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Secondary school. Some time during secondary school.

I don’t know when, exactly, but it’s a year group school assembly. I’m sat on one of those green, uncomfortable plastic chairs. The ones that lock together on the side, with a hole in the back. Joe is on my left, Tom on my right. Mr Thompson’s the Head of Year and talking, as one does in an assembly.

I’m pubescent, it’s early, I’m not paying that much attention – and, I’m sorry, I don’t remember every school assembly I ever had. But one word from this one assembly somehow manages to lodge itself so deeply into my brain that I can recall it well over a decade later.

Perhaps it’s because this is the first time I’ve ever heard this word or because, somehow, my brain knows that at some point in the future, I’ll need it.


Marcus Aurelius was an Emperor – he was Emperor of Rome. His son was an asshole, destroyed most of Aurelius’ work but his diary remained.

Here’s one of the greatest leaders of one of the greatest Empires writing not for longevity or legacy but therapy.

Marcus Aurelius is one of the most famous stoics. He was also a lot of other things. But his Meditations – his diary – is a beautiful bit of literature that, even 2,000 years down the line, is still wonderfully modern. I recommend the Gregory Hays translation.

Nowadays, stoicism or ‘to be stoic’ means somebody who remains calm under pressure, or someone who doesn’t swing between emotional extremes but that’s really an English bastardisation.

It’s a lot more than that. It’s philosophy of thought that I’ve found hard to put into words.

Ryan Holiday seems to be the modern day thought leader in stoicism. He’s not an academic – I don’t think he’d describe himself that way – but he does write about stoicism and about the stoics. He runs The Daily Stoic, and there’s a book by the same name. I’ve been reading that recently.

Stoicism isn’t abstract, it isn’t theoretical. It’s something you actually do. It’s something you apply.

Embodied within stoicism are a whole load of other really important ideas too.

Those of you that know me will know I’m a fan of silly, interesting or intricate time pieces. Mr Jones Watches in London makes The Accurate; its face is mirrored metal, the second hand a bright red arrow and it’s a memento mori – the hour hand says ‘Remember’, the minute hand says ‘you will die’.

Memento mori is one of those stoic ideas. Dwell on your mortality so you can live the short existence we all have to its fullest. Amor fati – a resignation to, or love of one’s fate – is another.

Activity Quest, the podcast I make at the UK’s children’s radio station, Fun Kids, won bronze in the very adult sounding ‘Arts and Culture’ category at the British Podcast Awards at the end of July.

Activity Quest has also been nominated for a Heart of the City award at the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards. The ceremony is at Mansion House on the 27th – it’s a black tie affair – I’ll let you know if anything comes of it.

Either way – amor fati.

Earlier this month, I went to see Coldplay on their opening night at Wembley Stadium. There’s a sense of unity and sanguineness to a Coldplay gig; say what you like about their music – they know how to put on a good show. 80,000 people, every song is a hit, everyone knows all the words, awesome lighting and pyrotechnics too – they’ve still got those wristbands. I loved it. I’d go again in a heartbeat.

Chris Martin is almost definitely a stoic.

Staying on the theme of music, Panic at The Disco’s new album – Viva Las Vengeance – is good but I’ve really been playing a lot of modernlove. this month. Their debut EP, Oh My Mind, came out at the end of July. It’s sort of 80s synth pop/indie/garage, with a tinge of cheesy coming of age film.

Always surprising – The 1975. I look forward to their new album, out in October. Their single, Happiness, has been on repeat. I don’t doubt for a second that Matty Healy knows what stoicism is. The Sound – The 1975 – has this lyric:

It’s not about reciprocation it’s just all about me / A sycophantic, prophetic, Socratic junkie wannabe / And there’s so much skin to see / A simple Epicurean Philosophy

Epictetus famously said ‘some things are within our power, while others are not’ and Seneca said it is ‘ruinous for the soul to be anxious about the future’.

The stoics believed you should be involved in politics and you should give yourself to public life but they also believed that you really shouldn’t spend too much time stressing over that which you cannot control.

In a few days time, we’ll find ourselves with a new Prime Minister at the helm of an energy, environmental, and cost of living crisis and facing heightening domestic and international tensions.

I make a poor stoic in this sense; over the past few years I’ve become positively anti-political but given that stoicism worked so well for one of Rome’s best leaders, maybe its key rules of wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance could serve Rishi or Truss well…