As someone who attempts to integrate Stoicism into my daily life, I am constantly trying to keep negative emotions at bay. Negative emotions cloud my use of reason and, unlike positive emotions, tend to make my life worse. This actually comes pretty naturally for me, I am very slow to anger or feel sadness. Overall, I think that is a good thing but sometimes I wonder if negative emotions can serve a positive purpose. They are a product of our evolution, which means they either help(ed) us reproduce or they at least didn’t prevent us from reproducing.
Negative emotions can actually spur action and create momentum for improving our lives. For example, let’s take anger. For the last two months my landlord has been fucking me over and it is costing me hundreds of dollars per month. I don’t get angry often, I hate rocking the boat, I avoid conflict based on emotion but I recently reached a boiling point. I got angry, I called my landlord and things are starting to improve.
Maybe anger helps me more than others when it comes to dealing with other people. Anxiety is a very real part of my life, particularly when it comes to communication. I HATE talking on the phone. Just thinking about it causes my heart to race, my body starts shaking with nervous energy, my palms start to sweat, and my breath gets shallow. Making the most basic phone call takes me minutes of pacing to get up the will to call. I don’t call my parents that often, I haven’t talked to my siblings on the phone in ages, Anna and I joke about how we’ve only talked on the phone about 10 times in our 5 years together, and even my best friend who’ve I known for nearly 25 years only hears my voice on the phone a few times a year.
It sucks. My medication and therapy are helping but, to be honest, I’m mostly content to respond to things by text and email. So, when my anger got to the point where I was willing to both call my landlord and confront them with something it is clear I reached a breaking point. You might wonder why I didn’t utilize email, that is a good question. It all comes down to my landlord never responding to emails. Conversations require a second party and when one just refuses to respond then a new method must be employed.
So, I utilized my anger and got some results. Not a perfectly Stoic response, but fuck it, I’m kind of a terrible Stoic. Oh well, all philosophical pursuits, whether they come from Christ or Seneca, are the pursuit of perfection while fully knowing you will never reach it.
Speaking of Christ… (see that smooth segway) on to my random notes on the Gospel of Mark.
Mark 7:6-7 – Christ quotes Isaiah and holy fuck it can apply to many modern Christians, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
It is almost like Christ doesn’t think you should follow man’s law if it is far from the heart of Christ. You know, the heart that says things like “turn the other cheek”, “love thy neighbor and pray for those that persecute you”, “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me”, etc. I wonder if Christ would support starting wars of revenge or building walls to keep out the needy.
WWJD? Not those things.
7:21 – “sexual immorality” – Greek porneia – Okay, I’m not a Greek scholar (obvi) but what I find interesting about the definitions I found for this word is how they can vary to be about homosexuality, sexual intercourse with close relatives, intercourse with a divorced person, or a metaphor for the defilement of idols.
7:21 – “sensuality” – I found this translated as “lewdness” in other versions, which was then translated as something very different than what it means in today’s world. It is more properly “ignorant, unlearned”. What I really get out of this is that translations are difficult and maybe, just maybe, our interpretation is different than the original intent.
7:24-30 – Kind of harsh to compare Gentiles to dogs.
8:1-10 – Why did the disciples doubt Christ could feed 4,000 when he already fed 5,000? Seems strange.
8:14-20 – The numbers 12 and 7 seem to keep cropping up. Supernatural or symbolic or just me noticing specific numbers?
8:29 – This isn’t really an admission to being the Christ. Jesus seems to deflect the question.
9:1 – This prediction did not come true.
9:2 – Again, lots of second-hand information here.
10:18 – It seems like Jesus is specifically denying that he is god.
10:21 – Not a lot of people that I have heard of are following Jesus guidance here. I don’t know anyone that has sold their possessions. Also, this seems to imply that in heaven there will be inequality because certain acts will bring about greater treasures.
11:12 – So… Jesus just cursed a tree for not bearing fruit out of season? WTF?! Is there something symbolic here? Maybe… like we should punish people who don’t do what you don’t expect them to? Being literal makes Jesus sound kind of like a crazy person.
11:20 – Alright, after that commercial break we are back to the tree. Things aren’t that much clearer for me. So, if you have enough faith then you can cause massive instantaneous environmental destruction? Hopefully, not literally. And, did his disciples need another lesson about divine power? You think after all this time to cure diseases and making fish they wouldn’t need the destruction of a fig tree to sell the power of faith. It is almost like this story is for a reader and not an account of something that literally happened. Also, forgive people instead of being a dickhead.
11:27 – Kind of clever of Jesus to use fear of a riot to dodge answering a fairly reasonable question.
12:18 – Sadducees – Don’t believe in the resurrection? But the resurrection hasn’t happened yet.
Ahh, not Christ’s resurrection, they don’t believe in an afterlife or any resurrection.
<tries not to get sucked into Wikipedia rabbit hole about different ancient Jewish sects>
12:27 – God isn’t god of the dead? I’m really confused. Aren’t we all going to be dead? Baffled.
12:29 – Love god and each other. Pretty much end of story.
12:38 – Substitute “scribes” with a lot of modern people and this works as well.
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Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”