about using Stoic techniques, and applying them so that you could become an “insult pacifist”, basically somebody who is unperturbed by insults. He mentioned some of his own personal stories where he had been able to apply these ideas to his own life, and also mentioned stories where he had failed to live up to those standards. William’s speech was probably taken the most well received by the audience out of first few presentations due to the humor and personal perspective he provided.

Break Time

After the first three speakers had finished, we took a quick 15 minute break to get up, stretch, and walk around. During the break I noticed Matt Van Natta, author of the Immoderate Stoic blog as well as the Good Fortune podcast. I had listened to his podcast before, so it was cool to see him there. I was able to talk to him for a little while during the break time.

Convention Morning Part 2

After the break, we had another series of speakers setup to talk from 10:45am – 1pm. The speakers included Lawrence Becker, Debbie Joffe Ellis, Chris Gill, Cinzia Arruzza, and Jules Evans.

Lawrence Becker was unable to attend in person, so instead a Skype call was setup so that he could address everyone at the convention. As you might expect, there were issues initiating the Skype call, glitches with the audio skipping at times, and they were unable to get the video to work until about half way through the talk. It is difficult to pin down exactly what Lawrence talked about, as he bounced around from topic to topic, mentioning how Stoic philosophy is really an evolving philosophy, giving examples of Stoic philosophers, such as Posidonius, who took the philosophy in different directions at times.

Debbie Joffe Ellis  talked about her late husband, Albert Ellis, and how he used many ideas from the Stoic toolkit to develop REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy) which helped many people throughout his career. She also mentioned how he lived as a good example of how you should live, as he always sought to help others throughout his life even into his 90s while he was ill.

Christopher Gill talked about whether Stoicism conflicted with political activism in any way, with the conclusion being that Stocism actually encourages political activism instead of passivity which it is commonly misconstrued as suggesting. His speech felt very much like a good old fashioned college lecture, which makes sense since he is indeed a Philosophy Professor.

Cinzia Arruza talked about using enabling us to use Stoicism to take better care of ourselves, along with Stoic exercises in relationship to French Philosopher Michel Foucault. This lecture went beyond me at times, digging deep into Foucault, who I was not really familiar with. There were some helpful insights at times about inspecting your impressions, trying to evaluate your issues from different perspective (such as a cosmological perspective) and that often we much change ourselves internally before we can change the external world.

Jules Evans was probably the most lively of all the speakers, encouraging everyone to stand up, stretch, high five the person next to them, along with other shenanigans. Jules talked primarily about his own life experiences, how throughout and after college he ran into a lot of anxiety issues, discovered CBT which helped him to mitigate his anxiety issues quite a bit, and went on to discover how the root of CBT came from ancient Stoic philosophy.

Lunch Break

We were then dismissed from around 1:00pm to 2:30pm to go off and find lunch. I had scoped out some nearby pizza places before and ended up trying to get some food at Prince Street Pizza. Their spicy pepperoni squares were highly recommended so I decided to try that. They did not have any available when I showed up, but they gave me a waiting ticket (#5) and said that more should be ready in 10 minutes. I had some time to kill anyways so I figured it would be fine to wait.

About 10 minutes passed and a pepperoni pie finally came out. However, it was only enough to serve # 1 – 3 who arrived there before me. Apparently I would have to wait a little longer. It was now 1:55pm and I had been waiting for Pizza for at least 35 minutes. I decided that in-order to get back to the conference in time for the 2:30pm workshops, I might as well hand in my #5 ticket, forego the pepperoni pizza, and get something else. I ordered two slices of margherita pizza instead. After I had received and paid for my two slices I saw them pulling two pies of pepperoni pizza out of the oven. Again, it seemed as if the Stoic gods, if there are any, were testing me, or at least they had a sense of  humor. I basically went “oh well” and continued on with my margherita pizza, which was rather good anyways.

Workshops

There were 6 potential workshops to choose from that would last from  2:30pm – 4pm, and you had to sign up in advance to indicate which workshop you wanted to attend. I decided to attend Tim LeBon’s workshop titled “Trump for President? A Stoic response”.

The first great test of the workshop was finding it…I was able to find all the other workshops in the building but could not seem to find the specific one I wanted to attend. After wandering around for a few minutes I eventually bumped into Time LeBon, who also was confused and looking for the workshop room. Eventually we found a staff member who was able to direct us the workshop room, which ended up being on a different floor in a back room.

