I’ve talked before about how I’ve been reading old stoic philosophy. Most of it is Roman, and one of the things I find the most interesting is their fascination with truth.
We don’t talk about truth a lot anymore. We don’t strive towards truth, the closest we seem to get to is some degree of authenticity. Truth is a far higher standard. Being truthful to yourself is incredibly difficult. It means admitting everyone of your mistakes, while also not reveling in your victories. It means not just living a balanced life, but thinking in a balanced way. It means feeling in a balanced way. Truth is unyielding, so you must be always ready to accept it.
I’m going to share a rather long quote from Epictetus about the nature of mind and body. Please keep in mind that Roman’s had a very patriarchal view of the world, I’ve chosen not to change the text.
What then should a man have in readiness in such circumstances? What else than “What is mine, and what is not mine; and permitted to me, And what is not permitted to me.” I must die. Must I then die lamenting? I must be put in chains. Must I then also lament? I must go into exile. Does any man then hinder me from going with smiles and cheerfulness and contentment? “Tell me the secret which you possess.” I will not, for this is in my power. “But I will put you in chains.” Man, what are you talking about? Me in chains? You may fetter my leg, but my will not even Zeus himself can overpower. “I will throw you into prison.” My poor body, you mean. “I will cut your head off.” When, then, have I told you that my head alone cannot be cut off? These are the things which philosophers should meditate on, which they should write daily, in which they should exercise themselves.
You can kill me, hurt me, imprison me, cripple me, but you can never control my thoughts. Freedom of thought is always in your control, and always something worth using.
What then does that quote have to do with truth? Everything, living your life truthfully and honestly requires you to accept that the only integrity worth maintaining is your mind and will. As Epictetus states not even Zeus can overpower his will. The only thing you have is your thinking mind. Your body is largely irrelevant to the whims of the universe. You can’t control what others do to your body, only how you interpret it. If you strive for truth at all times there’s nothing but virtue that can flow from that perspective.
Now, what’s that got to do with me? I’m trans, always have been and always will be. The hunt for my own truth in my own mind has been exhaustive and exhausting. I find great comfort in knowing that knowing myself and living truthfully is virtuous. I am not held back by my physical body because it is not always in my control. Others can restrain me, or taunt me or exclude me. If I maintain truthful to myself then I am always acting in accordance with nature.
P.S. A lot of douchenozzles use stoicism to justify their shitty behavior. Being a stoic isn’t about only caring about yourself, and not feeling emotions. It’s about trying to be the best person you can be, and caring for others without caring for reciprocation. THere’s is an element of selfishness but the selfishness is to recognize that your best interests are served as part of a community.