Aside: You may have noticed that the idea of joyfully accepting the world as it is doesn’t conform with the popular understanding of the Spock-like Stoic. I’ll talk more about the Stoics and emotion in another post but a constant theme throughout Stoic writing is that one should cultivate a cheerful disposition.
Note: There is more nuance to the Stoic view regarding the value of externals but I’m going to set that aside for now. It is enough to say here that, for the Stoics, externals have no ultimate value when it comes to determining the goodness of your life.
If you insist on pursuing externals "of necessity you must be envious, jealous, and suspicious of those who can take away those things and plot against those who have that which is valued by you. Of necessity a man must be altogether in a state of perturbation who wants any of these; and besides, he must find fault with the gods" (Meditations, Bk VI, 16).
If no thing external to my will has value, what the heck do I do with my life? Get a job? Meh, what’s the point? Money and a career can't make me happy. Besides, they could be taken away at any point.
Deadline for my dissertation coming up? Meh. Dissertations ultimately have no value, so no real point in doing that.
I should probably start preparing the lecture for tomorrow. Meh. The lecture has no objective value with respect to how my life goes.
Well, since I'm not going to work on my dissertation or tomorrow's lecture, I might as well go to the gym to stay healthy. Meh. No point. I could just get sick and lose my gainz despite all my hard work. Worse yet, my time of death is out of my control which means I could die in an hour. Why workout if I might die soon?
But this way of living, this grinning apathy, can't be right. And it isn't what the Stoics intended either.
It isn’t easy to combine and reconcile the two—the carefulness of a person devoted to externals and the dignity of one who’s detached—but it’s not impossible (Discourse II, vi, 9).
the star athlete’s concentration, together with his coolness, as if it were just another ball we were playing with too. To be sure, external things of whatever kind require skill in their use, but we must not grow attached to them; whatever they are, they should only serve for us to show how skilled we are in our handling of them (Discourse II, v, 21).
Life is indifferent, but the use we make of it is not indifferent. So when you hear that even life and the like are indifferent, don’t become apathetic; and by the same token, when you’re advised to care about them, don’t become superficial and conceive a passion for externals (Discourse II, vi, 1-2).