When viewed through the lens of philosophy, music has a lot to say. Whether it’s rock, hip hop or country, the listener takes their own meaning from the song, rhythm and beat. For me, there are songs that resonate with Stoicism and help to put me in the Stoic mindset.
Here’s a list of tracks that can help you to Stoic it up and bear in mind that this list is entirely subjective. Each of the songs has a personal connection to me and you may find there are other tunes that best describe your own philosophy.
Skillet – Standing In The Storm
Resistance makes me stronger, so make me stronger
I’m standing in the storm like never before
The pressure builds around me
Let the winds surround me
Whatever comes, I’m not givin’ up
Fearless as lion, not afraid of dying
One of the appeals of Stoicism is the resilience and endurance it teaches for practitioners. That’s not to say the philosophy should be confused with ‘little s’ stoicism, which is an unhealthy state of not sharing emotions. Stoics do feel their emotions and they can express them. The difference is they are good at not being overwhelmed and learning how to regulate emotion.
Standing In The Storm by Skillet is a great example of a resilience building song. The lyrics and music combine for an uplifting anthem to remind the listener of staying tough in the chaos.
Fozzy – Broken Soul
Standing in the shadow
Behind a wall
Made of fear
Cracking the foundations
Dissolve the glue
With my tears
Now I’m standing at the crossroads
And I know which way to go
But I’m not strong enough to get there on my own
I’m at an end
Trying to mend
This broken soul
Give me one more chance
For me to show
How much I need you to heal my broken soul
For Stoics like Seneca, philosophy was seen as a kind of psychic medication, a way to cure the ‘sores of the soul.’ Practitioners of Stoicism can view themselves as patients who are constantly working to heal themselves and each other.
Fozzy’s Broken Soul reminds me of this attitude and highlights themes of fear and uncertainty. A broken soul can be healed by practising philosophy regularly.
Breaking Benjamin – Far Away
Hope start the heart
Last beat and lie
Cold walk the earth
Love faded white
Gave up the war
All will become
All will arise
Stay with me
I hear them call the tide
Take me in
I see the last divide
I leave this soul behind
And I am paralysed
When the broken fall alive
Let the light take me too
The purpose of philosophy is to continually strive towards being better. The pleasure comes from the pursuit, not from reaching a certain level and in Stoicism this is represented by the idea of the Stoic sage. This was a figure who’d achieved perfect enlightenment and the Stoic sage is an ideal to reach towards even though it’s a state that may never be attained.
Embarking on a journey of philosophy isn’t easy and the band Breaking Benjamin is wonderful at representing struggle, change and growth. Far Away is an amalgamation of earlier songs that have been blended together to create something new.
I like the idea of comparing this musical approach to the way that people can cherry-pick bits of wisdom from different perspectives and create their own philosophy of life.
Kaleo – I Want More
Feels like the weight has been lifted away
But if she leaves me there I won’t run
Please pass it on
Carry me down
All you need to know is I want more
Looking for more
I want more, more
I want more
Wanting more in life is a natural human urge. It’s wanting more money, more property, more love, more relationships, more everything. The Stoics were critical of mindless consumerism and that all the wealth in the world couldn’t compare to being a good person at heart.
I Want More by Kaleo provides good commentary on how to want the important things in life. It’s about acquiring a great character, meaningful relationships and being satisfied with what you have.
Alterbridge – Metalingus
I’ve been defeated and brought down
Dropped to my knees when hope ran out
The time has come to change my ways
On this day I see clearly everything has come to life
A bitter place and a broken dream
And we’ll leave it all, leave it all behind
I’ll never long for what might have been
And now regret won’t waste my life again
I won’t look back
I’ll fight to remain
Everyone has their own way into philosophy. I had my lightbulb moment during the COVID-19 pandemic and found myself constantly anxious and depressed. I discovered Stoicism through listening to Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic podcast and that opened my mind and helped me reassess what I wanted in life. Stoicism gave me the ability to see clearly.
Metalingus by Alterbridge is the perfect song for describing this clarity. It also happens to be the theme song of WWE wrestler Edge, who helped to spark a lifelong love and connection to the wrestling industry in me.
Spiritbox – Silk In The Strings
You wrap me up like silk in the strings that pluck me to feed
I escape, but I carry you with me
Harvest and bring a yield sickening
A mistake, but I carry you with me
Cut Byzantine, so brilliant
Fade ’cause it’s all temporary
Silk in the strings that pluck me to feed
Escape, I carry you with me
Looking back on the lives of the ancient Stoics is useful for understanding the principles of Stoicism. Seneca identified with Stoicism and much has been said of how he didn’t always practice what he preached under the reign of Nero.
Silk In The Strings by Spiritbox is a Senecan song and makes me think of the relationship between Seneca and Nero. Seneca was ensnared by Nero’s family, getting rich and wealthy as a political advisor.
Yet Seneca came to regret this life and wrote extensively on the evils of wealth and extravagance. Ultimately, he was forced to commit sucide and the work he left behind has continued to inspire and fascinate generations.
Eminem – Not Afraid
You can try and read my lyrics off of this paper before I lay ’em
But you won’t take the sting out these words before I say ’em
‘Cause ain’t no way I’m a let you stop me from causing mayhem
When I say I’m a do somethin’ I do it
I don’t give a damn what you think
I’m doin’ this for me, so fuck the world, feed it beans
It’s gassed up, if it thinks it’s stoppin’ me
I’mma be what I set out to be, without a doubt undoubtedly
And all those who look down on me, I’m tearing down your balcony
No if, ands or buts, don’t try to ask him why or how can he
If I had to name my favourite musician of all time, it’s Eminem and Not Afraid is a phenomenal Stoic track. It’s a song for celebrating self-belief and enduring a life of hard knocks.
Florida Georgia Line – Life Rolls On
People come, people go
Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t
Either way the wind blows
You gotta love it
Ain’t gotta do it by yourself
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Even when it hurts like hell, gotta love it
As long as my heart’s beating
And these old lungs keep breathing
The highs and the lows, yes and the nos
Only gonna make you strong
Life Rolls On by Florida Georgia Line contains a wealth of Stoic themes:
- There’s emphasis on focusing only on what you can control and not on what you can’t.
- The ancient Stoics believed in the idea of eternal recurrence, meaning that everything that has happened once is sure to happen again.
- The song celebrates a love of fate and that you should accept life for what it is as neither good nor bad. This is amor fati.