During my emotionally troubled past in a conflictual existence and through a series of intense ideology soaked cultural projects, I got lost in the violence of some of my thoughts and convictions, a violence that regularly turned into physical roughness. I was able to break some destructive habits some fifteen years ago by getting deep into Poker, into the practice of photography and, at the same time, into my scary self.
It is common to describe Poker as the most violent game you can play while sitting on a chair and excelling at this potentially soul crushing game requires to dig deep into oneself in order to beat the enemy inside. To me, there has always been something philosophical about the game. The Stoics used the expression ‘Memento Mori’ to invigorate and celebrate life by creating priority, meaning and by treating each day as a gift, constantly reminding themselves not to waste any time, our most precious commodity. Four cardinal virtues articulate this ancient Greco-Roman philosophy as prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance or, in simpler terms, wisdom, morality, courage, and moderation.
Unlike in popular belief, being a stoic means much less to discard emotions than to control them with strong principles like taking action, focusing on what you can control, being virtuous, leading by example while taming your ego, stop considering that you are entitled to anything but rather exercising your will and practicing resilience when facing failure or tragedy.
As a consequence, stoicism illustrates quite simply that virtue alone is sufficient for happiness and that any other commodity can be regarded with indifference.
It’s sometimes difficult to explain to the loved ones around me why I refuse to have a home of my own or why I chose to own nothing else than what fits in my 20kg luggage. I like to think that, in today’s world, being white, male and being unjustly born in the Western world in peaceful times, is already having everything. I studied stoicism a lot while attempting to get better at Poker during the pandemic lockdowns. I got a lot fitter at the game but I still failed miserably in other aspects of my life, leaving me with enormous inner worksites to deal with.
Last night, I came across this guy at the Poker table in Bratislava. A calm sweet soul and Poker crusher bearing tattoos representing stoic virtues on one of his hands. I am a lot into meaningful tattoos so we talked and I ended up asking him kindly whether if I was allowed to take pictures of them.
I lost last night but I got a bit better.
Thank you, Vojtech.
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