Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Stoic Mneme – Part 2 – A Mneme by Any Other Name...


The idea of summarizing the teachings of the Stoics into a simple set of lines may seem presumptuous. In a very real way, there is a danger that it can be. As explained in the previous article, it should only be undertaken when at least one round of Stoic studies is successfully completed, however one defines those studies. The danger lies in the assumption that the Mneme then created could apply to all people at all times, that this particular distillation of 5 centuries of wisdom is the high water mark for Stoic expression.

In truth, the Stoic mneme is an intensely personal exercise. It is a reflection of one person's understanding and aspirations at a particular time and place. It can change, and if it is to remain a true picture of a Stoic's experience, it will need to change.

A Personal Journey

As part of my training, I was asked to create a Mneme. Having a bit of an amateur poet in me, I thought that this would be the easiest of the assignments to complete. I was wrong. The process was difficult, and longer than I expected.

I was inspired to write this series by one of my students, who went beyond his Mneme (4 lines of poetry) and created an entire series of vignettes which explained and expanded on the meanings of each line. Erik Weigardt's own 16 page Mneme Manual serves as another example of the depths of meaning that can be plumbed in a simple 11 line blank verse poem. Having now written 4 or 5 Mnemes in search of one that would 'ring true,' I felt that an in depth analysis would help me to put the principles into practice more consistently.

This series actually began as a series of journal entries, (a practice I highly recommend to students of Stoicism). Each night, for several weeks, I would write, research, read and write again. In the end, I was left with a Mneme that I actually understood, and one in which a single word could evoke depths of meaning against which I could measure my own behaviour.

A Bouquet of Mnemes

Perhaps a set of examples of the Mnemes developed by others might be appropriate here. These are included in Erik's publicly accessible Mneme Manual, available free of charge from the Stoic College's website (While your there, take a look around the site, and if you like, sign up for the course!). They are presented here, uncredited as they are in the manual, with the exception of Erik's DOE, a summary of the Discourse of Epictetus.

 -----

“The DOE”
One rule to unite us:
     live in agreement with Nature.
Two maxims to guide us:
     Good is virtue that evil lacks;
     all the rest is indifferent.
     Good and evil are in the will;
     only will is in our power.
Three studies abide us:
     Judgments and the inner discourse,
     Desires and the rising passions,
     Actions and the noble duties.
Hear the sage inside us:
     practice, practice, practice, practice.
 -----
Be vigilant to your fire and keep it glowing bright
Make from it a beacon to return to in the night
Enshrine it in a hearth of stone to see it burning right
Seed from it the torches that will guide and aim your sight.
 -----
Life is a gift; so live gratefully.
Forget about likes and dislikes
The truth is One
No need to look anywhere but here and now because now is the only time you have and here is where you are.
 -----
The first point is to live.
The second point is to use appearances well.
To each his Flesh, his Reason, and his Bent.
We can neither control the world nor safeguard our flesh.
Choose Reason over Greed.
 -----

As you can see, the Mnemes vary greatly in form, content and aim. Each one is aimed at the writer's own heart, much like Marcus Aurelius' self directed writings in his so-called Meditations. Each one is powerful in its own way, and of each volumes could be written.

A Journey to Understanding

My own Mneme underwent several variations from edits to complete rewrites. My first Mneme was an over ambitious attempt to create a precis of Stoic teaching, rather than a personal reflection of Stoic progress.

The Greek Attempt

This first try included many of the Stoic technical terms, in transliterated Greek. In the end, it was impracticable, as the meanings of each of the terms would need to be constantly reviewed, and it was a little early in my studies to find it a comfortable recitation.
In my efforts to live the excellent aretes,
to exercise utmost kathekonta,
for the sake of universal oikeiosis,
I have the courage to face the world and its visicitudes.
By my faith in divine logos,
my trust in providential phusis 
and my hope of fulfilling eudaimonia,
I receive the serenity of knowing all is as it should be.
Through my practice of careful aproptôsia,
constant prosoché,
and proper epilegein
I acquire the wisdom to choose my own path.
The Simple Poem

The pendulum swung to the to the opposite end of the scale, as I wrote a simple poem outlining some of the same principles above. The laughable result was none too spectacular.
The Virtues great will I express
My actions right and true
To help all men learn happiness
And courage to pursue
I trust Intelligence Divine
To guide all Nature's ways
And make my light to fully shine
Thus peace will fill my days
With care all judgements I review
And ever mindful be
That I may say that which is true
The path to wisdom see

The 'Aren't I Clever' Approach

This next required so much thought and meditation in its creation that it had the opposite effect in practice. It very quickly became a trite recitation. A brief explanation of my thinking follows.
     Life
Connects me to the world
     Love
Connects me to my truest self.
The first phrase is a reminder of my duties to others (oikeiosis), and the virtuous behavior (arete) I must exhibit when interacting with them. The second phrase reminds me to seek out the best in myself, my truest self, with hesitation, reservation, and deliberation (askesis derived from the 3 fold division of philosophy).