The room was pretty small, having enough space for about 16 charis. There were around 12 people in total attending Tim’s workshop. The patience of this group of Stoics was again tested, as there were many difficulties setting up the presentation. Tim had brought his own laptop with an HDMI cable, however the projectors they had only took VHS. The staff then brought in another laptop that had a VHS port, but Tim could not load his presentation on to the laptop, as it would not recognize his flash drive. Three different laptops and two flash drives later, we could still not get the presentation setup properly.

Eventually Tim realized that he had his presentation on his website, and was able to download it onto one of the working laptops. Unfortunately he only had it in pdf format, not power point, which made it a little awkward to present. Did I also mention that the projector was crooked the whole time? It was almost like being in an absurdist play where everything goes wrong. However, we did get through it and went on with Tim’s presentation.

To quickly summarize Tim’s presentation, we essentially did a bunch of negative visualization training. First we imagined what it might be like if Trump became President, imagined what moods and emotions we might feel at the time, as well as what we would feel like doing. Some emotions that people listed out were disappointment, fearfulness, and depression, along with taking actions such as hiding in your room under your bed to escape reality.

We then moved on to examine how a Stoic might react to the situation, taking into account what we could or could not change at that moment, and how we might use the Stoic virtues in ways that would be helpful. We could not change the fact that Trump was president, but we could change our reactions along with our actions. We could use the virtue of temperance to make sure that we do not go on an angry tirade, the virtue of courage to take action against decisions we disagree with, and practical wisdom to determine what actions we might take to lessen any potential damages that might occur due to a Trump presidency.

The idea here was that, if we visualize how we might react to the situation, and rehearse how we should behave after we have those reactions, we would be better equipped to deal with the situation if it did occur. Obviously these techniques can be used for any potentially upsetting situation, which was the main point of this workshop. You need not let your initial impressions dictate your reactions.

Keynote

After all the workshops were over, we all headed back to the gymnasium for the Keynote speech, which lasted from around 4:15pm to 5:15pm. The speaker this time was Ryan Holiday, who is probably one of the more well know speakers, since he has written a handful of books on various topics ranging from social media manipulation to overcoming obstacles in your life.

He told us how he personally encountered Stoicism back in college, by reading a copy of Marcus Aurelieus’s Meditations. After regaling us with a variety of Stoic quotes from Marcus, Seneca, and Epictetus he elaborated on his belief that Stoicism really is a philosophy for the common person, and the we should push it into the mainstream as much as possible, so that others may also benefit from it as we have.

He then talked about his new book The Daily Stoic which contains quotes from many of the great Stoic philosophers with detailed comments on each quote, the idea here being that every day you would read one page from the book and focus on that Stoic principle for the day. Ryan was also kind enough to give everyone at the conference a free copy of his new book, which was a nice surprise.

And thus ended my long day at STOICON.

Conclusion

If you are interesting in hearing what the speakers had to say for yourself, most of STOICON was live streamed and put on YouTube to watch here and here. The audio is not great at times, but I am sure you can use many of the techniques mentioned in this post to help you deal with it. You can also read more about what happened at STOICON on Massimo’s blog here.

In the end I would consider STOICON to have been a successful event. It was great to see the various perspectives that people approached Stoicism with, learn more about the Stoic philosophy as a whole, and to see the philosophy at work in action.

zenoillustration1
Zeno, founder of Stoicism

On Free Will

The philosophical debate on whether or not humans have free will has been going on for thousands of years. In this blog post I do not intend to settle the debate once and for all. People much smarter than me have already tried. Here I will simply  expound upon my own personal thoughts behind the concepts of causality, determinism, and free will.

Much of this info is taken from the Information Philosopher website and the book Free Will Scandal which I encourage you to look at if you are interested in this topic.

First I think we need to define a couple of terms to get started.

Causality

Causality is the basic idea that all events have causes. When every event is caused completely by prior events and their causes, it leads to the idea of determinism. A causal chain links all events to earlier events in a limitless sequence.

Determinism

Determinism is the idea that everything that happens, including all human actions, are completely determined by prior events. There is only one possible future, and it is completely predictable in principle, most famously by Laplace’s Supreme Intelligent Demon, assuming perfect knowledge of the positions, velocities, and forces for all the atoms in the void.

Indeterminism

Indeterminism is the idea that some events are uncaused, specifically that they are random accidents with only probabilistic outcomes.

Libertarianism

Libertarianism is a school of thought that says humans are free, not only from physical determinism, but from all the other diverse forms of determinism. Libertarians believe that strict determinism and freedom are incompatible. Most libertarians in the past have been mind/body dualists who, following René Descartes, explained human freedom by a separate mind substance that somehow manages to act indeterministically in the physical world. Religious libertarians say that God has given man a gift of freedom.

