Woy Woy Philosophers Society

Seventh Meeting: Celebration of the Stoics

You have to hand it to Thommo, he really is a stoic fellow. Not only is he a long-suffering Mariners supporter, but he showed true stoic calm earlier today representing himself in Gosford Local Court on charges of drunkenness and indecent exposure.

We should not be surprised I suppose – he does, after all, live by the ancient ethics of Stoicism, having acquired all 124 of Seneca’s “Letters to Lucilius” at a garage sale in Empire Bay.
Indeed, it was upon his newly Painted Porch, with its large colonnade adorned with images of mythic battle scenes, that we gathered for the Society’s seventh meeting and to reflect on the day’s proceedings.
Thommo had every reason to be wildly aggrieved with the court and the blue provocation that led him there.
But it was in his stoic nature to remain calm and resolute in the face of such adversity.
“Stoicism teaches us that self-control and fortitude is the answer to overcoming all such destructive emotions,” said he in his opening speech to the Jury.
The prosecutor did not see it that way.
“I put it to you that you are nought but a wicked man,” he replied.
“No.” Thommo said. “The wicked man is like a dog tied to a cart, compelled to go wherever it goes. Mine were the actions of an autonomous thinker, present in the moment, able to see the depravity of wealth and pleasure. Mine were the actions of a truly virtuous man.”
“Virtuous!? How so.”
“Well, God is Nature … and what is right is what accords with Nature’s two elements – the passive, physical world and the active decisions we make to engage with it. A virtuous man calmly and rationally assesses his natural environment and the value of his actions lie can only be seen in the context of the greater whole … in the ‘view from above’.”
“You are charged with taking your clothes off at a Mariners game and streaking across the pitch in front of a crowd of 10,000 fans,” said the prosecutor. “It was not the view from above, but the view from in front that concerns us here.”
There was a long and awkward silence.
Awkward silences were quite normal for Thommo of course – as a stoic, he was really quite contemplative.
For him, awkward silences were the artistic renderings of moments of peace when he could lock his subject into a psychopathic stare while, at the same time, calmly thinking about whether what he had just said made any sense or not.
It was also the reason he got into keeping fish – for practice.
“I was just following the teachings of Seneca the Younger,” he said eventually. “He said happiness isn’t found in having more ‘things’ It’s found in having less, in creating uplifting fulfilment … by subjecting yourself to depressing emptiness.”
“Did Seneca really say that?” asked the judge.
“Well, no your honour, but I’m sure thought it. We Stoics don’t like to say much, we’re mostly introverts.”
“Actually,” interrupted the prosecutor. “Seneca said that pandering to a crowd is harmful … and the greater the mob with which one consorts, the greater the danger? Letter No. 7 it was: ‘Lay these words to heart, Lucilius, that you may scorn the pleasure which comes from the applause of the majority’. What say you to that Mr Thompson?”
“As someone who identifies as a Stoic introvert, I find it offensive to my beliefs that you expect me to answer every question aloud.”
“Hear, hear!” said the Leader of the Jury in a strangely familiar voice.
He and the judge agreed that Thommo only need answer every second question aloud on account of his cultural identity.
“It is true though, is it not,” the prosecutor continued, “that you ran naked between the goal posts, did three cartwheels, before being gang-tackled by the ground officials?”
“No,” said Thommo. “I was wearing my robes … they were just flailing out behind me … a bit like batman really – just without underpants. He was a Stoic too you know.”
“But your genitalia was on display to 10,000 people.”
Thommo sat quietly, engaging the prosecutor in a psychopathic stare as the second question faded into the silence of the courtroom.
“Was Batman really a Stoic?” asked the Jury Leader, pinching the next question.
“Yes Sir,” said Thommo, “He spent many long hours down in the bat cave subjecting himself to depressing loneliness, doing good but being hated by the masses.”
“Mr Thompson,” interrupted the prosecutor. “We’re you heavily intoxicated at the time.”
Another psychopathic stare.
“Prosecutor, given the defendant is only answering every second question,” said the Judge, “perhaps you could just ask the other ones silently to yourself.”
“Yes, your honour. OK, Mr Thompson, assuming you were streaking, and assuming you were intoxicated, and assuming you were playing up to the crowd, what possible defence could you have for such actions?”
“You got that right,” said the arresting officer. “You should never streak when it’s cold.”
“You mean being poor?” asked the Prosecutor (after an intervening silent question).
“No, minimalism is not about being poor – that’s poverty. Minimalism is about being rich enough to be able to live like a poor person. You need to spend lots of money on interior designers to get rid of all your stuff and on personal life coaches to tell you how to not do anything. I thought a few days in the can might help me maximise my sense of minimalism. A good Stoic finds comfort in exile, happiness in suffering.”
By this stage the Jury and indeed the whole courtroom had teared up over the challenges in life that being wealthy had imposed on poor old Thommo.
It was then the Jury Leader leapt to his feet.
“I say to you all, make for yourself a description of the thing presented before you, so as to see clearly what kind of a thing it is in its substance, in its raw nudity, in its complete entirety, and tell yourself its proper name. For nothing so elevates the mind as to be able to examine methodically every object so presented and see within it what kind of universe this is, and what kind of use everything performs in it, and what value everything has with reference to the whole.”
“What does that even mean?” asked the prosecutor.
“It means the charges are false.”
“What. Are you saying he did not streak at the Mariners game in front of a crowd of 10,000 people?”
“I’m saying the Mariners have not had more than 5,000 people at a home game in two years.”
And with that, Thommo was released to serve two weeks under house arrest exercising self-control and fortitude.
And that brings us back to his Painted Porch and colonnade and his huge three-story mansion in Umina with nothing in it except a fridge, Seneca’s Letters and a fish tank.
Just then, the Jury leader arrived and, after drawing back his hooded robes, we saw it was none other than our own dear Boof.
“Boof,” said I. “That was a little harsh wasn’t it – sentencing Thommo to two weeks of self-control and fortitude?”
“As I said Joffa,” said the great man. “You need to see the value of everything in its broader context. That’s why I bought these two slabs of craft beer. One is a creamy pale ale called “Self Control” and the other is a stout called “Fortitude”. Now let’s get into Letter No. 1