The structure itself is a reminder to live in accordance with nature. The syllable count for the four lines is 1 6 1 8, which is a reminder to me of the Golden Mean (1.618), which in turn is considered a 'finger print' in the cosmos (as it seems to permeate everything from spiral galaxies to the shell of a nautilus.) The golden mean is coincidentally represented by the Greek letter phi, which is the first letter in phusis, the Greek word translated as nature.

A Second Look

None of these attempts actually 'stuck' in the way that I felt it should have. The mneme wasn't supporting my Stoic experience, and I actually felt the lack of its use in my daily life. Fortunately, my wife and I had developed the habit of daily reading from the Stoics and discussing the meaning and impact of the passages we would read over our morning coffee. Eventually, we started a blog (Words of the Ancient Wise) through which we could share the readings with friends who shared an interest in Stoicism.

It happened that on the morning of July 12th we were reading the following from the Discourses of Epictetus, Book II, Chapter 8, Section 4
“Such will I show myself to you: faithful, modest, noble, tranquil.”—What, and immortal too, and exempt from age and sickness?—“No. But sickening and dying as becomes a god. This is in my power; this I can do. The other is not in my power, nor can I do it.” Shall I show you the nerves of a philosopher?
What nerves are those?
A desire undisappointed: an aversion unincurred: pursuits duly exerted: a careful resolution: an unerring assent. These you shall see.
This is Elizabeth Carter's 1758 translation of the passage. It had a certain rhythm to parts of it, a cadence that and rhyming pattern that intrigued me. The passage itself was a summary of the teachings of Stoicism by one of its greatest teachers. I kept coming back to this passage, thinking about the meaning of the individual phrases. I had found, finally, the content of my Mneme.

It took a few more days of work to create the first version of the Mneme. More thought and practice, along with the journal studies and even preparation for this series of articles, resulted in the current version of the Mneme.
The Strength of the Stoic Philosopher
Faithful, modest, noble,
With Tranquillity unperturbed.
A desire undisappointed,
an aversion unincurred.
Pursuits duly exerted.
Resolutions carefully made.
Assents unhurriedly given.
Dissolution faced unafraid.
Following articles will break down this Mneme, analyzing the Stoic teachings encapsulated in each line, and how I use this in daily practice. The next article will be looking at the analysis of the title, along with a brief review of the many translations of this passage of Epictetus.

Previous Article: A Stoic Self-Dedication

(These articles are also being stored at our website TheStoicLife.org. Feel free to drop by for a visit.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Memento Mortuis - A proposal for a Stoic Exercise

When we read the Stoics carefully, we usually get two main impressions as to their focus. The first is typically one of the independence of the self, that choice is up to individual. The second, though less obvious, is of the duty to others, that service is the greatest expression of the good in us. There is a third, much less visible focus. It is regarding acknowledging the impact that others have on us. Putting all arguments regarding the so-called dispassion of the Stoic sage aside, we have a long and excellent example of a Stoic's acknowledgement of the interconnection and dependence on friends, family, mentors and teachers.

Marcus Aurelius' entire first book is an extended exploration into the power, influence and example that many of the people in his life had on him. Unlike the rest of the 'Meditations,' Book I was written at a precise moment, with a precise plan in mind. It is unified in a way that the other 11 books are not, and it is possible that it was not originally part of the 'Meditations' at all, but was perhaps a parallel literary project which was added to his journals post mortem. (Pierre Hadot, The Inner Citadel, p. 263)

As a standalone document, Book I is a remarkable example of exploration of the self and its interconnectedness with others, and even with fate itself. A read through it will reveal an underlying dependence on the examples, both positive and negative, offered up to Marcus for consideration. Many of the examples that he lists, however, are dead by the time he writes about them; for example his fathers, his mother, and many of his mentors. 

