We remember stories. There's something about them that stay and resonate with us throughout our lives and over generations.
Narratives enable us to understand complex systems with many moving parts. They enable us to navigate complex situations, connect with one another and—through internalizing the morals they impart—improve ourselves. Like ancient Stoic maxims, stories help us memorize and habituate profound insights.
STOICA is designed to tap into the power of narratives and storytelling. It employs this narrative impact to help readers improve themselves and find empowerment.
Buried in the treasure trove of the world's folklore is the timeless wisdom of our forefathers. STOICA seeks these hidden gems and presents them to the philosophically-inclined, the open-minded and the inquisitive.
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STOICA was inspired by the Stoics of Greco-Roman antiquity.
They cultivated joy, self-betterment and discipline by fostering the Cardinal Virtues.
Prudence · Mindfulness
The ability to navigate complex situations in a logical, informed and calm manner.
Discretion · Restraint
The exercise of self-restraint and moderation in all aspects of life.
Kindness · Generosity
Treating others with fairness even when they have done wrong.
Fortitude · Strength
Not just in extraordinary circumstances, but facing daily challenges wth clarity and integrity.
From Socratic tradition.
There was once a man who, after hearing an unflattering rumour about a friend of Socrates', hurried to the philosopher to spread the gossip.
“Hey Socrates! You wouldn't believe what I've heard about your friend!” He said when he found Socrates.
“Wait a moment,” Socrates said to him. “Before you tell me what it is you want to say, let's put it to the Test of Three.”
“The Test of Three?” Repeated the man.
“That's right,” Socrates said. “Here's the first test: Is it true? Is what you wish to tell me about my friend something you've confirmed to be true? Or is it just hearsay that you are now spreading without proof?”
The man was a bit embarrassed and replied, “Oh, well, I haven't actually confirmed the story myself. I only just heard it in the marketplace.”
“I see,” said Socrates. “So you were about to tell me something that you weren't sure to be true. You were about to spread information that might be false, huh? Fine, let's see if what you have to say passes the next test: Is it good?
Again, the man blushed and slowly shook his head. “No, it's not. It's actually a bad thing that I heard,” the man explained.
“That's surprising,” said Socrates. “You hurried over to tell me something—about a friend of mine—that was bad but might not even be true. Well, let's see if you pass the third test: Is it useful?
The man lowered his gaze and said slowly, “no, I don't think so.”
“I see. Well, if what you want to tell me is not true, not good and not useful, I suggest you don't tell me at all.”
Beyond the unmistakable caution against slander and gossip—something the Stoic Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius clearly disapproved of in his private Meditations—this first story sets an example for the rest of the collection here on STOICA for a couple of reasons.
First, the ancient Stoics greatly admired the Athenian philosopher Socrates. So opening with a story that features the ancient sage is appropriate, as the Stoics drew much inspiration from the life and death of Socrates. The entire Stoic project may be said to be an emulation of Socrates' example and way of life.
Second, each of the stories in our collection has been put through the same Test of Three. Being folk stories, most of them naturally fall short under the first criterion and some struggle to pass the second. But perhaps most importantly, as far as Stoic philosophy is concerned, the stories collected here pass the third and final test—the test of usefulness.
Each STOICA story presents an invaluable lesson in Stoicism that's worth remembering and sharing. Each of these stories reveal a profound insight into the art of living a good life and should prove useful in anyone's project of self-betterment and search for Stoic joy.
From Native American folklore.
An old Cherokee told his grandson,
“My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth.”
The boy thought about it, and asked, “grandfather, which wolf wins?”
The old man quietly replied,
“The one you feed.”
People often liken the Buddhist idea of karma to a kind of divine intervention or retribution: Good deeds are rewarded, evil ones punished. But this is a misunderstanding. Karma is more like the story above. Who you are, your character, is shaped by everyday actions—including thoughts. Over time, the habits you reinforce will come to shape who you are.
2,000 years ago, the Stoics arrived at the same conclusion. For them, reciting maxims that promote wholesome living was central to their practice. Little by little, the Stoics cultivated good habits that, over time, built character and shaped a person. Like the Buddhists and the Cherokee grandfather, the Stoics advised feeding the Good in us all.
From Buddhist tradition.
There was once a pair of travelling monks—one senior and one junior. One day, the two monks met a young lady on the side of a small stream and saw that she was having trouble getting across.
