In July this year we are moving to North Devon.  One of our neighbours will be the cephalophore St Nectan.

Nectan lived around the time of King Arthur.  He was a hermit with two homes, a waterfall in Cornwall and and well in Devon.  When he was martyred he was some distance from either, but picked up his head, walked to his well and there collapsed and died.

He is one of a number of cephalophores (for that is the generic term for a saint who survives beheading), who are associated with areas previously inhabited by the Celts, which has given some people the notion that they have a connection with the Celtic cult of the head.  Nectan’s association with two watery places strengthens the suspicion that his myth has a pre-Christian origin.

In Irish mythology Nectan is the husband of Boann the goddess of the River Boyne. He had control over a well of wisdom. Nectan may be related to other watery gods such as Neptune, the Swedish Näcken, and the Persian Apam Napat.

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Survey Scores and goodbye

Last post on this blog.

Flourishing, I’m now down to 48 from 54, but that’s because last time I gave myself 6 points for my email address.

Satisfaction with Life Scale — 18.  Now that is interesting, because I only scored 14 last time.

On the Spane Scale I only score 1 this time down from 2.

That means I’m more satisfied with life but have more negative emotions.  Hmm.

On the Stoic scale, I am in fact more Stoic after Stoic Week, scoring 52 rather than 48. So it works!

Two positive effects of the week, that I did not report in the previous posts.  First, my forswearing of sweetstuffs was rash, but I did exercise more moderation in my diet over the next few days. Second, a difficult family situation arose mid-week that still hasn’t been resolved.  I got over my negative feelings about it quite quickly, but was left unsure of what action to take.  During the workshop with Professor Gill, something he said gave me the answer.

This ends Stoic Week 2013 for me, but I hope that the next entry will be at the start of Stoic Week 2014.  It occurs to me that I could write something on using Stoicism to deal with chronic pain (though Marcus Aurelius didn’t — he preferred Epicureanism for that problem), and might get round to submitting something for Patrick Ussher’s blog in the next few weeks.

Bye for now.

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Conference Feedback

Name-tags would have been good.  You could have provided the DIY variety.  During the breaks there were a lot of people standing in corners not speaking to anyone, and sometimes I was one of them.  Name-tags would have helped break the ice.  With smaller workshops there could have been time for everyone to introduce themselves, but obviously, with such large groups that wasn’t possible.

I would have liked a biscuit with my afternoon tea.

I came to the conference knowing quite a lot about Stoicism, but very little about CBT or “Mindfulness”. In his workshop, Mr Ussher seemed to be assuming we all knew something about Buddhism. I don’t.  I enjoyed the workshop nonetheless, but I wasn’t sure why such pre-knowledge would be taken for granted.

Mr Ussher also said that everyone can do a free 8 week course of CBT on the NHS, and you don’t even need a referral.  Or at least, that’s what I think I heard him say. I’d have liked to hear more about this.  I can’t find any reference to it on the NHS website.  I don’t think I’d want to do it myself, but it would be nice to have the details so I can tell other people.

I put my hand up to the question whether I’d attend another similar conference, but actually I think my attendance would be conditional on what was being discussed. I have less interest in the  CBT connection and therapeutic benefits than I have in the adaption of Stoicism as a system of ethics and ideals for living in a world without God. I felt the lack of any workshop on this application of Stoicism was glaring, given the workshop on Stoicism and Christianity, although it didn’t surprise me since Christians are all over the Stoic forums on the web. Someone suggested a Stoicism and Islam workshop next year. How about Stoicism and Atheism?

Finally, I enjoyed Stoic Week and the Conference very much, and felt very lucky to have got a ticket for the Conference.  Thank you to all the organisers and speakers.  May the project go from strength to strength.



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End Thoughts 4 the passages for reading.

Two thoughts on this.

First, I’ve discovered I have an antipathy to Seneca that I was previously unaware of.  I knew that I did not choose to re-read him in the way that I re-read MA and Epictetus, but I did not anticipate that I’d respond to being asked to meditate on a passage from Seneca with  ad hominem abuse. I have no idea what that is about; I must have suppressed it, and I’d probably benefit from re-reading Seneca and finding out.

Second, I very much liked being given directed readings.  At the Conference, Professor Gill talked about producing a book, and I’d like to order a copy now please.

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End Thoughts 3 — the Evening Meditation

This is something I’ve done before, in more or less the same form used in Stoic Week.  I used to keep a journal in which I examined my day and I’d read a passage or two of either MA or Epictetus.  I’d also rehearse the following day, if I anticipated it would be challenging. More recently, it is something I’ve only done occasionally.

It is something I like doing, and I’ve resolved to make an effort to continue to do it on a daily basis.  But, honestly, I can’t say how much it helps my mental wellbeing, whether it makes me a more emotionally stable or a better person. I just find it a satisfying thing to do, and it helps me feel my life has meaning.

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End Thoughts 2 — the morning meditation.

I’ve already commented that the morning meditation does not work for me because of my individual circumstances. But, actually I did benefit from it, because, in order to participate, I paid more attention to pain management this week than I usually do.

Since the pain I have on waking usually fades within half an hour or so (sometimes less, sometimes more), normally I just wait for it to go away. But this week I did some exercises for my joint pain, and took a painkiller for my neuralgia, and felt better for it.

Nevertheless, in the long term, I don’t see myself devoting a quarter hour to meditation, first thing on waking. But, this doesn’t mean I don’t engage in Stoic thoughts before I start my day.  I already use a version of Cleanthes’ prayer:

“Lead me, Zeus, and you too, Destiny,

To wherever your decrees have assigned me.
I follow readily, but if I choose not,
Wretched though I am, I must follow still.

Fate guides the willing, but drags the unwilling.”

My abbreviated  version is:  “Whatever you’ve got planned for me today Fate, Bring It On.  I’m ready“. And I also like to remind myself that I’m lucky to have another day of life, and to be a “citizen of Rome” ( i.e. a privileged member of one of the advanced western capitalist democracies).

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End Thoughts 1: Questionnaires.

This Sunday morning I’m going to give my feedback on the Stoic Week and yesterday’s Stoicism conference. To give myself the time to do that, I won’t comment on today’s meditations and exercises.

The first thing I’ve learned from participating in Stoic Week is that I should not fill in any more psychometric questionnaires.  Those set for registration in SW are the third research project in which  I’ve participated, in the last seven years or so, and each time I’ve had a to and fro’ with the researcher about the wording.  At this rate, by the time I die,  I will have irritated a social science researcher at half of Britain’s universities.

Each time it has been a pointless discussion. A pig-headed retired lawyer with no academic standing is not going to persuade a social scientist to modify research tools which are standard in his discipline. S/he, on the other hand, is not going to persuade me that, e.g “Do you slightly agree that you suffer from chronic joint pain”, isn’t a silly question which will produce a silly answer.

Donald Robertson has put my objections “in context” by pointing out that over 1,000 people have filled in the questionnaires, and I’m the only one who has raised objections.  To put his comment in context, he doesn’t know, and has no way of knowing, how many thousands of people have not participated because they think the questions are daft.

So, from now on I’m going to join the silent majority and avoid participation in social science research.

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