Interview With Henry Manampiring – Author of Filosofi Teras

Henry Manampiring is the author of Filosofi Teras (Philosophy from the Porch) and through his book has played a huge role in introducing Stoicism to his home country of Indonesia.

He found Stoicism to be effective in combatting depression and now shares the principles of the philosophy to help others in similar situations.

It was great to be able to interview Henry recently. His answers, which you can find below, discuss how he was introduced to Stoicism and what benefits he has gained practicing the philosophy.

You can find Henry online here (note: mostly non-English content):

Can you explain a little about yourself and how you first discovered Stoicism?

My name is Henry Manampiring. I am the author of Filosofi Teras (Philosophy from the Porch), probably the first popular (non-academic) book on Stoicism written in Indonesian language. I am not a full-time writer as I still have my main job in advertising as strategic planner. I first discovered Stoicism in the middle of drug therapy for my depression, mid 2017. Perhaps the Universe pointed it out to me – it was then I saw Massimo Pigliucci’s How To Be A Stoic at the book store. I had no knowledge of the subject whatsoever prior to reading it. It was down the rabbit hole since then. I was intrigued, and further learned and read both contemporary and original texts on Stoicism. I could say it helped me heal from my depression tremendously (and remarkably quickly as noted by my psychiatrist).

How has Stoicism changed/benefited you since first discovering it?

I had been a very worrisome person (not sure if ‘neurotic’ can aptly apply) before. I also had terrible case of road rage, easily exploding on the road or in the middle of traffic jam. I had also been deeply vengeful person, I can hold grudges towards people around me for a long time. Not really a pleasant personality, for sure!Obviously I am no sage today, but I could say lot of progress has happened since learning and practicing Stoicism. I no longer get bothered on the road. I still feel some anxiety here and there, but nothing overwhelming, or with time and internal dialogue, I can calm myself a little. I am no longer vengeful, quicker to forgive and forget.And now with the pandemic, it helps me a lot in accepting the uncertain end of it all. It’s not under my control, isn’t it.

Your book Filosofi Teras has given more Indonesians access to Stoicism, why do you think the philosophy resonates with people worldwide (regardless of background or location)?

The fact that Stoicism travels across distance (it is welcome by Indonesian readers thousands of miles from the philosphy’s origin) and time (more than 2000 years and still relevant) paints a hard truth for me: at the very core, we are all not that different. Here I am in hot tropical Indonesia or you in cold UK and we both find Stoicism relevant means that at the very core, you and I are not much different. We all suffer from the same wrong impressions, attachment to indifferents, failing to pursue virtues – everything the ancient Stoics had rightly diagnosed and prescribed the cure for. That Stoicism withstood the test of time also tells us that mankind hardly changed – at least for the last 2.000 years. Despite all the AI, smartphones, Mars landing – we are still the same people who suffer from anxiety, worry, lust, jealousy – a rudderless boat in the sea of externals.

Do you plan to write more books or other content based on Stoicism?

Because Filosofi Teras is a bit thick, more than 340 pages, some readers asked whether I could create a smaller handbook (Enchiridion!) that they can carry in their bag as everyday reminder. I am still thinking about it. Wouldn’t it be easier to just translate Enchiridion into Indonesian? Hahaha….

How do you maintain a Stoic mindset? (Do you do daily Stoic practices/exercises?)

Premeditatio malorum is easy for a long time negative thinker like me, hahaha. The difference is obviously to contemplate potential evils of the day without succumbing emotionally.Constantly reminding me of Dichotomy of Control is essential to maintain my daily sanity. As I work in creative service industry, we deal with rejection every other hour. To quickly recover from rejection and accepting what is not under my control is a healthy practice. A continuous mindfulness of our impression (Discipline of Assent). I guess this will take a lifetime to master. I found Mindfulness meditation actually helps a lot, outside the meditation time. It makes you more ‘mindful’ when you start to form automatic impression that has nothing to do with objective reality. For example, if I feel hurt by my partner deed, I can relatively quick to separate between what she did/said, and my own value judgment (e.g. ‘she did not respect me’ or ‘she insulted me’). Practicing Mindfulness meditation helps you spot that crooked impression quicker so you can stop giving it assent. I truly recommend Mindfulness meditation to all Stoic practitioners. Lastly, using the cardinal Virtues can help you navigating decisions and life’s turns. Example, if I feel so sluggish and lazy to work, I would try to reprimand myself that the virtue of Justice means you can’t just work when you ‘feel like it’. There is obligation and responsibility to honor, despite what you ‘feel’. Ditto with Temperance, Courage, and Wisdom.

Who are your favourite ancient and modern Stoics? Which books/work of theirs would you recommend?

Sometimes I feel as minority in these times when Marcus Aurelius is the “rock star”, hahaha. I always dig Epictetus. I always imagine him as that grumpy uncle in family gatherings who quickly makes ears red but deep down inside you know he is right. I truly enjoy Discourses. Next is Seneca. His eloquence has no match, and the letters are a joy to read and re-read. ‘On Anger’ and ‘On the Shortness of Life’ have been life changing to me personally. For modern writing, The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farmsworth is a delight, especially since it also includes quotes from non typical Stoic writers. While this may not be a book on philosophy, I STRONGLY recommend everyone to read A Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis. Although this book is about Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy that he founded (which led to what we know now as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), since Ellis attributed greatly to Epictetus, readers can take this book as modern practical applications of Stoic principles. 

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, Henry. A slightly open-ended question to finish off – in terms of what the philosophy means to you, what is Stoicism?

A liberating philosophy that at the same time holds you accountable.For anyone who has been feeling like they are imprisoned by their emotions, or feel helpless in life in general, learning Stoicism will set you free. Because your eyes will be opened that none of the external world can command or harm your inner reason. And with it, your emotions, provided you train you reason right. This should be extremely liberating to many people. But as Uncle Ben said, with great power comes great responsibility. While Reason is powerful, it demands hardwork. It demands you guard your value judgment, your reason all the time. It demands you to live according to Nature, which means trying to live your virtues on daily basis.And this is why it is superior to much of today’s Self-Help teachings. While the philosophy’s promise is great, you got to put in the work. This is no quick fix.