Hadot refers to all of Book I as a 'prayer of thanksgiving,' however this aspect of gratitude seems to be limited to Section 17, and it appears to be directed to the gods and fate. Perhaps a separate exercise, a Gratus Animus, could be developed from this passage, focusing on the good fortune of one's circumstances, acknowledging the fact that others are not so fortunate. That, however, is beyond the scope of this proposal.

Based on Sections 1 - 16, I would like to propose the Memento Mortuis, the Remembrance of the Dead. The Memento Mortuis is a parallel exercise to the Stoic Memento Mori (Remembrance of Death) exercise, where we as Stoics are called to face the reality of our mortality, and see our coming death as a natural event. (See Julian Evans' excellent article on the Memento Mori for more details [http://www.politicsofwellbeing.com/2009/05/memento-mori.html]).

The Memento Mortuis, instead, looks not at death itself, but at the lives of the dead, and traces our dependence on them, and their impact on us. The exercise would focus on a specific person and would explore as many of the influences of that person on oneself as could be brought to mind. An example of the proposed Memento Mortuis would be Section 16 of Book 1. This written exercise would explore all of the impacts of one person's life upon our own, both positive and negative, with a specific focus on the lessons learned as a result. The ends of the exercise would be to acknowledge the roots of many of our beliefs and behaviours, and to trace them back perhaps to their causes.

What follows is merely a suggestion for the form such an exercise might take. A far more informal approach may be taken with similar results.

The Memento Mortuis

The Memento Motuis acknowledges a single person's impact on your life. It can be done on a significant anniversary of the death of the individual, perhaps 5 or 10 years afterwards, or at any time that seems appropriate.

It is suggested that you refresh your memory of the person prior to beginning this exercise. Collect photos, videos, letters, and objects that remind you of the individual. If appropriate, speak with others in your circle who have also been impacted by this person's life.

Find a private place for your work and give yourself at least an hour or so of time alone to do this. Try to have a picture with you or something that reminds you of the person, even if it is only their full name written carefully on a piece of paper in front of you. 

You may begin to write using Marcus' own expression "From [name] I learned..." then write the first thing that comes to your mind. Explain how you felt around them, what things they did or said that impacted you. Try to remember watching them with other people as well. How did they behave, how did the treat the things in their life? You are not writing a biography, but rather highlighting the interactions with your life. Note what you learned and experienced from their negative behaviour as well. Your honest memory is what is important here. 

Marcus tends to simply cut off when he has said what he intended, however you may wish to summarize for yourself the lessons and impacts. 

A Book of Remembrance

A final suggestion. If you plan on doing this for several individuals over a period of time, you might want to consider writing your thoughts in a 'Book of Remembrance.' In the end, it might look much like Marcus' Book I. You may also want to periodically review, and perhaps amend or add to the book. As the years pass, our interpretation of the impact of the people in our lives will change. Noting this shifting of perspective will say as much about our own lives as it will about the people we remember, perhaps more.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Trite or True? On Quoting the Stoics

With the social media tendency to quote wise or funny sayings, is Seneca right when he says that:

"For a man, however, whose progress is definite, to chase after choice extracts and to prop his weakness by the best known and the briefest sayings and to depend upon his memory, is disgraceful; it is time for him to lean on himself. He should make such maxims and not memorize them." (from  ‎Seneca‎, ‎Letter XXXIII "On the futility of learning maxims", Section 7)

My wife and I have developed a habit over the last 4 years or so. Each morning, we read a short selection from the Stoics, and discuss it briefly. We actually maintain a separate blog, Words of the Ancient Wise,  where the readings are put up, sometimes months in advance, so that over our coffee in the morning, we can open up the site and we are presented with the sayings for the day. The sayings are not random, however. For the first several years, we essentially read through "Words of the Ancient Wise," a day book of Stoic sayings compiled by W. H. D. House and originally published in 1906. Each year, we would add our comments, interpretations and applications to the daily post. It was interesting re-reading the thoughts of previous years as the reading came around again.

This year we moved to a new selection of quotes, which expands on the readings and organizes them topically.  Frederic Holland's 1879 "The Reign of the Stoics" is providing a new crop of Stoic readings, giving us fresh fodder, if you will, for us to talk about in the mornings.

In addition to discussing and commenting, we have both taken to posting our thoughts and reactions through several social media as well, including Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The aim of this is mostly to reach out to our friends, many of whom have shown an interest in Stoic philosophy, some at an intellectual level, others as a practical philosophy.