Now, traditionally, monks and nuns weren't supposed to come in contact with members of the other sex. So the younger monk was shocked when the older monk offered to carry the lady across.
The monks and the lady successfully crossed the creek. The lady thanked the old monk and everyone continued on their respective journeys. This incident, however, troubled the junior monk for days.
“Sir, why did you touch the lady? You know we're not supposed to.” The younger monk, unable to contain himself after a week, finally asked his senior colleague accusingly.
“What?” The older monk was confused.
“The young lady by the river,” explained the young monk. “We monks are not allowed to touch women. Yet, you did!”
“Oh!” The old monk said when he finally remembered the incident. “I put her down by the river. Clearly, you're still carrying her!”
There's a story about a Roman Stoic named Cato the Younger who was once struck by a man. When the man later apologized, Cato acted as though he didn't even remember the incident. As author Ryan Holiday explains, Cato wasn't just practicing forgiveness, he was practicing a kind of forgetfulness—to better enjoy life in the present.
“Forgive and forget.” This notion of letting go is ubiquitous among ancient philosophical traditions from East to West. In the words of the Buddha, “holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting another person to die.” At the end of the day, not letting go ensures that you and you alone are hurt.
From Aesop's Fables.
In the old days, when men were allowed to have many wives, a middle-aged Man had one wife that was old and one that was young; each loved him very much, and desired to see him like herself. Now the Man's hair was turning grey, which the young Wife did not like, as it made him look too old for her husband. So every night she used to comb his hair and pick out the white ones. But the elder Wife saw her husband growing grey with great pleasure, for she did not like to be mistaken for his mother. So every morning she used to arrange his hair and pick out as many of the black ones as she could. The consequence was the Man soon found himself entirely bald.
Yield to all and you will soon have nothing to yield.
That was the original moral at the end of this Aesop's fable.
In Stoicism, fame—or the opinions of others—is regarded as something that one shouldn't be overly concerned with. And as Marcus Aurelius puts it, one should “learn to be indifferent to that which makes no difference.”
Humans are social creatures, as such, it's inevitable that we often concern ourselves with what others think, feel or say about us. This incessant concern with our fame, however, leads to much anxiety and little peace.
To quote Marcus Aurelius again, “we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinions than our own.”
From an English tombstone.
When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits. I dreamed of changing the world.
As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change.
So I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.
But it too seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me.
But alas, they would have none of it.
And now as I lay on my deathbed, I suddenly realize:
If I had only changed myself first.
Then, by example I would have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country.
And who knows, I may even have changed the world.
“Some things are in your control and others not.”
That Stoic observation opened Epictetus' Encheiridion.
Stoics stressed the importance of knowing the difference. It means that you won't waste your time and energy trying to change the behaviour of others—because it's not up to you anyway. It means that you'll focus on what's really in your control—your own conduct.
A very similar spirit is captured in the Christian Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Written by US theologian Reinhold Niebuhr
From Grimm's Fairy Tales.
There was once a fisherman who caught a magical talking fish that promised to grant wishes if the fisherman let it go.
Now, the fisherman was a simple fellow with a contented mind and few desires. He didn't have any wishes and decided to let the fish go free.
When the fisherman returned to his dilapidated little hut and recounted the story to his wife, she was furious.
“Go back to the sea and find that fish,” she demanded, “and ask for a new house, now!”
The fisherman yielded. He found the fish and relayed his wife's request.
“It is done,” the fish said and instructed the fisherman to return home.
When he got home, he found his wife sitting on the porch in front of a magnificent new house. Her mood, however, had hardly improved.
“Old fool,” she called out to him, “you found the magic fish that grants wishes and this is all you asked for? Go back to it and ask it to make us kings.”
Again, the fisherman obeyed, though a bit reluctant. He found the fish again and relayed his wife's new request.
“It is done,” the fish said and disappeared beneath the surface of the water.
When the fisherman got home, he was stunned by the awesome palace in the place of his old hut. He greeted his wife, now a king, only to find that she wanted more.
“There are many kings but there can only be one emperor,” she reasoned. “Go back to the magic fish and ask it to make me an emperor.”
Yet again, the fisherman had to look for the magic fish and, again, he reported his wife's wish.
It went on like this several more times. Each time, the fisherman would return home to a dissatisfied wife who wanted more. Soon, however, the fish was fed up.
“You will no longer receive anything,” it told the fisherman. “Go back to your little hut.”
