Two of Stoicism's most prominent philosophers were Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. As professor Michael Sugrue of Princeton University observes in his wonderful lecture on Marcus Aurelius: one of the wonderful ironies about the history of philosophy was that the former was a slave and the latter an emperor. That speaks greatly to the flexibility and applicability of Stoicism, but it also has recently brought to my mind another thought.
In this year I have found myself in a leadership role in my community organization, my profession, and soon, my family. This has made me recognize new aspects of Stoicism. Previously I had conceived of Stoicism as especially useful to those with little or no power. As such, it helps us to focus our energies on the things we can control and learn to accept that which we cannot.
But lately, as my 'say-so' has risen (power is too strong a word), I have found that my stress has risen with it. Given that we are always seeking greater control, one might expect the opposite. But I think this happens because power is a strong temptation. When we are put in charge of something or made responsible for it, we get used to having more control than ordinary. We soon find ourselves expecting that greater level of control. It becomes even easier to fall prey to the delusion that we can control more than we do, and as that delusion intensifies, so too does our suffering.
So now I am thinking that I must begin to approach Stoicism less from an Epictetan point of view, and more from an Aurelian one. Surely the emperor saw something of use in Stoicism that he chose it as a remedy for his affliction of power. We'll see how this line of thought progresses.