Try being a Stoic for a week?
Today was Heffers Classics Festival, which had this year moved to rather grander and more capacious premises in the Law Faculty. I was in a great trio performing at 10.00 to about 250 people (thanks all for turnng up). Jo Paul talked about the "uncanniness" of the modern image of Pompeii (somewhere between a living city and a city of corpses), Jules Evans talked about the roots of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in ancient philosophy (I liked his euphemism of "amateur neuroscience" for experimenting with recreational pharmaceuticals). And I did a turn on Roman jokes.
“A scholastikos (?'egg-head') had bought a house and leant out of the window and asked people going by 'do I look good in this?' "
Franco thought that the idea of treating the house as if it was a new dress was quite amusing; I was less convinced. But anyway I can confirm a laugh was indeed raised. (Must have been the way I told it, I thought!)
Jules also gave a well-deserved puff for the second annual "Live Like a Stoic Week" -- in which we can all do exactly that. Highlights range from Stoic discussion sessions in your local pub, to a handbook of Stoic exercises on which you can train your mind. There's even more info here.
I must admit that Stoicism isn't exactly my cup of tea. Of the ancient world's philosophical systems, it has always struck me as one of the nastiest (but don't trust me, I'm not an expert). On the other hand, "being a Stoic for a week" seems a pretty good way of spreading the word about ancient philosophy -- so long as we are allowed to give it up when the week has passed.
But -- stoically or not -- my mind is really on the Samuel Johnson prize, whose winner is announced on Monday night at what I guess will be a good dinner. OK, I know it must be more nerve-wracking for the shortlisted authors, but I can tell you that this judge at least hasn't escaped the agony... a brilliant field, and a whole set of tough decisions, and dark nights weighing up the merits.
It reminds me a bit of marking students' finals papers. You tell them how stressful it is doing the marking, and making life-changing decisions about people's work. And the way they look back at you says very clearly that it isn't half as stressful as actually taking the exams.