After finishing Meditations, and The Obstacle is the Way my thinking has been structured in stoic terms lately. One often cited benefit of stoicism is the attribute that it’s a functional philosophy. You can apply the principles today. So I did, in an unexpected place, vacation bible school.
I volunteered to help at the four-day vacation bible school and was assigned the role of crew leader. Perfect I thought. My main responsibility was to make sure no one got lost or hurt. Somehow I had forgotten what camps are all about and thought I could walk through the week coolly un-involved. Not so.
After a short introduction on the very first night of camp the singing and dancing commenced. “Oh, I don’t want to do this.” I thought. My singing and dancing were reserved for weddings and private Just Dance parties where the guests were people I wouldn’t be so embarrassed around. I had two choices, to get involved and be a happy camper or to act like I was too cool for bible school.
So I danced.
Marcus Aurelius writes in Meditations:
Concentrate every minute like a Roman – like a man – on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice.
Being stoic isn’t being indifferent as a cow is the rain, being stoic is having a way to frame your thoughts that allows for the actions you want. Stoics are not afraid of embarrassment, failure, or regret – they are afraid of not being virtuous. On the gym floor as the music began my virtue was to dance.
As the week went along I realized that I defined my own virtuous actions as those that led to the best moments for all involved. I was at vacation bible school and that meant the best actions for the kids was to be involved. They didn’t need another adult who didn’t talk, laugh, and sing with them. They needed someone who was having fun at camp. I resolved to be that person.