The fisherman returned home for a final time. This time, he found his poor wife sitting miserably on the ground in front of the original dilapidated hut.
And there they live to this very day.
As the saying goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” It's what author William B. Irvine calls hedonic adaptation. We all experience this when we badly want something—be it money, cars, houses, careers or even companions—and how almost as soon as we acquire it we lose interest.
Instead of chasing after every next proverbial bone or rainbow, Stoics advise us to appreciate what we have. It's not that we shouldn't strive for better. It's just that we ought to be mindful of our goals while also committing to not take what we already have for granted.
From Taoist tradition.
One day, the wise sage Zhuangzi was fishing when a prince paid him a visit to offer him the illustrious position of “supreme chancellor” in his father's kingdom.
Zhuangzi quietly fished on and, without turning around, said:
“I heard that there is a most sacred tortoise, which has been dead for almost three thousand years. The king keeps this tortoise packed up in a beautifully crafted box on the altar in his ancestral shrine.”
“Now,” Zhuangzi continued, “do you think that tortoise would rather be dead and have its remains honoured like this or be alive and wagging its tail in the mud?”
The prince answered that, of course, it would rather be alive and wagging its tail in the mud.
To which Zhuangzi replied, “Well then, leave me! For I, too, prefer to remain here—free, unbound and independent—wagging my tail in the mud.”
To the Stoics, living a good life doesn't necessarily involve acquiring high office or great wealth and power. Oftentimes, being wealthy and powerful just means you are beset by a whole new set of problems. Freedom and independence means not being tethered to these things.
Rather than striving for mastery of external things, it is more important to master oneself in the quest for actual liberation. As Epictetus—a former slave—said, “no man is free who is not a master of himself.”
Once you've mastered yourself, it makes no difference whether you are wagging your tale in the mud like Zhuangzi's tortoise or fabulously wealthy like the Roman statesman and Stoic Seneca—for you will already be free and won't be so easily influenced and swayed by external circumstances, people and objects.
As author Stephen Batchelor explains, instead of external gain—the realm of having, focus on internal tranquility and happiness—the realm of being.
From Russian folklore.
Little Ivan was the youngest of three brothers. He was trusting, good-natured, easygoing and simple. His brothers were the brave Simon the Soldier and the shrewd Taras the Merchant. Because of his naivety and innocence, Ivan was also known as Ivan the Fool.
Simon the Soldier went off to war. He fought valiantly and rose through the ranks in the Czar's army. In time, he married a noblewoman and was granted an estate. Taras the Merchant was astute and this made him successful in business. In time, he married a wealthy merchant's daughter and lived a comfortable life.
Ivan stayed behind in his father's house and worked his father's lands. The father was a rich peasant and owned much property. One day, the two elder sons returned home and, due to various circumstances, pleaded their father for a share of his wealth.
“My property is managed to a fare-thee-well by the efforts of Ivan,” the father said. “I can't just give it all to you. You must ask for Ivan's blessings.”
When his brothers turned to him, Ivan had nothing but goodwill and divided up—with permission—his father's wealth into equal parts. He gladly shared it with his brothers.
As time passed, Simon's valiance became vanity and Taras's shrewdness gave way to greed. Simon began waging pointless, glory-seeking wars and lost badly. His estates were seized by the Czar and he escaped to his father's lands to seek refuge with Ivan. Taras's insatiable greed landed him in debt and cost him his business. He, too, escaped to his father's property and sought Ivan's assistance.
Ivan—without a thought—welcomed his brothers. He even personally built a new, bigger house for them all the live in. Ivan was happy to supported his brothers despite their shortcomings.
Now the Devil—who had a hand in Simon's and Taras's downfall—saw the merriness in this household and was displeased, so he cursed Ivan with ill health. But Ivan, by chance, discovered one of the Devil's henchmen and decided to punish the mischievous creature. The frightened little imp pleaded for its life and—in exchange for letting it go—offered Ivan an all-curing herb that cured Ivan's illness immediately.
The little henchman also mustered an army for Ivan and procured him much wealth. Ivan—recognizing his brothers' respective talents—put his brother Simon in charge of the army to help him win back the Czar's favour and entrusted the wealth to Taras who was able to start a new business.
One day, the Czar's dearly beloved daughter fell gravely ill. No matter what the royal doctors did, she would not recover. Desperate, the Czar offered to give his kingdom and the princess's hand in marriage to any man capable of curing her. This was when Ivan remembered the all-curing herb he'd obtained. He gave it to the princess, who rallied immediately. For this, Ivan was rewarded with the Czar's kingdom and marriage to the princess.
