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Stoicism, and what we can control

I am the one thing in life I can control, Hamilton‘s Aaron Burr sings.

I grew up in a household where behaviours are mostly reactive, when sometimes it felt like things happening to you are a personal affront. It’s something that I have grown to reject, as I grew older (and hopefully wiser), but I also wanted a way to frame my thoughts and attitudes around things.

That’s when I discovered stoicism.


There’s a lot with stoicism that leaves me scratching my head, confused if these men (all of them are, naturally) really did live their lives void of emotion when bad things happen, and worshipped logical thought as its own god.

Epicetetus wrote, “If, for example, you are fond of a specific ceramic cup, remind yourself that it is only ceramic cups in general of which you are fond. Then, if it breaks, you will not be disturbed.”

I thought, yeah, that makes sense. Things belong to you, and you don’t belong to things.

Then, he followed it up with, “If you kiss your child, or your wife, say that you only kiss things which are human, and thus you will not be disturbed if either of them dies.”

Excuse me, what?


I dove into Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations too.

That was an interesting read – I know it’s heralded as one of the leading texts to stoicism, and the emperor himself is regarded as one of the most influential humans and not just on stoicism. Some parts of the journal definitely felt like he was trying to convince himself that stoicism is the answer, too. It made sense, since he’d apparently never intended these private journal entries to be published.

I know if my journal entries, safely logged on Day One, were to be published one day, people would be befuddled too.


Ultimately, stoicism is still a domain that I’m really new at and exploring the different facets of.

At a glance, it seems like an answer, though at this point I’m not quite sure what the exact question is.

I’m still the one thing in life that I can control, which means: Things happen, and the only thing we can control is how we respond to them.

So I’m going to take this, probably struggle with it for a long time, but hey. At least I’ll be trying.

1 thought on “Stoicism, and what we can control”

  1. Pingback: In/out of control – Jalyn Cai

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