AntiSemitism

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning, His Life in a Nazi Concentration Camp in WWII

Most books progress, with many chapters, each chapter tell different events, or different people, or different phases of life, usually progressing in some manner.  But the story in Viktor Frankl’s account of life in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II is one long dreary struggle for survival, unrelieved misery, each day running into the next, no weekends, for a precious few a monotonous few years until the war ended, for some many, many months of misery, for most, for nine out of ten Jews, they had left only days before they stripped for showers not of streams of life-giving water but showers spewing noxious fumes into gas chambers.

Viktor Frankl was one of the few of the ten percent whose first shower in Auschwitz sprayed life giving water over their naked bodies, one of the few who survived years of what was the most brutal slave society the world had ever seen, where formerly free men and women were torn away from their families, whose luggage and their jewelry and clothes were taken, even their hair shorn from them.  The Nazis even strove to steal from them their humanity, taking away their names, tattooing on their wrists the numbers they would be their new identity. […]

Greek and Roman History

Pondering the Death of Socrates in Xenophon, Plato, and Aristophanes

These works on the trial and execution of Socrates by Xenophon and Plato testify to their anger at the citizens of Athens for condemning their gadfly teacher and friend. Xenophon and Plato also show their anger at Socrates for the hubris and arrogance displayed in full force in his trial speech and his sentencing speech. They want to remind us that just as the Homeric heroes of the battle of Troy showed their hubris at the battlefield, so too did their hero Socrates show hubris in the public courtroom of Athens. […]

Cynic Philosophers

Diogenes and the Greek Cynic Philosophers

Diogenes Laertius tells us the Cynics were only interested in ethics, and unlike the other philosophical schools, they had no interest in logic and physics, much like the later Roman Stoics.  They had no interest in general education or literature, their only concern was how to live a life of virtue.  The Cynics “lived frugally, eating only for nourishment, wearing only a clock, despising wealth, fame, and royal birth.”  Some ate only vegetables, some drank only water, some lived in tubs in the marketplace, like Diogenes of Sinope.  The Cynics believed that “virtue can be taught, and when acquired cannot be lost.” […]

Greek Philosophy

Diogenese on the Greek Stoic, Zeno of Citium

Zeno speculates that “God is a living being, immortal, rational, perfect in happiness, immune to anything evil, exercising forethought for the cosmos and all it contains.  But he is not of human shape.  He is the craftsman of all things, both generally and in that particular part of him that pervades everything, and which is called by many names in accordance with all his various powers.” […]

Plato

The Stoic Socrates of Xenophon

Xenophon’s Socrates definitely sounds Stoic, he sought to die the good Stoic death. “Socrates was so arrogant in court that he invited the juror’s ill-will and more or less forced them to condemn him. His fate was proper to one loved by the gods, because he both avoided the most difficult part of life and gained the easiest of deaths. His fortitude was obvious, since he decided death was the better option, he showed no weakness in the face of death, but awaited it cheerfully.” […]

Seneca

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 7, Precious Stoic Nuggets of Wisdom

Seneca tells us that “we Stoics believe that pleasure is a vice.” Like the Church Fathers, Seneca reminds us that we need to overcome many years past of bad habits with many future years of living a godly life. “We are fettered and weakened by many vices; we have wallowed in them for a long time and it is hard for us to be cleansed.”
Seneca asks, “Why does folly hold us with such an insistent grasp? Primarily because we do not combat our vices strongly enough, we do not struggle towards salvation with all our might, we do not trust and drink in the words of the wise with open hearts,” we are not serious in our struggle against our vices, our efforts at living a godly life are but trifles. […]

Seneca

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 6, Stoicism and the Golden Rule

Seneca warns us not “to trust the countenances of those whom we meet.” Men may appear to be kind smiling kind in their appearances but often men possess souls of brutal beasts in their hearts. The difference is beasts may attack you when they first encounter you from fear or hunger, but once your paths depart beasts will usually not pursue you further. Men, however, scheme and often delight in destroying one another, making each other’s lives miserable. […]

Seneca

Seneca, Stoic Philosopher, Moral Epistles, Blog 5, On the Benefits of Friends and Keeping Score

Seneca says, “Let us avoid being ungrateful, not for the sake of others but for our own sakes.” Likewise, Seneca warns, “evil drinks the largest portion of her own poison.” “When we do wrong, only the least portion flows back upon our neighbor, the worst and densest portion blows back, troubling us instead.” “The ungrateful man tortures and torments himself; he hates his gifts for he must return the favor, he tries to belittle their value, but when he does this he hurts himself instead. What is more wretched than the man who forgets his benefits and clings to his injuries?” […]

Seneca

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 4, Stoic Concepts of Virtue and the Good

What distinguishes the virtuous soul? Seneca says It is “the soul that penetrates the whole world and directs it contemplating gaze upon all its Phenomena, paying strict attention to thoughts and actions, rising above both hardships and flatteries, yielding neither to poverty nor to fortune, rising above all tribulations and blessings, absolutely beautiful, perfectly equipped with grace and strength, unruffled, never dismayed, unmoved by violence, neither exalted or depressed by chance events – a soul like this is virtue itself.” Virtue is not like the house built on sand that is swept away by the first storm, virtue is the house built on the rocks, the house that stands firm against the waves and the storms that crash against the rocks, this house is never moved. Seneca lists the other virtues, “tranquility, simplicity, generosity, constancy, equanimity, endurance.” […]

Seneca

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 3, Loving Philosophy, Loving God, Loving our Neighbor

If Seneca would be writing today, perhaps he would title this essay, Encouragements to the Budding Blogger.  It is good to read the works of wise men, Seneca says, but men long dead cannot think for you, you need to think for yourself, reading the classics for inspiration, not duplication.  Seneca advises us, “Take command, and utter some word prosperity will remember.”  Why only memorize maxims from dusty tomes?  Make some maxims yourself.  It is one thing to remember maxims, quite another to know the true meaning of the maxims. […]