In the end, Ivan the Fool turned out to be no fool at all. He was simply good-natured, sincere and easygoing. And it was precisely this simple, generous and innocent approach to life that ultimately led Ivan to his good fortune and happy life.
We are used to the idea that caution, careful consideration and calculation are helpful traits—and oftentimes they very much are! We admire intelligent, successful and driven people—and there's nothing wrong with that. But just keep in mind that we are also very much prone to over-thinking things in an unhelpful manner. This very often leads to crippling anxiety, depression and a sense of fatalism.
As Seneca puts it, “we suffer more from our imagination than from reality.” Obviously, the Stoics don't advise mindless self-indulgence, either. It's up to each of us to find a healthy balance between the two extremes for ourselves. Sometimes—as in the example of Ivan in the story above—all we need to do is to just relax, flow and allow the things that are outside of our control to fall where they naturally do.
From Japanese folklore.
A long, long time ago, there once lived an old and humble bamboo cutter who made a living harvesting bamboo and selling the crafts his wife made from the material.
One day, the old bamboo cutter came upon a large log that glowed like moonlight in the grove. When he cut it open, he found inside it a beautiful miniature girl about three inches tall. The man and his wife were childless and decided to take the miniature girl home to be raised as their own daughter.
They called her Lady Kaguya. Over the next several months, the bamboo cutter discovered bamboo logs that, when chopped, overflowed with gold and treasure. Very soon, the bamboo cutter became very wealthy. He moved his family from the obscurity of the forest and into the city, which he felt was appropriate in light of their newfound riches.
The miniature girl quickly grew into a beautiful woman of normal size. In time, her beauty and fame spread. As people learned of her, suitors came to ask for her hand in marriage. Among the suitors were five princes from the imperial capital. But Lady Kaguya refused to marry and assigned impossible tasks to her suitors that turned them away.
Soon, as Lady Kaguya's fame grew still, even the emperor himself became interested. He requested her presence in court, but she refused. Undeterred, he decided to pay her a visit in person and soon fell madly in love with her. Alas, no matter how much he tried, she would not be his. Eventually, the emperor gave in and returned to his palace.
Around this time, Lady Kaguya began looking up at the sky each night. She would sigh deeply but would not tell her adopted parents what the source of her distress was. Finally, after relentless questioning, through tears, Lady Kaguya confessed that she was a fallen goddess from the moon and that her time among the mortals was coming to an end. Heaven's warriors were coming to fetch her back.
The bamboo cutter and his wife enlisted the assistance of the emperor, who deployed his armies to prevent Lady Kaguya's departure. When the heavenly warriors arrived, a fierce battle ensued but to no avail. Lady Kaguya was taken from her family in the mortal world. She would forget all the time she spent on earth and lose all her mortal connections.
Despite the unsurpassed beauty, fame and status, Lady Kaguya's time on earth—much to her lament—ultimately came to pass.
Memento mori. “Remember you will die.” These were the blunt words of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus.
Stoics frequently pondered on life's inescapables. It puts everything into a sobering perspective. As depicted in Medieval Danse Macabre illustrations, no matter your station in life, accomplishments, fame or wealth, we are all united in death. In the face of that which is certain, all our daily quarrels and frictions seem insignificant and pointless.
Stoicism advises us to regularly reflect on our mortality. It's not meant to be depressing. It's just that it's easy to give in to the illusion of immortality and wind up expending our limited time and energy on unimportant preoccupations.
In order to recognize truly worthwhile pursuits and to be able to really cherish and appreciate each fleeting moment in the present, one must first understand the truth about our human condition.
From Plato's Republic.
Imagine a cave…
Inside this cave were prisoners, who had been chained—since birth—with their backs to the cave's entrance. They couldn't see what was behind them. They knew nothing of the outside world and they had never seen anything except for the wall before them.
Behind these prisoners, there was a bonfire. Any creature or item that appeared between the prisoners and the fire cast a blurry shadow on the wall, which the prisoners saw. These shadows were all that the prisoners knew in their lives and they studied these with great care and enthusiasm—firm in the belief that these were the real objects themselves and not mere shadows.
As it happened, there was also a walkway that ran behind the prisoners—between them and the fire. Travellers and folks carrying objects, too, projected shadows on the wall. The prisoners passionately discussed and debated the true nature of what they saw—ignorant of the fact that these were mere shadows and that the light of truth lied behind them.
