Stoic Week 2015

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I first became interested in classic Stoicism after reading Massimo Pigliucci’s column in the New York Times earlier this year.  Stoicism is a philosophy of life that is compatable with many world views, both theistic and atheistic. I find that it blends well with my own Humanist lifestance. Contrary to popular opinion, Stoicism does not entail suppressing all emotions – although it does offer techniques that enable practitioners to constructively deal with negative emotions.

The main focus of Stoic philosophy is on meditation, mindfulness, and the classic virtues (Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Temperance). It is similar in many respects to Buddhist teachings, but it is firmly grounded in the Western philosophical tradition.

Modern Stoicism is experiencing something of a resurgence, as philosophers and medical health professionals are combining efforts to bring the benefiits of Stoicism to a larger audience. The interest of the mental health community is no accident, for Stoicism is the philosophical root of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and  Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, which are considered to be among the most effective treatments for depression and a wide variety of other mental disorders.

Every year, the Stoicism Today project conducts a free “Stoic Week”  to introduce people to Stoic practice and to test the benefits that that Stoic practice brings to the participants. There is no charge for enrollment, but participants are asked to participate in a brief survey both before and after the program so that the organizers can study the results of the program.

As Massimo Pigliucci stated in his column, “Stoicism is simply another path some people can try out in order to develop a more or less coherent view of the world, of who they are, and of how they fit in the broader scheme of things.” While I don’t think that Stoic practice is right for everyone, I believe that many would benefit tremendously from exploring these ancient techniques. If you’re curious, I suggest that you check out Stoic Week to learn more. It starts on November 2, but there is still time to register.

If You Watched the UConn Macaroni Kid Video, Watch This


Millions watched a video of an intoxicated UConn student last week. He has now posted a public apology.

If you watched the Macaroni video, watch the apology.

If you shared the Macaroni video, share the apology.

If you gossiped about the Macaroni video, tell people about the apology.

If you have every wondered what your life would be like if your worst moment were captured on video and seen by millions, then stand aside when others are awash in an orgy of public shaming.

If you are grateful that you have not been defined by something that you did when you were 19 years old, intoxicated, or both, then remember that before you judge someone else.

Videos are snapshots. They do not capture the entirety of a person, particularly someone so young.


Humanists Thinking of Carl Sagan as New “Cosmos” Series About To Debut

“Humanists are especially eager. They claim Sagan as their own, and see in the “Cosmos” series — a multipart journey to the outer reaches of our universe — and in his dozen books a vibrant strain of their own philosophy. That philosophy favors reason over religion and holds human beings as both good and responsible for the Earth’s plight.”

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Finding Common Ground in Our Common Humanity

Regardless of whether one believes that our desire to be good comes from God or from our evolutionary past, Humanists and theists can work together to build a more just society.  They can work together to help alleviate poverty, hunger, and suffering.  They can work together to protect and sustain our planet.  And, together, they can find happiness and fulfillment in the effort. –

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What do Humanists Offer the Bereaved?

A group of Hartford Area Humanists recently met in a member’s home on a snowy morning for a group conversation about  death and bereavement.  This gathering was part of Hartford Area Humanists’ ongoing discussion on “Rational Spirituality.” While many Humanists eschew any mention  of spirituality, dismissing it as supernatural “woo-woo” unworthy of serious discussion, others embrace spirituality as a natural human phenomenon that is not dependent upon anything supernatural.  These “rational spiritualists” seek to live a happier and more fulfilling life by exploring the deeper aspects of being human.

Sandy Hook Elementary School. Image courtesy of HartfordFAVs

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Sandy Hook Elementary School. Image courtesy of HartfordFAVs

It was no coincidence that we discussed death and bereavement on the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings.  Tragedies such as Sandy Hook raise difficult questions for Humanists.  In the weeks after Sandy Hook, New York Times columnist Samuel Freedman pointedly asked  “where were the humanists?”, noting that, while Humanist and other secular groups raised money and held anti-gun rallies, there was no visible Humanist presence offering solace to the victims’ families. Atlanta Page, a Christian blogger writing in, declared that Humanists have nothing to offer the bereaved in the wake of such tragedies, arguing that only faith in a loving God and belief in an afterlife can sooth those facing the otherwise unbearable grief of lives taken too soon.  Ms. Page argues that, while the Humanist stance that people should find meaning and purpose during our lives may be work well when celebrating the end of a long and rich life, that approach is inadequate in responding to the tragic and violent death of children.

Implicit in the accusation that Humanism has nothing to offer the bereaved is the assumption that the Humanist worldview is not an effective way of dealing with tragedy.

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Time for a Fair Wage Certification

Thousands of protesters gathered yesterday at Wal-Marts throughout the country.  They targeted our largest retailer on the busiest shopping day of the year to make a point: there are not enough hours in the week for many Americans to earn a living wage at the low wages paid by many companies.  Wal-mart earned about $17 billion in profits last year, yet the average Wal-Mart employee requires about $2,000/year in public assistance.  Taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart’s payroll, because they are not paying workers a living wage.

Yes, the minimum wage needs to be raised.  But, that is going to take time in the current political climate.  In the meantime, consumers should support businesses that pay their employees decent wages.  Companies like Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Quicktrip have won recognition by paying higher than industry averages.  They have proven that paying a living wage can be a profitable strategy, because there is less turnover and better performance when employees are paid and treated well. 

Wages will rise when more businesses realize that paying a living wage is good for business. And, more businesses will get that message when consumers spend their money at stores and restaurants that that treat their employees fairly.  We have Fair Trade certifications for coffee and chocolate. Why not a “Fair Wage” certification for businesses?  The cost of a drive-through lunch wouldn’t be that much higher if the folks who prepared were paid a few bucks an hour more than a typical McDonald’s employee.  In Connecticut, the Wal-Mart protesters focused on a store in Avon because, according to one of the organizers, “this is a fairly wealthy area of the state, surrounded by wealthy towns, and these are a lot of people that have financial choice to shop somewhere else.”   

Many consumers do have a financial choice on where we shop  It would be a great help if we had better information so that we could meaningfully exercise that choice.  Fair Wage Certification would help consumers separate the Costcos from the Wal-Marts.