This practice of doing a daily reading is actually born of our Christian past. In some circles, devotees are encouraged to practice a daily 'quiet time,' a practice that has an ancient history. There are actually some indications that the Stoics themselves used a similar practice.

It is actually in the spirit of what Seneca said above that we go beyond just quoting some pithy statement or other. Over time, we have pushed ourselves to ask the tough questions. What difference does this make to us, today? How does it change what I think about, what I choose to do, how I choose to react to life events? This summary, these paraphrases, are what we end up posting. It is a little like Epictetus' illustration of digesting the teachings, instead of merely vomiting back up the readings you have taken in.

But I often wonder: these 'maxims' that I formulate, the turns of phrase that I choose, the focus and flavour of my paraphrases, are they merely word games? Am I taking deep philosophical meat and turning it into mere brain candy?

People have reposted what Pam and I have written, sometimes citing us as the authors. Today, however, something happened that convinced me that what we are doing is not merely tickling the ears of our friends, but actually sharing some of the lessons we have learned, adding depth and richness, and perhaps comfort, to someone who needs it.

The circumstances of the post can be generally sketched out without revealing any private information. Today's set of readings were by Marcus Aurelius, and centered around finding peace in troubled times. My paraphrase was:
When you are troubled, remember how easy it is to return to a state of inner calm and peace. First, remember that you can bear anything, that there is nothing in this universe that can take away your power to choose. Second, remember that you already have everything at hand that you need to make your choice. Third, remember that by choosing that which is within your power, you will not be enslaved to the whims of others, or the circumstances that surround you. Then you will be free, you will be powerful, you will be at peace.
Like other days, I posted this on Facebook. As most of you know there are essentially three ways to react publicly to a Facebook post. The ubiquitous 'Like', the 'Share' and the 'Comment.' Many of our friends 'Like' our postings, but today one particular 'Like' changed my perspective on these daily quotes, permanently.

The person in question, a friend that we don't know nearly as much as we would like to, is going through what is probably one of the most difficult experiences in a parent's life. Their teenage child, full of promise and possibility, has been recently diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of cancer. The family is in the midst of seeing specialists, and is still reeling from the news. Friends have gathered round them, providing for all of the mundane services that tend to fall to the wayside when these life impacting events happen. There are other children in the family as well to consider. Their entire lives, all of the plans, dreams, the assumptions of steady reliable life, all of them are gone. They have been cast adrift amidst a sea of uncertainties. Yet this morning one of the parents read my post, and 'Like'd it. Knowing this, take a moment and go back up to the paragraph above. Read it again, with them and their situation in mind.

I really can't speak for them. Perhaps it struck a chord with them, perhaps it was an automatic response that required no more that a brief thought before clicking 'Like' in an otherwise heart and mind numbing day. But I can speak to the impact it had on me. After noticing that this parent clicked 'Like' I was immediately transported into their shoes, for the briefest of moments.

What if it was one of my children who was going through this trial? What if Pam and I were trying to make sense of this life changing set of realities, seeking some comfort and assurance? Would I still be able to say  that, knowing what I know through Stoic training, that I would remain free, feel powerful, be at peace? While I cannot confidently say 'Yes,' having lived through relatively minor troubles (loss of job, etc.) and successfully applying these teachings, I have hope that I would, if the world should shift under me, find solace, calm, and a resolution to continue to do what is in my power. By this I think, I hope, that this is the proof of the internalization of Stoic principles, that this practice of reading, considering and sharing the teaching of the ancient teachers had over time and in small increments, changed me.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Towards a Stoic 'Ritual Life'

The importance of ritual in the formation and stability in personal, familial and social life has been well examined and documented over the years. Mounds of research into the uses and abuses of ritual, and its impact, have been created at the hands of the faithful, the philosopher, the sociologist, the anthropologist and the psychologist. Everyone seems to have an opinion as to why we seem to need ritual in our lives.

Stoicism, if it is to be adopted as 'Rule of Life', or as the ancient Stoics actually termed it, an 'Art of Living', needs to be both deeply studied and broadly applied. It is in the latter that the greatest challenges arise for the modern adherent. The study of Stoicism is well populated with such luminaries as Julia Annas, Susanne Bobzien, Jacques Brunschwig, Brad Inwood, and Malcolm Schofield, to name only a few. Some authors have even delved into ancient Stoic practice, including John Sellars, Pierre Hadot, A.A. Long, and Margaret Graver. A very few, such as Lawrence Becker, William Irvine and Keith Seddon, have attempted to extend that into a modern practice.

