#20: Stoic Courage, Buddha vs. Nietzsche, and Sam Harris on Selflessness

PLUS: Jiujitsu life lessons and weekly to-do list

Welcome, Wisdom Aficionado.

Uncover the depths of philosophical wisdom in this issue of The Nous, featuring insights from Sam Harris on selflessness, a dive into Stoic courage, and an enthralling debate between Buddha and Nietzsche.

Plus, discover practical life-enhancing techniques and engaging content like a unique look into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a life lesson, and the latest in meditation and wellness apps.

In today’s Nous:

  • 👁️ Mindful Insights: Sam Harris Unravels the Self

  • 🦁 Virtue Unveiled: Exploring Stoic Courage

  • 🖤 Philosophical Face-Off: Amor Fati Through Nietzsche and Stoic Eyes

  • 🤖 Wisdom Clash: Buddha vs. Nietzsche - A Philosophical Debate

  • 🥋 Life’s Mat: Jiu-Jitsu as a Metaphor for Mastery and Resilience

Read time: 7 minutes

Editor’s Picks

🏹 Wisdom Arrows

👁️ Deconstructing Yourself with Sam Harris:
Sam Harris recently appeared on one of my favorite spirituality and meditation podcasts Deconstructing Yourself. In this episode, they discuss insights into selflessness, nonduality, psychedelics, and more.

🦁 What is Stoic Courage:
A nice, simple overview of what the Stoics meant when they referenced “courage” as one of their four cardinal virtues. 

🖤 Amor Fati: Nietzsche vs. Stoics:
The idea of “loving your fate” was popularized by Friedrich Nietzsche in his phrase Amor Fati. The Stoics seemed to suggest a similar outlook, and this article explores the differences and similarities in views.

Technique Try-Out

🧰 Revel in Loss

The more of these things a man deprives himself of, or of other things like them, or even when he is deprived of any of them, the more patiently he endures the loss, just in the same degree he is a better man.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations V.15

It's not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.

Bruce Lee

Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor, emphasized the importance of patience and resilience in the face of loss or deprivation. His teachings encourage us to evaluate our dependencies on external things and how they affect our inner peace. Similarly, Bruce Lee, a martial artist and philosopher, advocated for the 'art of detachment' from the superfluous, urging us to focus on what truly matters in life.

Here are some action steps you can practice, to help you cultivate comfort and ultimately enjoyment in deprivation.

  1. Identify and Eliminate the Non-Essential:

    • Reflect on your possessions, habits, and commitments. Ask yourself, "Is this essential for my happiness or well-being?"

    • Start small. Choose one non-essential item or habit and remove it from your life for a period.

  2. Embrace Temporary Deprivation:

    • Intentionally deprive yourself of certain comforts or habits temporarily. For example, go a week without caffeine or a day without your smartphone.

    • Notice the effect this has on your mood, productivity, and overall well-being.

  3. Simplify Your Routine:

    • Simplify your daily routine by removing redundant or non-essential tasks.

    • Practice saying 'no' to social commitments that do not add value to your life.

  4. Cultivate Mindfulness and Gratitude:

    • Spend time each day in mindfulness, focusing on the present moment and appreciating what you have.

    • Keep a gratitude journal, noting down simple joys and things you are thankful for.

  5. Re-evaluate Regularly:

    • Regularly assess your lifestyle and possessions. Continuously ask yourself if there's more you can live without.

    • Remember that simplicity is a journey, not a destination.

By adopting these practices, you'll discover that the true essence of happiness and contentment lies within. As you hack away at the unessential, you create space for growth, peace, and a deeper appreciation for the simple yet profound joys of life. Let us embrace the wisdom of Marcus Aurelius and Bruce Lee, finding richness in simplicity.

New Ways of Seeing

🤖  Buddha vs. Friedrich Nietzsche on the Utility of Buddhist Philosophy

Setting: A timeless realm where ideas transcend time and space, bringing together two of history's great thinkers.

Buddha: Greetings, Nietzsche. I understand you question the utility of Buddhist philosophy, which seeks to alleviate suffering through understanding, compassion, and detachment from transient desires.

Nietzsche: Indeed, Buddha. Your emphasis on detachment and the cessation of desire seems to me a denial of life’s inherent value. Life is about embracing passions, not retreating from them. Isn't your path one of negation rather than affirmation?

Buddha: On the contrary, Nietzsche. Buddhism does not negate life but rather seeks to understand its true nature. Suffering, as I teach, arises from ignorance and attachment. By understanding the nature of reality and our desires, we free ourselves from the chains of suffering, leading to a profound appreciation of life.

Nietzsche: But your Middle Way seems to advocate a form of mediocrity, avoiding extremes of both indulgence and asceticism. My philosophy, on the other hand, encourages the embrace of extreme experiences and passions as a means to achieve greatness and self-overcoming.

