The Archaic Smile

What is the archaic smile? Well, it's a strange but peaceful smile found on ancient statues. Sculptures from ancient Greece and Buddhist carvings from the many cultures depict figures with happy or blissful expressions - lips curved gently upward.

The ancients seem to figured out something that we have lost somewhere along the way.

Just look at the faces of commuters trying to get to work on a Monday - scowls, frowns, jaws set tightly, brows creased.

You see, most people in the world today have their share of anxiety or depression.

It's the human condition. We are hard-wired for survival. Our brains are always on the lookout for threats. Consequently, most of our thoughts and emotions are negative.

The oldest parts of our brains produce emotions to warn us, and the newest parts of our brains think verbalized thoughts about these feelings.

Then our thoughts provoke more negative emotions. And in return, those bad feelings cause even more bad thoughts.

It's an endless loop that drives some people insane. For most of us, though, it just makes us unhappy to one degree or another.

Furthermore, we humans have the distinct ability to look to the past with regret and to the future with worry.

To top it all off, we know our death is inevitable.

Geez.

It's kind of amazing that we can even function.

But it's been our lot for at least 50,000 years - probably much longer.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise the the people who lived 2500 years ago were exactly like us in many respects.

Same worries. Same fears. Same unhappiness.

But two separate schools of thought arose about that same time that focused on helping humanity reduce or eliminate the mental suffering we've inherited: Stoicism and Buddhism.

And the crazy thing is that modern science (physics, biology, psychology) has actually supported that teachings of both philosophies.

The Stoics and the Buddhists both had a profound understanding of the nature of the Human and mind - and also the nature of the Universe.

The Stoics of ancient Greece and Rome came up with a left-brain approach using reason to help calm emotions that make us miserable and cause us to harm ourselves and others.

The Buddhists use a right-brain, non-verbal approach to help us experience our true nature and banish suffering.

Both philosophies teach acceptance, gratitude, empathy and detachment.

Also, they both urge us to focus on the present and consider the vast abyss of time and space, the changeable nature of the Universe and our own mortality.

I started this blog to help myself and others blend these two approaches into a personal philosophy that can be used to lead beautiful, happy lives in our modern society.

I am dedicated to deeply exploring Stoicism, Buddhism and modern science to come up with a unified system that can be applied every day in every situation to reduce suffering.

I know it sounds rather grandiose. I'm really doing this as a personal journey. But if I can help at least one other person along the way, it will be more than worth it.

I'd love it if you would join me on this ride.

Thanks.

John Astrab

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