How Shall I Live? The Path of Stoic Joy

Michael Prettyman at Online

Fri, May 1 at 8 p.m.   |   90 minutes
Paths: Revisiting the same theme with a professor on a recurring basis. But each session comes at the idea from a new angle and stands alone.

One of the assumptions of stoic philosophy is that there is meaning and possibility in any given circumstance - each episode in the book of life is an opportunity to grow and to learn, especially when these chapters bring us difficulty.

Et lux in tenebris lucet: and the light shines in the darkness

Man is a creature that seeks meaning- alone among our fellow creatures it is humans who are able to seek and find meaning in the events that befall us, the relationships we find ourselves in, and in our intimate proximity to the natural world. For many of us, the importance of meaning is made vivid only in its absence. Unless we find some pattern or significance in our lives, we fall easily into ennui, nihilism or despair.

In this series of Olios we will explore a variety of meaning seeking vectors and strategies, seeking in each attempt to push past the limits of analytic language to arrive at an awareness of what meaning seeking is, in the way we live our everyday lives. This is what lives at the heart of our search- the act of seeking meaning is a bid for increased awareness. The search itself contains the seed of that which is sought-it is like a lamp that once lit automatically dispels darkness; it what lamps do. But this is not easy.

In order to seek out meaning in circumstance we must grapple with randomness and we must confront difficulty.


"And the heart within me laughed."
Marcus Aurelius

This session will explore the works of Stoic philosophers Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus, who were no strangers to the vicissitudes and disappointments of everyday life. One of the assumptions of stoic philosophy is that there is meaning and possibility in any given circumstance - each episode in the book of life is an opportunity to grow and to learn, especially when these chapters bring us difficulty.

Confronting difficulty and finding meaning in circumstance hinge on not what happens to us, but what we make of it. Seneca’s observation that, “A man is as wretched as he has convinced himself that he is,” may seem old fashioned- it flies in the face of many post-modern assurances that our unhappiness is not our fault. Certainly, a pandemic is in fact no one’s fault. But we are, in the end, responsible for our reactions to it. This responsibility, rather than being a burden, is in fact the key to our own agency and joy, which is, in the end, all that we really have.

Teacher: Michael Prettyman

Michael Prettyman is an artist and scholar of Eastern Religions. He holds a Masters Degree in Theology from the Harvard Divinity School and teaches on the subject of religion and the arts, Asian Religion and philosophy at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. He has been a visual artist for twenty years, with gallery shows in New York City, Hong Kong and Barcelona.


Venue: Online

Zoom link will be sent upon signup.

What is Think Olio?


Think Olio is here to put the liberation back into the liberal arts.

Classically, the liberal arts, were the education considered essential for a free person to take an active part in civic life. To counter a humanities that has been institutionalized and dehumanized we infuse critical thinking, openness, playfulness, and compassion into our learning experience.

Read more about our mission, our story, and how we are doing this.

Scenius Membership

If Friday night lectures, museum field trips, and living room salons sound like your kind of thing, then you've found your people. We can't wait to welcome you to the Think Olio Scenius. More info


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Teacher: Danny Katch

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Liaisons Host an Olio

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of art and literature.