Three Thoughts. . .
How does one live well? It’s a question that our fellow human beings have been pondering for centuries. Out of that simple question, many philosophies and religions have been born. But no philosophy does a better job of explaining the ideas for living well in a practical way than Stoicism. The Emperor-Philosopher Marcus Aurelius, once the most powerful man on earth, was also a practitioner of Stoicism. Marcus wrote a collection of thoughts, ideas, and rules for life in what was later published as Meditation.
Aim for pure judgment of events – Let’s say you lose your job. What’s worse? The actual event of losing your job? Or you, worrying that you will never find a new job. Of course, it’s the last part—the worrying. When you make a judgment like that and give meaning to events, you’re not making a pure judgment. So remember to look at everything that happens to you for what it is. Did your partner cheat on you? Did you get ill? Did you lose money? Did people make fun of you? Stab you in the back? The events themselves can’t hurt you if you don’t let them. Hence, aim for pure judgments of events.
Only desire what’s inside your control – In his Meditations, Marcus continuously repeats to himself that most things in life are outside of his control. He realized that life is unpredictable. In 2000 years, nothing has changed about that. Instead of resenting it or desiring a different life; work with what you have. We all know this piece of advice – “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” so the overused platitude goes. Marcus takes it one step further. Instead of making the best of what happens to you, LOVE it. He knew that most of the things we desire are outside of our control. Look at what you desire. More money? A social media following? A better job? A new car? Or maybe that your partner will always love you? That you always keep your friends? He desired none of the above. He only desired what’s inside his control or what happened to him. He had faith in something bigger than him. What happened to him happened for a reason. Most things in life that happen are not up to you, my friend. And Marcus realized that like no one else. Only desire what’s inside your control.
Act according to the common good – Remove impulses from your life. Make your actions purposeful and never waste your energy on nonsense. Have a goal. This is what Marcus learned. To many, it sounds like too much control. “OMG. This is OCD.” That may be. If people want to waste their time on this earth let them. We are here for a reason: To make things better. And that’s why so many people are drawn to the writings of Marcus Aurelius and other Stoics. They wanted to make the world a better place.
I can’t think of a more noble goal than that. It is now up to us to keep this philosophy alive. And you can only do that by putting these 3 rules for life in practice.
Peace and Love, Jim