The challenge remains however. With all of the theory, and even the advice, that is available to us how does one actually incorporate these practices into daily living? So much is lost to us from the ancient school. The practice of Stoicism which once swayed an empire and provided the foundation to one of the most powerful religions on the planet, has been reduced to fragments and a handful of books. We are left with a few tantalizing hints of its training and practice however. Marcus Aurelius would suggest a regular practice such as "When you rise in the morning..." Seneca was fond of his "Evening reflection." Even Arrian's Handbook of the teaching of Epictetus give a strong indication of a 'mantra' like study and reflection of Stoic themes. But there isn't any system to it. We have lists of curriculum topics (physics, logic, ethics), but not the curriculum. We have evidence of a Stoic program, but not the program itself. For modern Stoics, there is no "Stoic Bible." As moderns, there is not even a central Stoic voice that speaks for all Stoics and provides interpretation and application of the texts that remain to us.

And nor do I think there should be. Stoicism is not a prescriptive religion, if it falls into the definition of religion at all. The way we are considering it, it is not even a practice. It is an Art. As any art, it is in many ways free flowing, adaptable to circumstance and situation, growing to fill the space in one's life that is made available to it. And like any art, it isn't mere chaos either. It is comprised of a set of principles and practices, any one of which can be selected at a particular time to respond to a specific set of circumstances, as the painter selects medium and brush, or a choreographer chooses a dancer and the steps they will perform, or a composer the key, rhythm and instruments. This is what being a Stoic is like. It is choosing from one's palette of learned disciplines and applying it to a given situation.

It is in learning the disciplines, and in their application, that the ritual aspect of Stoicism can be brought forward. The principle of Stoic Mindfulness can be developed through the practice of self-reflective Journalling. The principle of the Stoic's awareness and acceptance of the rightness of their mortality can be developed through the practice of the Memento Mori. The Stoic principle of seeing via universal perspective can be developed through the Fourfold Meditation. Even the Stoic philosophy as a whole can be captured and internalized through the development and recitation of the Stoic Mneme.

To that end, I have begun a project, an attempt to capture a range of practices for Stoics, in order to provide for myself, and eventually for others, a palette from which I can choose. The rites and rituals captured in the slowly evolving "Meditations, Celebrations and Solemn Occasions" are meant to be guidelines, suggestions, and spring boards to further reflection. They aren't meant to be prescriptive. But for me, like my personal Mneme, they will lead me to greater depths of experience, greater heights of understanding and a greater breadth of life than a mere random set of actions and reactions could ever hope to.

We are all, already, slaves to ritual and habit. As Og Mandino once said, "If I must be a slave to habit, let me be a slave to good habits." And, I would add, to habits of my own choosing, established by rituals of my own design.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Stoic Mneme - Part 1 - A Stoic Self-Dedication

Introduction


In Stoicism, the attitude of mindfulness is fundamental. Musonius Rufus even went to so far as to say that “to relax the mind is to lose it." Specifically, a vigilance regarding how we select pursuits, make resolutions, give assent to impressions, even how we handle desires and aversions, is in fact what it means to be a Stoic. Having a clear idea of how to evaluate all of these choices rationally is the challenge of living a Stoic life. From ancient times, therefore, Stoic teachers have provided their students with exercises in the formulation of rules of life which could then be kept 'close at hand'.

In this way Stoics could practice their Art of Living on a constant basis by applying the key Stoic principles to everyday circumstances. In this way they could “[engage] in a process of transforming [their] character (êthos) and soul (psuchê), a transformation that would itself transform [their] way of life (bios).”[1] This is essentially the transformation of Stoic theory to knowledge by experience, the central tenet of Stoic philosophy as an Art. With so much depending on correct practice, attention and evaluation, it was critical that what they 'had at hand' were correct and easily understood principles. Enter the Stoic Mneme.

The Mneme (pronounced neemee) is a powerful reminder of what it means to be a Stoic. It is an encapsulated, summarized distillation of Stoic teachings and practices. That being said, the Mneme is not the first thing one attempts to create when learning the Art of the Stoic Life. It is a more advanced exercise, one undertaken by a student who has already understood the fundamentals of Stoic practice. The Mneme is created, or more properly drawn from, the student's experience and knowledge of Stoic Teachings. The true purpose of the Mneme is to bring back to mind all of the Stoic principles and teachings the student has absorbed to date, especially with a view to increasing their practice in the student's life.

