Book Review: The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity by Ryan Holiday

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A one-a-day stoicism situation that mostly tells you to think about how you’re going to die soon. Marcy Marcus and the whole funky bunch are accounted for; Rufus, Seneca, Epictetus. It’s a real star-studded affair, and since they’re broken down into these easily digestible daily affirmations (although that doesn’t feel like the right word, given the grim content), you really get a good idea of the contrast between the different Stoic thinkers. For example, Marcus Aurelius? Deeply dour dude. The misery just seeps right out of his aphorisms.

Seneca, on the other hand? A certified chiller. Much more upbeat. Epictetus’s philosophical style is closer to bullying than anything, and Rufus could have passed for a hire-off-the-street orator.

After 365 days, I am positive that I’m going to die soon. And you know what? 2020 was the right year to read this, because at no point did I feel like soiling myself over the Fungus. Mortality is the price of living. Like Marc said, this life is on loan. And like I said, something’s got to kill me.

I just googled it and none of the stoics are quoted as having said “something’s got to kill me”. That’s a BT original. Maybe that’ll be my Stoic legacy, once I succumb to the Fungus or get cut down in a hail of police gunfire. I wouldn’t care for a headstone, as even things carved in stone aren’t carved in stone, but if I had to get one, “Something had to kill me. And did.” wouldn’t be the worst I could do.




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Bilbao: 8 Incredible Reasons to Avoid Ryanair

Tuesday, September 26, 2019. Bilbao, Spain.
Soundtrack: Electric Six – Transatlantic Flight

That’s not “incredible” as hyperbole, but in the traditional sense, where some of this shit defies credulity. Don’t fly Ryanair. There are many reasons. Here are some:

  1. You have to print your own boarding pass in advance and bring it to the airport. They don’t do digital passes for non-EU passports. If you don’t bring your own boarding pass, they’ll charge you a €20 “reissue fee”.
  2. Do not take your bag off your back. If they see it, they’ll arbitrarily decide it’s too big, and charge you €55 “carry-on fee” at the gate. This didn’t happen to me, but it happened to the girl in front of me. She wasn’t even mad. Just disappointed.
  3. The instructions on the printed pass you had to bring will say, “take this to check-in for validation”. I waited 40 minutes in check-in, behind a group of people speaking in rapid, furious Spanish, understandably trying to argue one of Ryanair’s arbitrary fines. When I got to the desk, the lady said, “You have to take this to the Help Desk.”
  4. If everyone in the Help Desk line hadn’t also been in the check-in line, they wouldn’t have let me cut and get my stamp (took 5 seconds), and I would’ve missed my flight.
  5. The ticket said board at gate 6R. They were boarding the flight at gate 6. When I tried to go to 6R, a guard who spoke no English stopped me, said something in Spanish, and pointed vaguely the way I came. I’ve since learned I tried to go past the check-in without checking in. In America, I would now be dead.
  6. The flight was late. On the descent, the pilot plunged into a stormcloud, then just kind of hung out there. It was the worst turbulence I’d ever lived through. The old lady next to me was clutching the seat in front of her and hyperventilating. The plane convulsed like a wooden roller coaster. The charm of wooden roller coasters, what allows you to look past the way the lap-bar breaks your ribs, is that the ride is over in 60 seconds. This particular bout of turbulence took twenty minutes.
  7. The landing was less a landing and more a rolling crash. I’ve never been on a flight where the plane was Barkley chaos-dunked onto the runway like that before. Everyone screamed. Children started to cry in the back. I said, “Landed the shit outta that one!” No one was amused, despite my irreverent charm. This was due to their scrape with mortality.
  8. The pilot was standing with the flight crew at the front of the plane as we disembarked. He looked abashed. Good.

I’ll level with you: the flights are dirt cheap and you get what you pay for. In all likelihood, I will continue to fly Ryanair. But what you have to understand is I never grew out of my adolescent delusions of invulnerability, and even if I had, I place no value on my life! I have seen the time, place, and manner of my death, and it is not here, and it is not now. I have nothing to lose by flying in these cut-rate death traps.

But you, beautiful reader. You have so much to live for. You have people who love and depend on you. You have a whole future ahead of you.

Don’t fly Ryanair. Not flying Ryanair is self-care.

Love,

B.

Reykjavik: The Sculpture Garden

Friday, September 20, 2019. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Soundtrack: That Handsome Devil – Treefood

In the heart of downtown, at Reykjavik’s pinnacle, wedged firmly between Cafe Loki and the more practical landmark of Hallgrimskirkja, there’s a museum devoted to Einar Jonsson, Iceland’s first sculptor. Behind the museum is an elaborate sculpture garden, featuring some of the only trees available in Iceland and some truly bizarre metal sculptures.

