Last Saturday I was at Stoicon, which this year was here in Toronto. There were almost 400 people there, which is very impressive for a conference about a philosophy roughly 2,400 years old. My Stoic friend Vicki and I were curious to see who would be there, and were glad to see more women than we’d expected—they were only about a third of the attendees, but we’d suspected there would be still fewer. Everyone was interested in Stoicism, especially about how to apply it daily in order to lead a flourishing, equanimous life.
The full schedule is on the web site, and videos will be up on Modern Stoicism’s YouTube channel soon, so anyone interested can see everything I did. I recommend the following:
- Donald Robertson’s “What is Stoicism?” introduction, which is a good overview for anyone unfamiliar with it;
- Massimo Pigliucci “How to be a Stoic: Conversations with Epictetus,” which has all his usual quick wit and speedy talking;
- Ronald Pies’s “Stoicism, Buddhism, and Judaism,” which presents the connections and similarities between the three schools; and
- Margaret Graver’s closing talk, “The Dispassionate Life.”
There were several afternoon workshops on offer. Vicki and I went to the “Stoicism and Values Clarification” led by Tim LeBon and Christopher Gill. We jotted down answers to some questions about what was important to us, then LeBon and Gill did a Socratic dialogue, and after some discussion of the four cardinal virtues (courage, justice, wisdom and temperance) we reflected on “how much you think living according to the virtues is important its own sake and not just to help you get conventional goods.”
On Sunday Vicki and I went to Stoicon-X, a local event, which had about 70 people, many not from Toronto, though almost all were men. The hour of lightning talks was a great success, with a dozen people talking about different aspects of Stoicism and their application of it. They were all good speakers and the range was delightful to see. Greg Lopez of The Stoic Fellowship also gave a good talk about organizing local Stoic events. It’s delightful—and surprising—to learn about these local groups starting up.
It was a joy to be in the company of Stoics for the weekend, and it’s rejuvenated my reading schedule. Soon I will be starting Chris Gill’s translation of and commentary on Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations Books 1–6.
In case anyone’s interested, here are links to RSS feeds I follow about Stoicism:
- Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday, whose book The Daily Stoic was given out to everyone at Stoicon
- How to Be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci
- Immoderate Stoic by Matt Van Natta, who was part of the Painted Porch podcast, which I enjoyed before it ended, but he also does occasional episodes of his own series
- John Sellars
- Letters from a Stoic
- Living Philosopher
- Living the Stoic Life
- Modern Stoicism
- Mountain Stoic
- Stoic Fellowship
- Stoicism Toronto Meetup events
- Stoic Resilience by Donald Robertson
- Traditional Stoicism
- Words of the Ancient Wise
A final note: The conference was at the ugliest hotel I’ve ever seen—I suspect they got the plans for a hotel in a warm climate and put a big metal covering over it to protect against Toronto weather, which meant the air in the atrium housing the bar and restaurant is filled with chlorine—but such aesthetic matters are indifferents to Stoics, and did nothing to prevent our enjoyment of the event. If that was anyone’s first experience of Toronto, however, come back and look elsewhere: it gets a lot better. I recommend walking in the ravines.