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Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Paleo Life is a Stoic Life PJSC podcast

You’ve probably heard about being stoic, which has come to mean “toughing it out”, “not complaining about hardship” and the like.
But actually, this is all that is left in modern times of a deep, and well thought-out school of philosophy that flourished from it’s founding in the third century BC, and right up through Roman times and beyond.  This gist of it was this: the path to happiness for humans is found in accepting that which we have been given in life, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain, by using our minds to understand the world around us and to do our part in nature's plan, and by working together and treating others in a fair and just manner.
Sounds kind of like Christianity, and “following the Golden Rule”, doesn’t it?  And one of the key tenets was that the way you live your life is far more important than what you say you believe.  Hypocrites need not apply!
I believe that I have been a practicing Stoic for the past few weeks, since in stoicism one needs to set one’s emotions aside, and live in harmony with Nature, since all of life is capricious, and changeable.  I have recently lost my father, during the same time that we are without a kitchen, in the midst of a remodeling that has left us washing our few dishes on a table with a basin and a hose outside, and cooking on a propane cooker I usually use for cooking down maple sap for syrup!
There is no relation between the two, but I am making the point that all of life is like this: chaos and random events define our lives.  The best way to “train” for this is to periodically put ourselves into what we consider the worst that could happen.  The stoics did this all the time- they would wear rags for a week, and dine on the poorest food they could find- just to show themselves that, if the worst did happen- if they lost everything they owned- it was not big deal, really…
The birds still sing.  Nature goes on- just today I saw several bluebirds, and tomorrow I look forward to seeing my little grandson, still shy of 2 years of age.  I went to a birthday party of a neighbor’s children that were 1 and 3 respectively - I have known their mother since she was about 6.  (They made a “healthy” birthday cake that was 100% whole wheat flour, with frosting of natural sweeteners, but that is another story!)  I ate none of that…
It is as if I am living in stoic rags, in a way.  We have no way to wash clothes, and will have to visit a laundromat soon, although we have so much going on that will be difficult.  But as I washed dishes today, in a plastic tub on a card table in the yard with a hose for rinsing, I found I actually enjoyed it.  The birds all about, the sound of the falling water from our little fountain- who cares that someone ran into the side of my wife’s car yesterday, smashing in the side- there were no injuries.  
My father is gone.  But, he lived for almost 97 years- what can be sad about that, really?  He has left me as the patriarch of the family- the oldest male of my line, since his brother passed away one week before my father, at 98!  Both died peacefully at home- is this really something to tear out one’s hair over?  No- it is a happy event, actually- a NATURAL EVENT.
I am living now almost as a homeless person, with the exception that I do have a home, only without the means to prepare food!  I am wearing dirty clothes, and trying my best to eat healthy, making smoothies on my workbench in the garage, and grilling our foods on the charcoal grill.  In the ancient tradition, I thank Zeus daily for the refrigerator in that garage, along with the sunlight of Apollo!  
And I know, that when it is all done, over a month from now- I will really, really appreciate it!  And why will I, really?  Because of the deprivation!  We all need to consciously deprive ourselves of luxury, of what we have all assumed to be our right in this modern, quasi-decadent age, if only to remind us just how good we have it here in the land that Capitalism built, in the model envisioned by our genius Founding Fathers!

And with that said, I want to share a short story of an obituary I wrote about my father’s passing, along with the almost simultaneous death of his brother, my Uncle Ken.  Every word is true!

Phil Bowers, my dad, along with the father to six other brothers and a sister, passed away this morning, June 1, 2017.  
My mother, Carolyn, and my brother Roger were with him when he took his final breath, leaving this world while still in his sleep, as he had wished.  He was in his home of the past 57 years in La Grange Park, Illinois, where his children, their spouses and families, and their childhood friends all still came frequently to visit.  With eight kids they were used to a busy house and yard, and it continued throughout Phil’s entire life.
Roger and my mother were startled to hear the local marching band play outside, just after he passed.  This was so appropriate, as Phil was a lifelong musician!
Just last week I was home to help out, as all of my siblings have been throughout his recent decline.  He was slipping out of his chair, and so Roger and I lifted him up to carry him to his bed.  He slipped to the side, and all at once I was carrying him myself, like he had carried me when I was a baby.  He was so light!  I remarked after I laid him down that ‘he is like a bird now’.  
He was nimble and vital, right up until the last month or so, going upstairs to his bedroom each night, because ‘stairs are healthy’!  Phil enjoyed tennis throughout his life, which was second to him only in playing trombone and performing, which he had done steadily- starting back in the 1940’s in the big band days, hence his nickname Big Band Phil.  In fact, he used to walk around upstairs playing his trombone, walking into our bedrooms to the raucous rendition of some jazz tune or other, and then, cutting off playing, would shout out some chores we had to do that day, and then leave, picking up the tune where he left off.
But by these last few weeks, he could suddenly no longer walk at all.  He and my mother would spend the days just looking out the large picture windows in their living room to their wooded back yard, just watching the many birds and squirrels.  They always made special note of a red cardinal or striking bluejay visitor, since that was special.
This morning Roger texted us all, (Roger has been the major caretaker of my parents for months, and I believe is slated for sainthood), telling us that dad had passed away, peacefully.  
I went into the other room, and looked out the large window to our wooded back yard.  Right beyond the glass, looking back at me, was a beautiful bright bluejay.  It stayed there for quite some time, as of course did I.  Then, another bluejay came down, right next to the first- they both looked in at me.
One week ago, Phil’s big brother Ken passed away in Florida, also in his home- he was 98.  I believe that Ken had shown his little brother the way, and they had both left their broken old bodies behind.  They were making their earthly rounds, checking on all of us one more time.  
They had been bedridden, unable to walk, but now- THEY COULD FLY!