"Practical reasoning...must be able to integrate all the
endeavors it assesses, either horizontally or vertically."
[Lawrence C. Becker, A NEW STOICISM, Princeton
University Press, 1998, p. 50.]
In today's world the above is good advice, but the task
is a harder matter! As I read these simple lines, it would
seem they come right out of a survival manual. Throughout
life we are constantly bombarded with issues coming from
outside; whereas, inwardly, we are constantly initiating new
endeavors for our selves.
Plainly put, our lives are complicated. Some of us pine for
a more simple life. Maybe a monastery? Doesn't happen.
I have been in monasteries where the regimen keeps one
involved from morning's rise to bedtime. Nonetheless, the
monastic life does involve a practical structure that (if followed)
can possibly enable a person to live a more effective life.
And I think that Stoicism also attempted to lay out a means
of self-disicipline through its emphasis on a virtuous life and
the working through of such via "practical reasoning."
The secret, I suspect, is about a realistic structuring of one's
life. It's not about some impractical, impossible lifestyle that
doesn't fit one's disposition nor one's circumstances. I think
it is more working through trying to understand one's disposition,
those proclivities that belong especially to our personal nature.
First we need come to "know thyself." The Stoic route is not
necessarily communal. First and foremost the responsibility
for attaining an effective life is personal. Initially, in whatever
way, we need come to understand who we are! What makes
us tick. How we are packaged psychologically. What traits and
talents come naturally for us. This inner examination is a very,
very practical pursuit.
Out of this inner important step we can come to structure, organize
our life--mainly because we have come to know who we are,
what we are capable of doing, and by what means with which
we are more comfortable in carrying out our endeavors.
Outwardly we consistently face varied challenges that this world
throws before us. The worry is not to collapse under these
continuous challenges. And the hope is that we can rise above
(and actually gain and learn from) these challenges. The world
can indeed be a school, if it doesn't kill us!
And perhaps the final aspect of a more effective life is about
integrating our inner knowledge with our outer abilities, so as
they work fluidly and naturally. Then we have half-a-chance!