The prisoners lived their entire lives in the shadows, discussed and debated shadows, observed shadows, opined on shadows and believed in shadows. They knew nothing of the outside world—they couldn't even begin to imagine it. The world of shadows and ignorance defined their existence. It was all they'd ever known.
One day, one of the prisoners was freed…
Slowly, this mysteriously freed prisoner turned around for the first time in his life. He was overwhelmed by intense pain in his eyes and the accompanying horror as the unknown sight of the bonfire greeted him. He could not look straight into the light as his eyes could not adjust in time from the years of looking at nothing but shadows. He was gripped by incomprehension and fear.
Gradually, however, his eyes made the adjustment to the light. He was still fearful, but he was becoming curious. Illuminated by the fire, he began to explore the world beyond the shadows. The prisoner was in awe and wonder as he beheld the cave and it's glory in the light. Eventually, he could even look straight into the fire. As his eyes soaked in the sights around him, he noticed—off in the distance—a fainter light. It was the entrance of the cave.
The prisoner had never known anything but the wall, let alone the cave. He could not begin to imagine an “outside.” Driven by curiosity and his love for knowledge, he stood up and walked—clumsily, at first, but with determination. As he ambled towards the fainter light, it grew stronger and brighter until he had to shut his eyes. He pressed onwards.
Tears streamed down his cheeks. The stinging pain of the light did not bother him. An intense shiver overtook his entire being. His heart sank but it was not heavy. There were butterflies in his stomach as the prisoner beheld the rolling green meadows and the magnificent blue sky. A warm and indescribable joy washed over him.
A radiant life-giving orb in the sky illuminated all. It was the source—the truth. The prisoner knew this despite being unable to look directly at it.
The world outside—the world of light and truth—was beautiful…
But empathy and compassion reminded the enlightened prisoner of his companions back in the cave, still bound by chains. He remembered the many years of fervent, passionate debating and the vicious, endless arguments over mere shadows. He bore no resentment towards his fellow prisoners—no condescension—only empathy and compassion.
He began making his way back into the darkness of the cave. Having become accustomed to light, his movement in the dark was once again clumsy. To all who saw him, he appeared as if he'd lost his mind.
When he at last sat amongst his fellow prisoners, he began to regale them with the stories of all he had seen—of the fire and the shadows it projected; of the cave and the world beyond it; of rolling meadows, the blue sky and the magnificent sun. He was mad and they were all sure of it. They rejected him vehemently and saw him as a threat.
The prisoners grew more and more intolerant—even violent. Like a mad stampeding herd, they irrationally reached out and crushed anyone who challenged their shadowy worldview. Order was restored in the cave.
Inspired by the life and death of his mentor Socrates, Plato wrote this allegory in his Republic—a Socratic dialogue on justice.
The Allegory of the Cave explored the impact and importance of education—specifically, what has today come to be called “liberal education”—on human nature.
Unlike “professional” education, which cultivated skills that a pupil can sell, liberal education sought to liberate and enlighten the students' minds. It rigorously trained students to critically examine everything—including one's own psyche—and seek the light of truth with honesty and humility.
Liberal education encouraged students to cultivate a sense of wonder and a “love of knowledge and wisdom”—what the ancient Greeks called Philo-Sophia, the origin of our word philosophy.
The purpose of education—as far as old-school liberal education is concerned—was never about helping students find jobs. It promised a prize of far greater value: liberty.
Education wasn't just a framed diploma from a university, nor was it merely a set of facts or doctrines that one memorized, abode by or believed in. It was a critical, careful and humble way of seeing and thinking.
This involved the Socratic method of hypothesis elimination, first applied by Socrates over 2,400 years ago to moral and ethical questions. Today, it is the foundation of modern science and research in all fields of knowledge.
“Only the educated are free,” the Stoic philosopher Epictetus once said. Many celebrated historical figures—like the self-taught Benjamin Franklin, President Lincoln and Confucius—keenly understood and appreciated this.
From the Holy Bible.
When asked what it meant to be a good neighbour, Jesus replied by telling the following parable (recorded in Luke 10:30–36):
“A certain (likely Jewish) man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell amongst robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell amongst the robbers?”
It is important to note that Jesus and his primary audience were Jews, and so was the injured man in the parable likely to have been. This was remarkable as Jews and Samaritans were historically very bitter rivals.
