The Stoic Week Handbook


As we enter the stressful holiday season I hope that many of you have had a chance to check out the the Stoic Week 2013 materials put together by the psychology and philosophy departments at Exeter University. If you haven’t, take a few minutes to read their excellent Stoic Week Handbook, which provides an introduction to stoicism as well as some practical exercises.

The handbook has just about the best summary of Stoicism I’ve read:

The best way to approach life, the Stoics suggest, is to think of oneself as an archer who does his or her best to fire the arrow well but accepts that once it has flown it may be blown off course and miss the target. In this analogy, our intentions are like preparing to fire the arrow, but the outcome of our actions, like hitting the target, is beyond our control and partly the result of external events.

And debunks one of the common myths:

In the popular imagination a Stoic is someone who denies or represses their emotions in a potentially unhealthy way. This is largely just a widespread misconception, though. The real Stoic position is different from this in a number of ways. The central claim the Stoics make is that our emotions are ultimately the product of judgements we make. If we feel fear it is because we have judged that something terrible might be about to happen to us. If we feel anger it is because we have judged that something bad is happening to us right now.

The Stoics do not suggest that we should repress or deny these – instead they want to show us how we can uproot these sorts of unpleasant emotions altogether. This is something we can do, the Stoics say, because these emotions are the product of our judgements about what is good and bad in life. Change the judgements and you will change the emotions. Our emotions are typically within our control, even if it might not feel like it some of the time.

The Stoics were systems thinkers,

The cosmos is like a single living being. Like all other living beings it is in a continual process of change. So, when facing the world we ought to see ourselves as part of it. We are but one small component or element within a much larger entity. We are not the centre of the world and it is not all about us. The larger process of change, growth, and decay that take place in Nature are inevitable and ultimately out of our control. There is nothing to be gained from trying to resist these larger processes and resisting them produces frustration, anger, and disappointment. Instead, we ought to embrace Nature on its own terms and accept our place within it as limited, finite beings, with limited power and a limited lifespan – but also as parts of something much greater than us.

The Handbook concludes with some short daily exercises.

It’s been a hectic week here at the Root Simple compound and the Stoic Week Handbook arrived just in time.

Hoshigaki Season


Astringent persimmons (such as Hachiya) are in season now which means that it’s time to make hoshigaki, a Japanese delicacy made by hanging peeled persimmons up in a window to dry.

Hoshigaki are chewy and subtly sweet. The texture of hoshigaki is different than what you would get if you just put persimmons in a dehydrator. And if all goes right the sugar comes to the surface making it look like the fruit has been dipped in powdered sugar. If you can find them in a Japanese market they are extremely expensive. And the ones I saw at our local market were vastly inferior to my homemade hoshigaki.

I added some details to the instructions I posted last year. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any questions about making hoshigaki.

Live Like a Stoic for a Week


Image: Rugu.

A group of British academics are asking an important question: “Can the ancient philosophy of Stoicism help us to lead better and happier lives?” This week they’ll be providing everything from a Stoicism Handbook to recorded meditations to help wake your inner Seneca. They are also asking for people to participate in a week-long experiment to see what kind of effect Stoic philosophy can have on day to day living.

Check out more information here:

From their press release:

Philosophers from Birkbeck, University of London and the University of Exeter, and psychotherapists are calling on people to live like a Stoic for a week, from 25 November – 1 December 2013. The week-long experiment will culminate with a public workshop on Saturday 30 November at Birkbeck, University of London exploring Stoicism for Everyday Life.

The ancient Stoic writers Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius offered a wide range of practical advice and guidance on how to live well and many of the founding figures of modern cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) acknowledged the influence of Stoic philosophy. Stoic Week will put some of this ancient advice to the test and help academics and psychotherapists to assess whether ancient Stoic philosophy can help people to lead better and happier lives.

Stoic Week participants can download a series of exercises, reflections, and meditations to complete each day, prepared by academics and psychotherapists, which draw on ideas from ancient Stoicism. They will complete well-being questionnaires before and after the week and the data from these will be used to assess the effectiveness of the Stoic ideas when they are put into practice today.

Dr John Sellars of Birkbeck’s Philosophy Department and a member of the Stoicism Today project, said: “The ancient Stoic authors offer a wide range of practical advice that many people have drawn on in their daily lives. Stoic Week is an opportunity for people to put Stoicism to the test for themselves and for us to gather data on just how effective Stoic psychotherapy is. The public event in London at the end of the week is an opportunity to explore further how Stoicism might help people in their everyday lives.”

Find out more at

This year’s Handbook will be released on the blog on November 18th:

We’re honored to have been asked to post a short essay on Stoicism for Life blog and we’re also looking forward to hearing about the results of this important experiment.

How has stoicism influenced your life?

Picture Sundays: What Commuting by Bike Looked Like in 1942


From the Library of Congress photo archive a 1942 picture from Burbank, CA:

The bicycle brigade at Lockheed Vega Aircraft Corporation. Employees living within four miles of Lockheed’s plant may purchase bicycles through the company and resell them to the company when need for them no longer exists. This mode of transportation is becoming increasingly popular, and has resulted in the sale of 2,400 bicycles in record time. This is part of the swing shift on the way home at 12:30 am.

Saturday Linkages: Incas, Big Rocks and Cool Cucumbers


Engineering professor Michael Peshkin and his clear whiteboard.

Growin’ things
Wildflower project takes root in Echo Park 

Lost Crops of the Incas 

Reading: Urban Oasis on a Balcony: From Concrete Furnace to Edible Habitat… 

Look at My Big Rock by Evelyn Hadden 

The coolest cucumber you’ve never met: …

Food issues
Americans – why do you keep refrigerating your eggs? …

35 sickened; how did E. coli O121 get into Farm Rich Brand Frozen pizza? Flour …

Cool Designs
Building a Crystal Clear Whiteboard 

Lock Pick Earrings by GiantEye 

Micro-community of tiny homes flourishes on rehabilitated vacant lot 

Simple And Delightful Tiny Homes On The Back Of Small Pick-Up Trucks…

Odd ideas
Betrayers’ Banquet: gourmet dining vs the Prisoner’s Dilemma – Boing Boing …

Complete meal cooking with a hotel coffee-maker: …

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