The usefulness of the Mneme is to place our daily experiences in the context of Stoic principles and practices. This memorization and meditation exercise is intended to provide us with a readjustment, a course correction if you will, that will allow us to maintain our equanimity, or if lost, to regain it quickly.[2]

The Mneme in Ancient Stoicism


While there is no exercise in ancient Stoic literature that is explicitly referred to as 'The Stoic Mneme', there is quite a bit of evidence to support its use in modern Stoic practice. Mneme (Μνήμη) is actually the  name of the Greek Muse of Memory, and the word has come to be synonymous with memory itself.  It is related to the Latin word for reminder 'memento.' The Stoic Mneme is an admonition to remember.

Xenophon, one of Socrates' biographers, wrote that it was the constant practice of philosophical principles that kept alive the influence of the teacher. In the same way, Stoics derived some of their own practices from continuous consideration of how the Sage would behave in various circumstances. In this way, Stoics could concentrate their attention and memory on specific principles, and would  serve as a substitute for actually having a role model or Sage at hand.

Epictetus constantly reminds his students to commit Stoic teachings to memory, bringing these continually to mind in order to apply them in their day to day lives.

"Having these thoughts always at hand, and engrossing yourself in them when you are by yourself, and making them ready for use, you will never need any one to comfort and strengthen you." (Discourses, 3.24.115). 

Marcus Aurelius repeats formulas and mental images to himself throughout hisMeditations in an effort to apply them to his daily experiences. Both Epictetus and Seneca speak of digestion to emphasize the repetitive nature of internalizing and expressing the Stoic precepts. Even Arrian's Handbook, itself an example of a collection of such formulas, warns us that we should not claim to be 'philosophers' but instead prove what we are by our actions.

"For sheep do not bring their fodder to the shepherds to show how much they have eaten, but digest their food internally, and produce wool and milk externally. And so you likewise should not display your principles to laymen, but rather show them the actions that result from these principles once they have been digested." (Handbook, 46)

The Stoic Mneme is not meant to be merely a verbal formulation of Stoic precepts. It is intended to be memorized and internalized,  but more importantly, it is meant to be manifested as a change in our behaviour and in our choices. It is therefore very important that as practicing Stoics we have extremely clear and simple reminders of our central precepts in an easily remembered form, precisely so that it is easily accessible and can be applied frequently in order to develop the sureness and constancy of a reflex.

Support in Modern Psychology


“The psychology of memorization, among other things, requires that we utilize (positive) rhetoric in the service of philosophy, and employ our imaginations in as vivid and concrete a manner as possible, turning what might seem at first to be an abstract intellectual principle into a fully-fledged "visualization technique" of the kind found in modern psychotherapy.”[3]

The memorization of Stoic precepts requires constant practice and repetition, like memorizing the lyrics to a song, or lines from a poem. It is actually in the intentional and focused repetition of the Mneme, and in its application to real life experiences, that the practice of mindfulness finds its full fruition.   Like the affirmations and rational statements of belief of modern Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the Mneme is repeated and rehearsed until it is integrated into the student's very character, and it can easily recalled in the face of adversity.

We need to formulate our Mneme in a powerful way in order to make it something that moves us when we remember it. It cannot be allowed to fall into a mere routine repetition of pretty words. The rhythm of metrical poetry, the striking sound of concise and powerful words, the succinct paraphrasing of vast concepts, all of these and more besides offer both intellectual and aesthetic hooks to encourage us to remember.  When we do this successfully, we keep our daily experiences "before our eyes," while at the same time seeing them in the light of the core Stoic principles.

It is important to remember, however, that the Mneme is not the culmination of Stoic practice. This exercise requires constant input. The principles and practices that form the basis of the Mneme must be kept fresh, and even built upon. It is therefore very important to continue Stoic studies throughout the student’s life, through reading and re-reading philosophical texts, the practice of Stoic meditations and mental exercises, and even to the adoption of the physical regimen that the Stoics recommended. The Mneme itself will need to be refreshed and rewritten as the student grows and experiences new insights in the Stoic Art of Life.


And we're back!

Apologies for the gap folks. It has be a long and busy season, but we are hitting the ground running in 2012. Next up, the first in a series of posts outlining the contents of an advanced Stoic exercise! Stay tuned!