Long before the Greeks became famous for financial mismanagement, the mono-brow and the island of Lesbos , Greece was considered the cradle of Western Civilisation. It is to the ancient Greeks that we owe a debt of gratitude for our Democracy, the Olympic games and B Grade Mythology Movies. Modern Greeks in contrast owe a similarly large debt of gratitude to the Central Bank and the EEU.
The greatest contribution Ancient Greece gave us to science and culture remains evident today. Socrates, Plato, Hercules, and Archimedes remain easily recognized names, thousands of years after their death. The mythology and literature of Ancient Greece remains immortalized in modern cinema and television.
The greatest effect the Greeks have had has been in philosophical thoughts. We associate many schools of thought with ancient Greeks including the Cynics, the Sceptics, the Epicureans and the Stoics. These ideas remain s relevant and important as they were in ancient times.
“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity”
One of my favourite philosophical ideas is remains stoicism. Originally based on the ideas of Xeno, we most associate the later writings of the Romans Marcus Aerulios and Seneca with the philosophy. Over recent years stoicism has had a revival of sought, on the back ground of a number of public figures supporting the ideology.
There are many books on Stoicism. The philosophy in a nut shell, focuses on how we should deal with adversity in life. Stoicism contends that it is the challenges and adversities of life which are its benefits. Adversity is not to be a coded or resented- because it is part of process of growth. What we might see as an obstacle, becomes the path to improvement. What does not kill us, can indeed make us stronger.
“As long as you live keep learning how to live”
There have been modern twists on the stoic idea. Logotherapy, as touted by Victor Frankyl, is a modern rewording stoic principles, aiming to find meaning in suffering. Authors such as Tim Ferris and Former president Bill Clinton are both proponents of stoic principles, leading to a modern revival of stoic ideas. “The Obstacle is the Way” , was a recently released novel on Stoic principles which became a best seller in America, after becoming popular among players and coaches in the Patriots NFL franchise.
My favourite stoic literature remains a series of brief letters by Seneca. What fascinates is that the book is over 2000 years old, the problems and issues which Seneca writes about seem like they could have been written today. Seneca himself lived a rich but at times tragic life. He was the tutor to a young Nero and later adviser when he became Emperor at 17. Despite his close ties, Nero ordered Seneca’s execution. Probably no great surprise to anyone since Nero had by that time burned Rome to the ground and executed thousands, people including his own mother, Agrippa. The take home message- some kids are just bad eggs.
Stoic philosophy tells us that death is not to be feared, since none of us will be alive to experience it. Seneca, the history books tell us suffered a somewhat painful, but honorable death, immortalized in a number of classical painting. As for Nero, he was over thrown and killed himself in despair three years later aged 31. That’s Karma for you.