Most of us spend a lot of time reading, talking, and thinking about politics. While we can make an impact by voting and supporting our candidates and causes, we need to be aware of our limitations as well.
Consider: how does it benefit you to internalize stress about things you don’t control? To a Stoic, “indifference” means that none of the external things that happen to us are inherently good or bad, and so our task is to remain indifferent to external ups and downs (both fortune and misfortune). We should focus instead on our highest aim. For a classic Stoic, that highest aim is living a virtuous and moral life. Everything else is just noise.
At some point, it’s good to be indifferent — in this Stoic sense of “indifferent” — to politics. Otherwise, you’re paying a big price just to talk.
I’ve been running a business together with my family since 2010. In the first few years, my mother would get upset if my dad and I talked work at dinner. “Honestly? This can’t wait?!” She was right. We had no boundaries, and as a result, it caused frustration. My dad and I decided it wasn’t worth it.
Ten years later, we occasionally talk business during family dinners, but we mostly talk about things that are going on in our daily lives. We stay away from sensitive topics, not because we can’t handle it, but because we want to have dinner, be together, and enjoy our time. We simply value that more.
To live a good life, be more indifferent
Let’s be honest, everyone wants to live a good life. We just have different ways of achieving that goal. For the Stoics, it was important to be indifferent. Marcus Aurelius explained it best in Meditations:
“To live one’s life in the best way: the power to do this resides within our soul, if we are capable of being indifferent to indifferent things.”
That’s not to say Stoics believe in being indifferent to everything. That’s often a misconception people have when they learn about the philosophy. It’s not about being a nihilist and caring about nothing. No, the Stoics cared a lot about the moral good.