Buddha: The Middle Way is not mediocrity, but balance. It is a path of wisdom that recognizes the dangers of both sensory indulgence and self-mortification. True enlightenment comes from seeing things as they are, not as we wish them to be, and this requires a balanced approach to life's experiences.

Nietzsche: Your approach, though, seems to favor an escape from the world. My concept of the Übermensch is about creating new values, affirming life, and shaping the world according to one’s will. Isn't your path essentially life-denying, in its quest for Nirvana, an escape from the cycle of life and death?

Buddha: Nietzsche, Nirvana is not an escape, but the ultimate realization of the nature of existence. It's not life-denying, but rather a state of liberation from the illusions that cause suffering. It's about living in the world, but not being of it, free from the delusions that lead to suffering.

Nietzsche: I respect your pursuit of liberation from suffering, but I fear it diminishes the value of the struggle inherent in life. Life’s struggles and sufferings are not obstacles to be avoided but opportunities for growth, for becoming who we are meant to be.

Buddha: And I see value in acknowledging life’s struggles, Nietzsche. However, the aim is not to be consumed by them but to understand their nature and transcend them. In this understanding, there is a deep appreciation for life and a compassion for all beings caught in the cycle of suffering.

As the dialogue continues, the two thinkers find common ground in their mutual respect for the depth and complexity of life, though their paths and conclusions diverge, reflecting the rich tapestry of philosophical thought.

Turning Theory Into Skill

🥋 Don’t Pick Your Battles, Commit to Your War

Last Saturday, I was awarded my purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

I've recently achieved a significant milestone in my life: receiving my Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The journey began in the summer of 2017 in Prague, Czech Republic. It took me nearly three months to overcome my hesitation and attend my first Jiu-Jitsu class. The decisive moment was simply scheduling it in my calendar. On the tram ride there, immersed in William B. Irvine's "A Guide to the Good Life," I contemplated the dichotomy of control, realizing that the outcome of this session was irrelevant. My success hinged solely on showing up.

Upon arrival, I was surrounded by a diverse group, primarily Russians and Czechs. Our head coach, Fernando – fondly known as Nando – was the epitome of a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt: a stocky, commanding presence. Among the attendees were muscular men with shaved heads and tattoos, including police SWAT officers and members of the Czech mafia. However, most were there for the love of the sport.

In my initial sessions, I refrained from sparring, but once I started, it was an adrenaline-charged experience. My motivation for taking up Jiu-Jitsu stemmed from a fear of confrontation. I saw the sport as a healthy, safe way to confront and eventually conquer my anxieties.

A few months in, a broken rib paused my journey, and a move to another country further delayed my return to the sport. It wasn't until after my son's birth that I resumed training in January 2019 at a local gym. Since then, my commitment has been unwavering. I've trained diligently, sparred extensively, and immersed myself in the teachings of John Danaher and Gordon Ryan. Competition has also been part of my journey.

But my initial step into Jiu-Jitsu wasn't solely about overcoming anxiety. It was part of a larger quest. Living as a digital nomad in Prague, I had everything I thought I wanted – a partner, a vibrant lifestyle, a supportive community, and ample freedom. Yet, I felt an underlying emptiness and stress. One night, pondering a 'hero's journey,' I set myself an epic goal: to become a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a challenge I knew would demand a decade or more of rigorous training.

Now, two belts away from black, I reflect on life's inevitable stresses and difficulties. Having a larger 'war' to focus on – a path of mastery – provides a sense of direction and perseverance. It eclipses the daily 'battles,' keeping me aligned with what truly matters.

I encourage you to dream big and embrace a distant, exhilarating goal. It could be a sport, a quest for enlightenment, or any other endeavor. By focusing on this overarching 'war,' the daily skirmishes of life won't deter you from your ultimate path.

Tech Tool I Use

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Off The Troden Path

📆 Self-Improvement To-Do List

  Wake Up: Here is a free 30-day free trial to Sam Harris’s Waking Up meditation app. I recommend you check out the Working with Challenging Emotions course Jitindriyā and The Koan Way by Henry Shukman.

Game: I’m really enjoying playing the game Lost In Play with my son. It’s a relaxing, magical puzzle game that is beautiful to look at.

Track: My friend and podcast guest Justin Noppé is super knowledgeable about health tracking and fitness improvement. I’ll be doing a podcast with him soon about this subject. He recommended I download the app Athlytic, so I immediately did.

Meditate: This meditation guides you through the Stoic technique called "Premeditation of Adversity," but with a specific spin for dealing with anxiety. Check it out here. 

All Things End

🔥 Friend of Wisdom

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