Free Will

Free Will is sometimes called Freedom of Action. Libertarian Free Will includes the availability of alternative possibilities and the ability to have done otherwise. How you define this term is tricky, as there can be various interpretations of the term, and depending on these interpretations, you may end up confirming or denying free will.

Thoughts on Determinism

Lets take a look at determinism first. Do I think that determinism is true? Well, no. At least, not in the sense of  pre-determinism, the idea that the entire past (as well as the future) was determined at the origin of the universe.

I think that there is potentially such a thing as self-caused events, or at the very least, a probabilistically caused event. Why do I think this? Well essentially, it is based off my interpretation of quantum mechanics. Based on our modern conception of physics, the Laws of Nature are not deterministic. They are probabilistic due to the underlying quantum mechanics that has replaced classical mechanics as the proper description of the universe’s fundamental particles. Probability is the explanation for alternative possibilities and unpredictable uncaused causes.

I believe that adequate determinism it the most apt way to describe our universe. This is the idea that macroscopic objects are adequately determined in their motions, giving rise to the appearance of strict causal determinism. Where as microscopic objects show the probabilistic consequences of indeterminism, due to quantum mechanics. These probabilistic effects usually average out in large objects, leading to the illusion of strict causal physical determinism, the powerful idea of deterministic laws of nature.

Essentially I think that ontological randomness (true randomness) does indeed exist, at the very least, on the microscopic or quantum level.

Even if you deny the idea quantum mechanics implies ontological randomness, I have a simpler, albeit more naive argument for you. Take a look at the chains of causality. If you follow the chain of causality all the way back to the beginning you need to ask yourself the question, well what caused that beginning? What created the first link in the chain? What is the primary cause?

Really, for me, the only thing that makes sense here is that we have an uncaused cause or a self-causing cause. If you really wanted to, you could say that this self-causing cause is God. This is the idea behind Artistotle’s “prime mover” or “unmoved mover”. I take this a step further and say, why stop at one prime mover? Why can there not be more than one? Why limit it to the very beginning of the causal chain? We could have uncaused causes filtered throughout chains of causality. This would then lead back to the idea of ontological randomness.

The universe is adequately determined, essentially meaning that there are both factors of determinism and indeterminism at play here.

Thoughts on Free Will

So how does the idea of adequate determinism fit in with the idea of free will? Well this really depends on how we define free will. You can define it as the ability to have done otherwise. Meaning that if you reset reality back to the exact state it was 5 minutes ago, before you made the decision to choose between vanilla and chocolate ice cream, you could actually make a different choice here.

A hard determinist would say that no matter how many times you rewind the clock, you will always make the same choice. You will always choose chocolate. Due to adequate determinism I say that, if you do rewind the clock, there will be some times that you choose chocolate and other times that you choose vanilla. To most people this change in choice is simply random, and not actually a case of free will. If I just randomly choose one flavor over another, it cannot be said that my choice here is really free. Technically though, I would say that this fulfills the requirement of ‘being able to do otherwise’.

Think that the criticism of the ice cream example, saying ‘that isn’t really free’, is a valid criticism based on that specific idea of free will. However I do not think that this idea of free will  gets us anywhere, as it does not actually exist in any real sense. We have a much more plausible idea of free will that we use on a day to day basis. When you go to sign a legal contract, and the witness asks you, “are you signing this contract of your own free will?”, and you say “yes”, this is essentially what we mean by free will, that you are free from outside coercion.

More specifically I would define free will as essentially being reasons responsive. What does this mean? Reasons-Responsiveness describes an agent who has the kind of control needed to initiate or originate an action. Being “reasons-responsive” and taking ownership of the action means the agent can say the action was “up to me.”

To put it a little more simply, you could say it literally means that you are response to other reasons. For example, lets pretend that you plan to go on a bike ride outside to exercise. Your reasons for this is that riding your bike will help you burn calories and become healthier. You then hear on the news that there is going to be a heavy thunderstorm outside in 15 minutes. Due to this, you decide to not go on your bike ride, and instead stay inside. In this case you were responsive to other reasons as to whether you should ride your bike or not. Therefore it can be said in this case that you exercised your free will.

Lets take the same case but modify it a bit. Pretend that you now have a diabolical fitness instructor that has brainwashed you into thinking that you must always ride your bike outside no matter what. Even though you hear on the news that there is going to be a heavy thunderstorm outside in 15 minutes, you will still go outside and ride your bike regardless. In this case, you were not response to other reasons, and it cannot be said that you exercised your free will.

Some people might think of this idea of free will as a type of cop out, but for me, this is the only concept of free will that really makes sense, and it useful to us as humans. This concept of free will is common to those who embrace compatibilismCompatibilism essentially argues that determinism is compatible with human freedom. This allows us to take responsibility for  our actions, including credit for the good and blame for the bad.

