I just watched The Lucky One. Yes, Zac Efron’s all grown up sporting dog-tags, tattoos and huge biceps (see picture – and just look at all that silent suffering written on his face. The epitome of tortured stoic guy!), but it’s not a bad movie considering it’s a Nicholas Sparks adaptation (I loved the Notebook. The others? Not so much). Besides, I’m a huge sucker for any movie involving soldiers and dogs, which The Lucky One does. Efron aside, the film got me thinking about characters and the one trait I tend to admire above all others in people, fictional and real:
Stoic pertains to the school of philosophy founded by Zeno (ancient Greek philosopher), who taught that people should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submit without complaint to unavoidable necessity. That’s the dictionary definition at least. I think what Zeno, in all his ancient wisdom, failed to realise is that those who are truly stoic aren’t devoid of emotion, they feel it in spades, but manage to keep themselves in control for the greater good. That’s my understanding of what ‘stoic’ means.
I follow a great blog called The Bookshelf Muse that runs a character trait dictionary of sorts. ‘Stoic’ is sadly missing so I thought I’d add my own 2 cents on this topic.
Since we’ve got the definition down, let’s talk about memorable characters from lit and film. Well, Logan Thibault (Efron’s character from The Lucky One) would certainly qualify, Nanashi from Sword of the Stranger (anime), and a real-life guy Sergeant Brad Colbert, immortalized by Evan Wright and HBO in Generation Kill. Women can be stoic too but I can’t think of any and Google apparently can’t either. Can you name any stoic characters?
Stoics are, by their very definition, courageous to a fault, self-less and willing to do whatever a situation demands of them without thought or concern for their own suffering. They are admirable and honourable, often with iron-strength integrity. If you’re in a life threatening fix, they’re the ones you should shout for.
Stoics repress their emotions in order to deal with the terrible situations they’re often forced to face. This means they’re probably not the heart and soul of a party, may come off as cold or aloof and probably aren’t going to be the most charismatic, or remember your birthday unless they’re stoic and sensitive – which probably only happens in romance novels (see above mentioned movie).
Why I Value the Stoic Trait:
Of the 7 billion people on this planet, only a pretty small percentage doesn’t have to struggle daily to survive. First World life seems to have robbed us of something primal and vital by making our lives so easy. The Internet meme ‘First World Problems‘ illustrates my point. Life is a struggle on many levels, and facing those hardships builds character. Facing those problems with honour and integrity, without complaint, whining, whinging and bitching, is something I value very highly in the people around me. The ability to deal with whatever life throws at you and come out the other side for the better – that’s what I love about some of the people closest to me. It’s that trait, that ability to get knocked down, roll with it, endure, survive and emerge without complaint that I try to incorporate into my characters, soldiers or not.
Here’s some more Zac Efron eye-candy… dog-tags, biceps, tattoos and pooches…and cute kids with curly hair – that movie’s made to torture people like me…
What’s your take on being stoic? What trait do you value most?