Braxton set me straight on Icelandic soil composition. Apparently due to the severity of the weather, the soil depth sufficient for tree roots just kind of… runs off and gets ground away. In most of the country, the mountains and valleys are bare, or mossed a greyish green.

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Sculpture garden #sculpture #reykjavik #bastardtravel

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The majority of Einar Jonnson’s works explore his fascination with aging and mortality. The first one in the park came out swinging.

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Thor wrestling with age #Thor #sculpture #bastardtravel

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There’s an ubermensch vibe when Icelandic people talk about Thor. He’s not just a cultural hero, he’s an ideal in the same way Superman is, which is why he was the schmuck selected to grapple with Age’s weird, saggy cadaver.

The underbelly is filled with people, men and women, old and young, the faces and names that make up the bulk of a life, gathered over the course of Age’s body. He’s twisted in agony. His face is sallow and gaunt, a lifeless, expressionless mask on his broken neck.

And there’s Thor, supporting the weight on his shoulders, clasping the weathered hands, struggling to prop up the weight. There’s nothing antagonistic in this wrestling, aside from the stressful arm postures that define Jonsson’s work.

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The King of Atlantis #sculpture #bastardtravel

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The King of Atlantis, with his stupid pyramid hat, vibed like a shoutout to Aleister Crowley. The choice of cows, native neither to Iceland nor Egypt, might reflect Moloch. There was a strong Christian sentiment in a lot of the sculptures that didn’t move me sufficiently to photograph (what a weird coincidence), and this dude with that context might be a warning about barking up the wrong tree.

Unless I’m overthinking it, and it’s just a dude in a stupid pyramid hat.

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Spring #sculpture #bastardtravel

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Ladygirl’s favorite sculpture in the park, Spring. Unsurprising, since it’s the only one with even an echo of optimism. The dejected angel with the twisted wing strains to crack open a skull and release the enthusiastic little dryads inside. Everything that died in winter gives way for the coming new, beautiful growth, even in Iceland, possibly including the angel.

The angel’s youth shouldn’t be glossed over here, either.

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Grief #sculpture #bastardtravel

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I deal with grief a lot in my line of work, and this about sums it up. The little fate-ling holds up a hand. Hard stop on this particular lifeline. The subject of the painting emotes overdramatically, twisting up his body and hiding his face. The grief is authentic, but there’s no range of expression that allows for it, so the subject dips into comic and caricature. He reaches for the corpse of the deceased, but it’s lifeless, an outline shaped like the one he loved. A bare scratching on the wall.

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Earth #sculpture #bastardtravel

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Simple, and a little opaque, but it still has its power. The bald-headed giant is Earth, and it’s doing its damnedest to support us. We see that strenuous arm position again. Try to hold your arms out straight like that for a minute, see how well it goes. Earth is doing that nonstop, bearing our weight with mountaing discomfort as we catch a nap, oblivious. The take-home is recycle.

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Spirit and Matter #sculpture #bastardtravel

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More of the weird arm position, Spirit and Matter working together to push a squirming human being into human Being from between their shared legs.

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Sleep #sculpture #bastardtravel

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The otherworldly little nude of the woman is quietly reassuring the contorted giant. Sleep will make it better. The giant’s doing all he can to shut out the world, clenching up painfully, but here he still is. Insomniacs will feel this one.

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Wave of Ages #sculpture #bastardtravel

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Memorializing the suffering of those that came before, caught and struggling in the whirlpool of the past but necessary sacrifice for the beauty of the present, the realization of the wave.

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The End #sculpture #bastardtravel

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The End brings all these threads together. The pictures don’t do it justice. The first woman is young and attractive, sex distilled, her hands tangled up in her hair and her breasts thrust out, legs spread in invitation. The second is withered and aging, clenching her fists to either side of her failing body, eyes closed to what’s happening around her. The third woman is further into the decay, her face drawn and skeletal. No ignoring it now. She grasps at the chest of the big central figure in desperation, the way she might have two iterations ago, when she was young and hot and exploding with life.

The central figure, the largest, is stretched on a rack and writhing. He’s at the end of his line, as evidenced by the exposed skull, turned away from the pleading women, each pleading in her own way. The desperation of the last one tortures him, mars his flesh, but there’s nothing he can do about it. His hands are bound.

And on the other side of the statue, hidden from the women and the skull giant, there’s a young man. His upper body is positioned similarly to the giant’s, as though stretched on the rack, tortured, crucified. His head lolls, his eyes closed. Dead to the world, at a glance.

Look closer. In picture #3, we can see his feet are planted. He’s not dangling. He’s standing. He’s supporting the weight of the giant, and the time-lapse of womanhood that got dragged along for the ride. His feet are planted, and more than just euphemistically; one of his legs grows into the trunk of a twisting tree. He’s rooting them all there.

He is the dying giant, and this is his life. He is the architect of his own torment, and he plays the victim right until the end.

If I still smoked, I’d need a cigarette.

Love,

B.