Metamodern Stoicism, Elegant Resilience and Tribes as a Work of Art
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July 2, 2020
Daniel Schmachtenberger is returning to The Stoa in August. We were trading voice text messages to figure out what would be a good topic for him to discuss, and one felt most alive for the both of us: Metamodern Stoicism. I am loving this. This is the good shit that keeps me going.
The reason why I came out of the Stoic closet since COVID came online was to serve a personal purpose, and possibly a transpersonal one. I often return to my Stoicism when I experience hardship, and while I am not the best practitioner, it is my foundation I return to when SHTF.
In March it felt like SHTF, both in my life and in the world. I felt like it was time to pivot away from intellectual explorations, and instead practice my Stoicism in public. One way I decided to do this was to be like Marcus Aurelius and journal to myself, in hopes that I could fumble my way towards serenity in front of you. The idea was to practice my Stoicism via the practice of daily journaling, and to model Stoicism during our meta-crisis.
I somewhat succeeded with the former, and I do not know how I am doing with the latter, but I have received lots of positive feedback with these journals. They are not on the radar of people in the Modern Stoicism movement though, and these folks are largely ignoring The Stoa as well. I mentioned this before: I am not inspired to talk and write about Stoicism the way the Modern Stoicism movement does. What is not inspiring for me can be useful for others though, and I find introductory books from the likes of Ryan Holiday and William B. Irvine useful for Stoic on-boarding purposes.
I am more interested in doing something new with Stoicism, and I am interested in a Stoicism that is informed by developmental models from the likes of Kegan and Wilber, and can speak with a multi-perspectival lens, and can engage in memetic mediation. I think the rock-solid principles of Stoicism combined with the insights of the scenius I am finding myself in— which includes metamodernism, game b, post-rationality, integral theory—could be very helpful in being responsive to the liminal war.
I want a Stoicism that can be maximally creative, and not tethered to the self-assigned arbiters of Stoic thought, which itself is tethered to the fragments we have of three dead Romans. I want a Stoicism that is capable of idea sex: that can interact and be influenced by other philosophies, and does not lose itself by doing so, but finds itself by doing so. I want a Stoicism that can be dangerous, in the right way.
My new buddy Greg Thomas came to The Stoa earlier this week, and the title of the talk was Stoic Blues. Greg introduced me to the philosophy of Albert Murray, which I absolutely love. Murray argued that the blues and jazz were a life-affirming response to the vicissitudes of the black experience.
He wrote about something called “elegant resilience,” and to take a quote from one of Greg’s articles:
…the disposition (in the face of all of the misery and uncertainty in the universe) to refine all of human action in a direction of dance-beat elegance. I submit that there is nothing that anybody in the world has ever done that is more civilized or sophisticated than to dance elegantly, which is to state with your total physical being an affirmative attitude toward the sheer fact of existence.
Fuck yeah. This is something I’d like to incorporate in the conversations towards a Metamodern Stoicism. Stoicism often gets a bad rap, and people get a sense that it implores us to just grit out the shittiness of life. While the Modern Stoics would propositionally push back on this, I do not see them embodying an alternative.
What I like about The Stoa is that psychotechnologies are emerging, like Collin’s Existential Dance Party, or Tyson’s Flowing with Unknowningness, that repurposes current cultural practices, and puts them in service towards personal and transpersonal development. The idea is to put our total physical being in this. Stoicism can be practiced by dancing, and freestyle rapping, and whatever other beautiful experience will find it’s way to The Stoa. Why the fuck not?
I am excited for Daniel’s talk, and what can emerge from this exploration, and I am excited to not just be resilient during the meta-crisis, but elegantly resilient. Nobody is going to want a Stoicism that cannot be beautiful. I also think a Metamodern Stoicism should be deeply informed by conversational modalities that lead to authentic relating, we-spaces, communitas, dialogos, or whatever else you want to call it.
I think this because I deeply sense that beauty is found in deep connections, and I do think Stoicism helps with the psychological fortitude to allow one to become deserving of deep connections. This might seem like a dirty word, but my sense is that a Metamodern Stoicism needs to be tribal, not in the memetic tribal sense, but in an embodied tribal sense, that is inspired by a collective elegant resilience.
I was struck by something Alexander Bard said in the Intellectual Deep Web discussion group, which I think gets at the essence of what I am trying to articulate here:
Live in a tribe as if the tribe was a work of art.
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