Henry Manampiring discovered Stoicism in the middle of a clinical depression episode. Through his reading and practice, Stoicism allowed Manampiring—to his doctor’s astonishment— to stop taking the prescribed medication and fully overcome depression. He now works as an independent consultant. He is also a well-known blogger, he has one of the most followed Twitter accounts in the Indonesian Twitterverse, and he is the author of several books, including his latest Filosofi Teras, which means “The Philosophy of the Porch” in Indonesian.
We reached out to Henry to learn more about the impact Stoicism has had on his life, the inspiration behind his new book, the work he is doing to spread Stoicism across his home country of Indonesia, and much more. Please enjoy our interview with Henry Manampiring!
First, could you tell the Daily Stoic community more about yourself, how you first discovered Stoicism, and why it had such a strong impact on you?
My name is Henry Manampiring, I live with my wife and son in Jakarta, Indonesia. I am a marketing communication consultant.
I first discovered Stoicism in 2017, in the middle of clinical depression episode. While still on medication, I stumbled across How To Be A Stoic by Mr. Pigliucci. I was hooked by the philosophy immediately, that I continued with Irving’s A Guide To The Good Life, and then Epictetus’, Seneca’s, and Aurelius’ writings.
Stoicism helped me recover from depression so fast, the doctor cut short medication much earlier than usually prescribed. He was very impressed with the progress. I (try to) remain a practitioner because it helps so much with strong negative emotions—at least help modulate them.
Your new book Filosofi Teras is described as “a layman’s introduction to Stoicism”—Can you tell us more about it and what motivated you to write it?
“Filosofi Teras” in Indonesian means “The Philosophy of The Porch”. I found average Indonesians find it hard to pronounce ‘Stoic’ (which has absolutely no association at all here, unlike English speakers). So for the title, I decided to use the meaning of ‘stoa poikile’ instead.
The book was designated as “philosophy-based self-improvement” book. It was not intended to be an academic work, something I am not interested in nor capable to make. It is more a testimony of a practitioner, with introduction to Stoicism basic precepts. Another consideration is approachability. If packaged as a ‘philosophy’ book, many people will be intimidated. But when it is called a self-improvement book “based” on philosophy, it sounds more interesting. I gotta use my marketing skill for my own book! 🙂
The motivation is primarily the absence of references on Stoicism in the Indonesian language. The majority of us do not command good English, nor use it on daily basis. I am one of the few who read English comfortably. Also, a Southeast Asian country naturally is distant from the ‘Classic’ philosophy (while we have our own schools), hence Stoicism discussion and literature is probably confined within seminary or universities. I wrote the book in the hope of breaking this wall, give more Indonesians access to Stoicism, but moreover, inspire other authors to write or publishers to translate more books on the subject.
Is there a particular Stoic idea or exercise that you’ve found readers relate to strongly and find most beneficial? Do you regularly practice any Stoic exercises to help you navigate your day-to-day?
Dichotomy of control is such a fundamental idea that people get it instantly, and it’s powerful for daily living. Many readers wrote back to me about their enlightenment on the futility of worrying about things not under their control. Also, the heat of social media as we near the presidential election can benefit from a little chilled attitude of the Stoics!
On practice. Every morning, I read The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday e-book on my way to work. And at night, I usually pick a writing on the subject. At any moment when I start detecting negative emotions creeping up, it is good to scrutinize assent–try to separate the fact from the impression.
Is there one Stoic or one Stoic text you’ve tended to find yourself more drawn to than the others?
I really enjoy Seneca’s essays. I find his very lucid and compelling. “On Anger”, “On The Shortness of Life”, “Consolation to Helvia” leave deep marks on my psyche. He sounds like a cool uncle to have!
How do you explain Stoicism to people in your life who are not familiar with the philosophy and are looking for a straightforward explanation?
It’s an OS for the soul. Think of your life like a smartphone. You have different “apps” – your job, your family, your hobby, your politics, etc. Without robust OS, no matter how good the app is, expect crashes, inter-app conflicts, and other problems. Stoicism is like that OS, always running in the background. Its benefit is, paradoxically, reclaiming control over your emotions by letting go control of events.
What do you find are the common misunderstandings around the philosophy and how do you address those in conversation?
That Stoicism advocates passivity and giving up endeavors to make things better (because external things are indifferent and not under our control anyway. So why bother.)
I usually refer to how Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Cicero as active politicians who were engaged in their lives, which is opposite of apathy (although you might argue Aurelius was thrusted into his role). Next, Stoicism never teaches us to let go of effort and ambition. We can plan and endeavor of course, but when it reaches the present time, we need to accept what happened and is happening with calm and fortitude. And if things go well, to maintain caution and humility.
Which aspect of Stoicism do you find the most difficult to practice? Or are there any concepts that you disagree with or reject?
The cylinder analogy to explain Stoic determinism and free will still gives me a headache! I hope I can figure it out soon, hahaha.
Do you have a favorite stoic quote?
“It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance” —Epictetus