Tomorrow’s Meeting with Kai Whiting

This is just a friendly reminder and invitation to our regular meeting tomorrow morning (Saturday, June 12th at 9am). You can register for the Zoom meeting (for free, of course) by navigating to the ‘Meetings’ page on this site. Info on how to join will be emailed to you.

Though it’s a ‘regular meeting,’ it’s a special one considering that we’ll be having a discussion with Kai Whiting, the co-author of the book we’re currently going through, Being Better: Stoicism for a world worth living in (2021)

There is no need to have read the book, though I recommend it for personal edification. Rather than a conventional author Q&A, Kai would rather conduct “a reverse Q&A” where he asks us all questions in Socratic/classroom fashion. The topic of the discussion will certainly overlap with the topic of his book, but it will pertain to broad concerns about the ‘good life’ and what it means to be a responsible, rational human being— something we should all be able to speak to. Please come ready to think and talk. 

Some of the more helpful parts of the book come at the end of every chapter. There, Kai and his fellow co-author Leo Konstantakos ask the reader to think more critically by reflecting on questions. Here’s a taste to prepare you for tomorrow:

CHAPTER 1 (ZENO’S QUESTIONS)

When Zeno was shipwrecked, he lost all his cargo. It was certainly an expensive dye, but in losing it he gained something far more valuable: the map to eudaimonia.

  • A tornado is coming and could destroy your home and all that is in it. Taking only what you could carry or place in a medium-sized rucksack within five minutes, what do you exit your home with? What does the list of things say about you and what you deem important?

When the ancient Greeks and their neighbors visited the Oracle of Delphi, they passed through a door that had the inscription “Know yourself.” This reminded those seeking guidance that the key to interpreting her advice was in understanding who they were.

  • When was the last time you asked yourself, “Who am I?” What was your response? How did you come to those conclusions? What character flaws did you ignore or downplay? What character strengths did you ignore or downplay? Do your answers to these questions change how you think about the next steps in your life journey?
CHAPTER 4 (CLEANTHES’ QUESTIONS)

To be a good boxer you need to train hard and eat well. This takes a lot of discipline, especially if your training involves lifting heavy goods for a little extra money instead of sparring with friends. At the same time, whether or not you land the knockout blow, there is always an element of luck involved. Perhaps your opponent tries to duck his head, only to inadvertently receive the full force of your knuckles. Sometimes, you slip on your own sweat as you swing your arm and your opponent’s punch causes you to lose your tooth instead.

  • Ask yourself how much of your social status, wealth, and health have been an accident of destiny. How much of it have you really been responsible for?
  • Do you ever catch yourself believing that you deserve all the pleasant things in your life, yet none of the unpleasant ones? When unpleasant things happen to strangers, do you feel the same way?
CHAPTER 6 (MARCUS’ QUESTIONS)

Marcus Aurelius spent a lot of time at war and had to deal with a lot of people he didn’t like. Some of them were supposed to be his friends — or at least on his side. Others were considered the “enemy” because they fought under an opposing banner. In his personal diary, Marcus reflected on their humanity and on their reasons for battle. He pondered the cosmopolitan nature of the universe that connects us all. The “view from above” kept him humble and cautious about the kinds of orders he gave his legions and generals.

  • Imagine someone you consider to be your enemy. What is it about them that you are opposed to or that you despise? Would you see them differently if you discovered that you were related to them?
CHAPTER 8 (POSIDONIUS’ QUESTIONS)

The ability to reach eudaimonia depends on your capacity to reason. Reason is sharpened by your efforts to understand the nature of the universe and your position within it. Superstition and mistaken ideas about how the world works will not serve you well. In fact, it will give you the wrong impression about what you should do and how you should do it. If you believe the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, and you refuse to consider anything else, then the evidence of every day will upset you, and nothing will alleviate your troubled life.

  • Have you ever been asked to believe in something that you deemed to be false? Did you call out that falsehood, or was “not rocking the boat” more important than truth? Since truth is important, how can you reconcile what you feel inside with what is expected of you or what you have come to expect of yourself?
  • In what ways is your life, and/or your spiritual journey, intertwined with Nature and the environment? Do you feel your actions and lifestyle support what’s essential in that relationship? How might you improve it?

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