My full view on the matter is more accurately described as that of comprehensive compatibilism. You can read a whole lot more about comprehensive compatibilism in this PDF on page 385. The following is a simplified definition:

Comprehensive compatibilism is the belief that free will can be reconciled both with adequate determinism and with indeterminism. Free will is not a metaphysical mystery or gift of God. It evolved from a natural biophysical property of all organisms. Comprehensive compatibilists believe that normally actions are adequately determined by deliberations prior to a decision, including one’s character and values, one’s feelings and desires, in short, one’s reasons and motives. They believe that free will is reasons responsive. Comprehensive compatibilists put limits on both determinism and indeterminism. Pure chance, irreducible randomness, or quantum indeterminacy in the two-stage model of free will is limited in the first stage to generating alternative possibilities. But also note that sometimes we can “deliberately” choose to act randomly, when there is no obvious reason to do one thing rather than another.  Comprehensive compatibilists believe that humans are free from strict physical determinism, or pre-determinism, and all the other diverse forms of determinism. They accept the existence of ontological chance, but believe that when chance is the direct and primary cause of actions, it precludes agent control and moral responsibility.

Essentially, it is a complex two stage model of free will. In the first stage, ontological randomness is able to generate additional possibilities. This can be simply expressed as additional thoughts popping into your head, or changes in your memories as you try to recall them in-order to make a decision. Ontological randomness also ends up being a core component of creativity in the human mind. Then in the second stage, we use our adequately determined will to choose from these potential possibilities, or potential reasons. This in the end, give us free will.

Final Thoughts

I hope you think that I have made a somewhat compelling case for comprehensive compatibilism. It has taken me much time, deliberation, research, and existential panic to decide that this conclusion makes sense to me.

I would also like to point out that the majority of modern day philosophers consider themselves to be compatibilists, and that indeed the ancient Stoic philosophers were  some of the earliest proponents of compatibilism.

I tried to keep the ideas in this post as simple as possible so that they might be accessible to people who are not as familiar with the free will debate. It is possible that in the process of keeping things simple, I have done a disservice to the complexity of certain ideas and viewpoints. Again I implore you to look into these ideas yourself, and see what conclusions you reach.

So, what is your take on free will?

On Climate Change

I have been re-considering a lot of my long held beliefs recently, and the idea of man made climate change appears to be next on on my list of beliefs that are in need of re-evaluation.

For a while I have held the belief that man made climate change is a real problem, and that we have to do something about it. Why did I hold this belief? Well, like many others I am sure, that simply seemed to be the consensus among the majority of people that I knew, along with what I was hearing from the media.

It also seemed to me that most people in my generation had the same opinion. Apparently that is true, 76% of the people in my generation believe that climate change is indeed a serious problem. You can read about the survey with this data here and here.

However, believing in something simply because the majority of the people you know also believe it, isn’t really the best way to go about things. I need more of a foundation for beliefs in matters such as this.

NASA

So I went off looking for some information on climate change. But where should I look for this info? Who should I trust? Well since I am an American citizen, one of the first organizations that popped into my mind was NASA. There are a bunch of scientists there, they have launched rockets into outer space, put people on the moon, they seem to know what they are doing, so lets take a look and see what they have to say.

Ok, so it looks like they have a whole page of evidence supporting climate change along with a page saying that the scientific consensus is in favor of man made climate change. On the page, NASA also mentions that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.

The 97% Consenses

This figure of 97% has been the rallying cry of many liberals, but it has also been largely questioned by conservatives. For example articles from the WSJ, Forbes, and the National Review question this figure. In general though, I have found much more recent support in favor of the 97% figure in general. The most recent study, done in 2016, seems to confirm this figure. You can read more about the scientific consensus on PolitifactFactCheck, and Wikipedia.

It is interesting to see that The Guardian posted an article in 2013 saying that the 97% figure appeared to be false, but they seem to have changed their position recently (or perhaps it is just the fact that the articles were written by two different journalists).

After looking into it this much, I am more inclined to agree with the 97% figure, but would say it really closer to a range of 90% – 97%. That is still a rather large majority of scientists though.

I have seen some people go so far as to say that, even though the majority of climate change scientists say that climate change is likely due to human actions, there is no guarantee that they are correct, that scientists as a whole have been wrong in the past about a lot of things, and they could be wrong this time.

This statement is technically correct. It is within the realm of possibility that the majority of scientists are mistaken. However, this is a very flawed argument for not believing in climate change. We should not believe people simple because there is a chance they are incorrect? What? Since when do we have 100% knowledge about anything? We could all just be brains floating around in a vat, attached to computers that simulate reality.

