on Marc Larkin
Marc Larkin is a member from Australia, born at the very end of the sixties. In this interview, Marc shares about his family, his work, the place of Stoicism in his life, and provides his thoughts about the New Stoa community.
Hi Marc. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
My family goes back to the first years of white Australian colonisation on both my paternal and maternal sides. My maternal side is a line of strong and eccentric women including my Great Grandmother, who was a male impersonator on the vaudeville stage in the 1920s. These days my extended family forms a large and close clan covering much of New South Wales, but regularly gathering for milestone events in the lives of family members. I am an only child and my family is otherwise unremarkable (at least to others - I'm quite fond of them).
I completed high school and have undertaken various tertiary (undergraduate and post-graduate) studies in law, psychology, business informatics, theatre technology, philosophy and requirements engineering. I have also spent significant portions of my life with physical and mental health issues and have lived homeless and wealthy at different points in my life. These experiences form a key component of my understanding of people and have acted to build a well of empathy and understanding that supports generosity in my dealings with others.
My only immediate family is my partner, Jobson, a 35 year old Brazilian man who is ruled by passion and provides the Stoic in me with regular object lessons.
I am now a business systems analyst, which means that I help others to understand what they really need and then design systems that will deliver them those outcomes. I then communicate what is required to build/deliver these systems to the people and organisations that have the skills needed for the task.
Sounds like a applied maieutics! Could you provide a practical example of a system you would be working on?
I can work on any system, but most typically, I design either software solutions, or business processes. As examples, in the past I have designed the processes by which a help desk service would operate, including how the incidents that were reported would actually be resolved and how the service level agreements that would govern the entire process would be negotiated and maintained. I have also designed a software system for moving people and materials between locations to meet the logistic needs of the Australian military services and have designed the web-based systems that support Australian public servants in supporting and administering our goods and services taxation system. Currently, I am working for a major bank developing a system to make sure that the values that get served up to people actually are the information that they required.
Could you tell us when you first discovered Stoicism?
I discovered Stoicism in my early teens, when I was first researching the religion of the classical and ancient Greeks.
What were you searching for in the first place?
I was looking for a spiritual/religious path, having found that I had no questions that matched the Abrahamic religions' answers. I explored many alternative paths both contemporary and reconstructed.
How did you go along with Stoicism at the beginning? Was there a clear drive towards it from the beginning, or did you have to get accustomed to the ideas of this school?
I was attracted to Stoicism from the start, but believed I was looking for a religion, rather than a philosophy (at that time I failed to appreciate that the role that Abrahamic religions fill in their followers lives was more commonly filled by philosophy for the classical Greeks), so I focused more heavily on the surrounding religion of the Hellene's and moved on to Kemetic religion and neo-wicca for many years, before returning to Stoicism as both a spiritual and a philosophic path.
Do you consider yourself to be a Stoic?
Yes. I consider myself a practising Stoic; although, I do not feel bound by the surviving words of historic Stoics.
Are there any particular points of doctrine that you reject, and for what reasons?
No there are no particular points that I reject (at least nothing worth mentioning). Where I reject anything it is because the foundation in natural philosophy on which some points were based has been eroded by human learning and endeavour. I believe that the ancient writers and thinkers would have made the same choice in the light of new information as I have. What I was really getting at is that I think that Stoicism is an approach to thinking and living and that that approach may take me to places that were unconsidered in historic materials. I have no problem in extending my thought into these 'new'areas and find it no burden that I can't whip out some Epictetus, Seneca or other revered ancient to look up what to think on some issues. I am comfortable that my thinking takes me to the same end that theirs would have had they had the opportunities to consider the same issues.
What do you see as the future of Stoicism in the world?
I think that Stoicism will continue to be an acknowledged approach to living that provides a minority of people with a context within which to appreciate, understand and experience their lives. I think for a larger number it will continue as an unnamed framework that achieves the same outcome without their ever being aware of that how they see and deal with the world has a name.
Besides Jobson, do you happen to talk about concepts linked to Stoicism with people "in real life" ? Is it something you like to talk about, or is it something more personal to your own way of living, without interfering too much with other people's way?
I talk about Stoicism where it has something to directly offer to the conversation or situation at hand and where it helps others to understand the perspective I am coming from or the behaviours I evince. I also enrol in a continuing education course at the University of Sydney most semesters and have covered a variety of areas of philosophy. I discuss Stoic perspectives on different issues as they become relevant; although, not as much as I once would have, as it has been a long time since I read most of the primary texts and the academic format tends to suffer from a tunnel-visioned demand that one be able to cite chapter and verse if an idea is to have standing.
Stoicism grounds me and enables me to approach the world with a well-grounded equanimity and patience. It helps me to identify the things that matter and to focus on them in appropriate and productive ways and to recognise and experience joy in the world as it presents itself to me. Stoicism provides me with an intense spiritual connection to consciousness specifically and generally and informs my deeply-held appreciation of my relatedness to all other life.
Do you have any expectations regarding the New Stoa community?
I have few expectations of the New Stoa. To be honest, I expect to be significantly underwhelmed; not because there is anything wrong with the Stoa, but because it is the nature of such fora that we join with heady intentions of participation and active contribution, but that our delivery against same rarely meets our good intent.
I joined because I hoped to hear the opinions of other self-identified contemporary Stoics and I wanted to bolster the numbers of public Stoics to make it clearer to potential adherents that it is a living tradition. I hope to contribute in the form of posts and essays (particularly in the spiritual areas of Stoicism and in relation to determinism and the impacts of contemporary sciences on Stoic thought) and to obtain awareness of (and access to) similar offerings from other contemporary (and historic) Stoics.
What would you suggest to make the community more appealing to you?
The community would be most appealing to me if it included an SMF-style forum. Other than that it is comprehensive and relatively easy to get around. I think the forum would be good because it gives a feeling of active interaction and life, rather than of a static resource to be acted upon.
Well thanks for the thoughts, Marc. I'm sure everyone would love to read more from you in these columns in the future.