Jesus had taught his small and growing community of followers that the path to heaven laid, among other virtues, in loving one's neighbours. Remarkably, his choice of an example of good neighbourly conduct centered around a Samaritan—a member of a rival ethnic group. This highlighted Jesus' teaching of compassion and how it discriminated not between those of different and diverse backgrounds.
With open arms, Jesus Christ extended loving-kindness to all. These 2,000-year-old teachings of Christ—teachings on compassion—still resonate profoundly today and are very relevant in the modern world.
Although racial differences have already been scientifically and incontrovertibly proven to be merely superficial, the shallow fallacies that begot Nazism and the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust in the 20th century remain alluring to far too many in the 21st century across Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Just as during the Holocaust, evil doesn't require your direct involvement to happen. A turning of the blind eye can be just as—if not more—harmful to the helpless and to those in desperate need of your protection.
Never judge a book by its cover. That's the only justice when facing racial, ethnic and cultural differences. As the Stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius noted, we are all citizens of one notional city and have civic duties to safeguard and respect each of our fellow world citizens.
In the eyes of our divine Creator, we are all His children and therefore brothers and sisters.
To those who understand evolution, the conclusion is no different.
From Punjabi folklore.
There once was a Hindustani scent-seller who had a beautiful daughter Dorani. Dorani and her friend—a fairy—possessed unrivalled singing voices and were skilled dancers. They were highly favoured by Indra, the king of the fairies, and the two were permitted to secretly travel to his court on a magic flying stool during the night whilst the mortal world slept.
It happened that the beauty of Dorani caught the eye of a mortal prince who expressed his wish to marry Dorani to his father the king. The king's men tracked down Dorani and relayed the prince's wish. Dorani complied, but on the condition that while she would stay in her new husband's palace during the day, at night, she would return to her father's house. The prince agreed to this condition, firm in the belief that they'd be able to spend the daytime hours together.
When Dorani and the prince were married, much to the prince's chagrin, she paid him no heed and sat alone in her room all day. As soon as the sun set in the west, Dorani would hastily leave the palace and return home. This happened each evening and the prince could do nothing.
One day, the prince was much distressed about the situation he found himself in while walking in the royal garden when the gardener inquired about the source of his visible unhappiness. When the gardener heard the prince's plight, he offered the prince packets of magic dust that would turn the prince invisible.
That night, the prince used the magic powder and followed his wife home. Together with Dorani's fairy friend, the prince—clinging to the back of the magic stool—travelled unseen with his wife to the fairy realm of Indra.
The next day, the prince confessed to Dorani that he had followed her the previous night.
To which she asked “my lord, why did you follow me?”
“Because I love you.”
“If you truly love me,” Dorani said bravely after a long pause, “prove it by not following me tonight.”
Remarkably, the prince obliged.
Instead of treating her like a caged pet or a mere possession—as any other folkloric prince might—this one respected Dorani's humanity, her privacy and her freedom to choose and make her own decisions.
Eventually, Dorani lost her ability to enter the fairy kingdom when Indra found out that her husband had learned of their existence. But it mattered not, for Dorani was touched by the trust, respect and patience that her loving husband demonstrated—and she soon came to feel a sincere love and appreciation for him.
In 2015, the Canadian Prime Minister staffed his cabinet with an equal number of female and male ministers. When asked why he had done so, he simply replied, “because it's 2015.”
Two millennia ago, the ancient Stoics of Greece and Rome were deeply conservative and paternalistic in their outlook. They were not feminists by any measure, at least not in the modern sense. However, their love of justice and logic meant that they keenly understood—as early as 2,000 years ago—that women deserved to receive quality education and be treated with the same level of respect that men were accustomed to.
Whether it's to be a top-earning CEO or a full-time homemaker, women—like Dorani in the story—deserve to be respected for their own choices.
Roman Stoics like Musonius Rufus noted that women possessed the same intellectual and rational faculties as men did. Women, like men, are essentially creatures capable of reason.
Justice is one of Stoicism's four cardinal virtues, it follows naturally and logically that—as the two sexes are intellectual equals—they deserve the same respect and freedom.
Women are too often victims of oppression or socially constructed limitations. This is immoral, unjust and—frankly—stupid. Never judge a book by its cover. Sexial differences are physical, not intellectual. Women are not innocent saints, conniving sirens, inferiors or superiors, just fellow human individuals.
They deserve to be treated as such.