Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth

I'll admit that I've a love-hate relationship with philosophy. Some of it makes sense, but sheesh, there's some truly higher-grade stuff out there that makes my brain implode. And it's such a broad subject spanning thousands of years. Where does one even start. Some of my friends have been talking about Stoicism in recent years, and how it's often a misunderstood school of thought, so I decided to give The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth a shot, as it was available as part of my Audible subscription. 

I'm happy to say that my brain did not implode. And I loved Farnsworth's accessible style. I wouldn't exactly call this one Philosophy for Dummies 101, but then again, Stoicism, so far as I can figure it out from this book is concerned with matters that affect us every day – how to live a good life, coming to terms with grief, dealing with anger, and so on. Much of what is discussed has real-world, practical applications – which is why I think Stoicism really appeals to me.

It's not so much about being, well, unemotional and horribly stoic, but rather being able to step back from a situation, where necessary, and not allowing your emotions to ride roughshod over you. So, that's what I mostly got out of the book. Farnsworth doesn't do a deep dive with this book. That's not what it's for. But, rather, it's intended to bring together the basic thoughts of the great Stoics in one volume, which is especially useful for people like me who get intimidated pretty quickly by overly complex, abstract thinking. 

If anything, I feel I have a better idea, and now have a better context for such thinkers as the likes of Seneca and my favourite Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Farnsworth's writing is wonderfully narrated by John Lescault, and I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a good introduction to the topic. I certainly feel more confident now about plunging into the primary texts that this book draws from.

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