All we can really do is take the evidence that we have, figure out what is most probable, and continue forwards. If 90%+ of climate change scientists (experts) say that climate change over the past century is very likely due to human activities, I am going to have to side with them until proven otherwise.

IPCC

While browsing around the Internet and NASA’s pages, I found that NASA was citing a lot of material from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). I didn’t really know who they were so I looked them up. You can read about the IPCC on their website here. To take an excerpt from their page the IPCC  is:

The international body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

Those are some hefty credentials. To summarize once again the IPCC:

  1.  Was formed by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme.
  2. Was formed back in 1988.
  3. Was created to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change.

Ok, these people are supposed to inform world leaders and governments about climate change, surely they can inform me. What do they have to say?

Well the IPCC gives a report about climate change every few years. What do the reports have to say? You can read a summary of their latest report here, which essentially says the following:

Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. It is extremely likely (95-100% probability) that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a fairly definitive answer to me.

How to Refute?

Even with all of this information that seems to be in favor of climate change, it is still possible to refute the claim. How would you do this? You would need to do the following.

  1. Prove that NASA is wrong, misinformed, or manipulating information.
  2. Prove that there is no majority consensus among climate scientists.
  3. Prove that the IPCC is wrong, misinformed, or manipulating information.

Well fancy that, the Daily Wire just wrote up an article that supposedly does all of that and more as of yesterday!

Personally, I believe there is more evidence to disprove refutation #2, as it appears to me that there actually is a scientific consensus in favor of man made climate change.

What about refutation #1? NASA?

Well, there have been some articles floating around saying that NASA has been fudging their temperature data to invoke a false man made climate warming narrative. You can read articles criticizing NASA on fudging their temperature data on The Washington Times and Fox News.

This however seems to not actually be the case, if you believe what is said by FactCheck and PolitiFact. This would indicate to me that the claims that NASA and other organizations are explicitly trying to manipulate temperature data is on the whole false.

What about refutation #3? The IPCC?

Well it seems like there was an email scandal with regards to the IPCC dubbed ‘Climate-gate’ where the IPCC had their emails hacked into and exposed. The contents of those emails seemed to indicate that scientists manipulated climate data and attempted to suppress critics. You can read about criticisms of the scandal on the Washington Post and the WSJ.

People were pretty upset by this scandal, and so were a lot of governments. In the end there were eight major investigations made into the scandal, and none of them found any wrongdoing. You can read more about the scientists being cleared of suspicion via articles at the NYT, BBC, FactCheck, and Nature.  There is also Wikipedia which has a nice breakdown and summary of  the entire event.

Conclusion

All of the evidence and sources that I have been able to find would seem to indicate that it is extremely likely that humans are the dominant cause climate change. This would mean that we need to make some changes to avoid environmental issues in the future.

I certainly don’t know everything, or even very much for that matter. But based on what I have learned here, I believe that this is a reasonable conclusion. What do you think? Is this a reasonable conclusion? Did I miss anything? Make some mistakes? If you find new evidence or better information, let me know!

If anyone can refute me-show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective-I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.21

 

On Physical Apperances

It is easy to become disillusioned with our appearances due to the constant barrage of media, advertising, and commercials that show us what “beautiful people” are supposed to look like.

Being exposed to this constantly can skew our view of reality. Due to this, we may become dissatisfied with our own looks, simply because we do not appear the way that the media, or perhaps even society, tells us to.

If you want to reset this depressed image that you have of yourself, go hang out at Penn Station in NYC, or any other public area that gets heavy foot traffic. Step to the side, and just watch people walk by for about 30 minutes. I  have done this myself while waiting for trains to arrive, and you will quickly come to realize, that pretty much all of us look fairly funky in some way.

The world is not made up of movie stars and models who look good 24/7 (primarily because they have a team of people who’s job it is to make sure  they look that way). The world is made up of common, everyday people, who dare I say, look a little strange. But the oddities of others can often be very charming in their own ways.

I am not saying that you should not care about the way you look at all. The way you dress, your appearances, do communicate a message about yourself to others. If you are wearing a t-shirt with your favorite video game character on it, you are saying to the world, “Hey everyone, I really like this video game!”, or if you are wearing shorts, flip flops, and sunglasses, you are saying “I am casual, relaxed, and ready to have some summer fun.”

Your appearances aren’t simply about “looking good”, if that was the case, we would be wearing fancy clothes such as tuxedos and ornate dresses all the time.

However, when you are choosing what to wear, you should keep this little idea in the back of your mind, “What I am trying to communicate to everyone today?”