Books, talks and music for aspiring Stoics…
Massimo Pigliucci: How to be a Stoic
William Irvine: A Guide to the Good Life
Ward Farnsworth: The Practicing Stoic
Donald Robertson: Stoicism and the Art of Happiness
Stoic themes in music
Cellar Darling’s ‘Hullabaloo’ details a character undergoing an existential crisis, a sudden flood of negative emotions. How can we cope amidst adversity? I tackle this song in my podcast episode ‘Coping With Negative Emotions.’ Band members mention Stoicism as an influence for this song once titled ‘Tears of a Stoic.’ Other songs from their album This is the Sound including ‘Challenge,’ ‘Under the Oak Tree,’ ‘Six Days,’ and ‘Rebels‘ contain Stoic themes of overcoming adversity, the fragility of life, and questioning the wisdom of crowds.
Anathema’s ‘Leave No Trace’ reminds us of the shortness and fragility of life, “Here and now we are gone in a heartbeat, a dream in the passage of time. Chances are fading, this world isn’t waiting. The moment is passing you by.” Stoics talk about how death surrounds us and we should ‘ply the spur’ not making a waste of our lives as ‘the enemy’ approaches. ‘Looking Outside Inside‘ and ‘A Fine Day to Exit‘ from their album ‘A Fine Day to Exit’ contain Stoic themes of the perils of desire and facing adversity.
Death’s ‘Suicide Machine’ echoes the ‘open door policy’ found within Stoic texts – that we have the option to end our lives and should do so when life is no longer worth living especially due to degeneration of the body including our mental faculties. Quality of life, rather than quantity, is paramount for the Stoics. The lyrics state, “A request to die with dignity, is that too much to ask? […] Robbed of their natural abilities, in death they seek tranquility. In a confused state of mind, extending agony they must be blind.” ‘
Pull the Plug‘ has similar themes on ending life in dire circumstances and encourages us to live life while we still can, “Life ends so fast so take your chance and make it last.” ‘Without Judgement‘ encourages an attitude of humility and questioning our automatic thoughts, our impressions, our opinions about the world.
Within Temptation’s ‘Stand My Ground’ echoes attitudes of steadfastness and resilience found in Stoic texts which urge us to confront our challenges rather than suppressing emotions or avoiding, “Stand my ground, I won’t give in. No more denying, I’ve got to face it. Won’t close my eyes and hide the truth inside.” Seneca writes, “What madness it is to run away when there is no escape!”
Draconian’s ‘Death, Come Near Me’ echoes Stoic themes of acceptance [towards death], “Embrace me now, delightful ease! Give me a world of wonderous peace! Calm the desperate scream in my heart!” Stoics see death as an inevitable, natural stage of life and cycle in the universe that we should come to terms with without fear. Other songs on this concept album of Lucifer’s fall from Heaven questioning the authority of God contain Stoic themes of taking a principled stand, seeking knowledge, and lamenting tyranny, “No longer our knees we shall bend, no longer fold our frozen hands.”