Month: March 2018

Stoic advice

Marcus Aurelius on, No Bullshit!


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“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

 

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

There is immense depth in this short quote from Marcus. When you read it, you get a feeling of truth, a truth you have always known. You understand it, not with words but with a foreboding, a presentiment. You know intuitively what a good man is or what “good” is.

Many times, we go through life, not really doing anything and as we wait to live, life

¹¼¹

passes by. 

Have you ever had that feeling?

Imagine yourself at the coffee shop. You have your black coffee right next to you, laptop opened and you are very ready to go to work, but the cellphone is next to you as well, You decide to check it just for a moment before actually working. Next thing you know, half an hour has gone by and you are checking some weird shit in the no man’s land of pinterest, how did you even got there!

Another type of distractor is thinking you are working or doing something productive. I know, I’ve been there. Has it ever happen to you that you are “researching” but an hour is gone and you are still reading an article on a topic that you could describe yourself but are too lazy to actually think?

We go through life, trying, to be good. Be good at work, be good at life, be good at music, be good at anything. “Trying to be good” is the problem.  What does it even mean to be good?

I know, Marcus probably meant to be good in the ethical sense, but I’m going to dare and use this quote to basically any area of our lives.

How, well, what does it mean to be good at something?

To do something right or to achieve a certain goal. When Marcus said to waste no more 47440_article_fulltime arguing how to be good, I think he meant: quit the bullshit and get on what we know we have to do.

Checking our phones while doing homework or doing work is not going to help us to achieve what we want, it’s just a distraction and we know it, but damn is it addictive isn’t it?

We say we want to do and be great things but we spent too much time arguing what being good is, instead of actually getting to do something. We tend to think that the top of the mountain is what we want, but we have to change that mindset into wanting the ascence.

We like to think of ourselves as being good at something but we don’t like the hard part Sysyphus.jpgabout it, the work, the struggle and that struggle is needed to actually get good at those things.

We say we don’t have time during the day. I’m just going to outline some persons to make this reading a bit awkward.

  • Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) Italian Renaissance painter, inventor, engineer, astronomer, anatomist, biologist, geologist, physicist, and architect.
  • Aristotle (384–322 BC), Greek philosopher, a student of Plato, and teacher of Alexander the Great. His fields of expertise include: physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, politics, ethics, biology, and zoology. He numbers among the greatest polymaths of all time.
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)  German Poet, Novelist, Playwright, scientist, philosopher, and Diplomat.

We worry a lot on “how we look doing something” this is also a terrible mistake as that is precisely what trying to be good is. You can read Learners and Non-learners for further explanation.

Ask yourself always, am I being productive or just active?

Remember:

Love of bustle is not industry

Seneca

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Reflections

Religious Experience


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Imagine yourself in the airplane or in the back of the seat of the car, after 5 hour of wallpaper.wiki-Rain-Window-Wallpaper-HD-PIC-WPD001215.jpgflight/drive, everyone has gone quiet and contemplative. You have you headphones on, the music you are listening to has become really, really deep, you start to understand it on another level.

The music, the trip you’re making make you start to wonder about life, your life and what you are doing, your family, your girlfriend, your friends. You become contemplative and quiet.

Everyone single one of us has gone through a similar experience. It can happen when you are contemplating beautiful scenery you have never seen before. This state is no joke, you feel it in your bones.

Contemplative, solemn. This moments are very precious to us for they are meaningful and posses a depth that  can be understood only personally. It can even be a sad moment, or a very happy one, but nevertheless we accept and enjoy it with our heart, for it makes the experience of life the more richer.

Why call it religious?

William James explains that a name (christian, buddhist) is irrelevant as any experience that makes a human being merge with existence and wonder of its paradoxes, can be considered a religious experience.

What does all of these has to do with stoicism? You may be thinking.

Later in his book:  The Varieties Of Religious Experience: A Study In Human Nature he describes the stoics as merely accepting reality and bearing it. To cite him:

It makes a tremendous emotional and practical difference to one whether one accept the universe in the drab discolored way of stoic resignation to necessity, or with the passionate happiness of Christian saints. The difference is as great as that between passivity and activity, as that between the defensive and the aggressive mood.

James, William. Varieties of Religious Experience, a Study in Human Nature (p. 44). Kindle Edition.

William talks of the stoics as if they lived and bear life because of necessity, here is another passage:

The anima mundi, to whose disposal of his own personal destiny the Stoic consents, is 21664-Palm-Trees-At-The-Beach.jpgthere to be respected and submitted to, but the Christian God is there to be loved; and the difference of emotional atmosphere is like that between an arctic climate and the tropics, though the outcome in the way of accepting actual conditions uncomplainingly may seem in abstract terms to be much the same.

James, William. Varieties of Religious Experience, a Study in Human Nature (p. 45). Kindle Edition.

This last passage finishes in this point of view and explains it finally:

Marcus Aurelius agrees TO the scheme—the German theologian (christian) agrees WITH it. He literally ABOUNDS in agreement, he runs out to embrace the divine decrees.

James, William. Varieties of Religious Experience, a Study in Human Nature (p. 46). Kindle Edition.

So, the main difference between these religious experiences is the excitement to live. He argues that the ancient christian felt ecstatic by life, and that the stoics merely agreed to it, because they felt existence to be a power to yield to and obey.

I would digress here in that the stoics claimed Amor Fati, love of everything that happens, but I do see that William has a point on the differences in exaltation between the christian and stoic writers. Could the stoics learn something about those ancient christian writer, I believe so.

Bought are right, we have to live according to nature, the how is what interests me. This is where the christian writers have something to say.

How can we harness that ancient ability of living as if a fire burned inside ourselves? How can we harness that unreasonable fanatic outrage of will? The power of will ceases to be a necessity in such states, the frenezi of the religious experience takes hold of the person and he acts from a higher state. But, what is that state, how can you achieve it if you are not even religious?

albert-camus-biblioteca_tonaThat is a good question, and also a question of which there is no answers for like I said in the beginning, the religious experience is deeply personal.

What helps? I guess wondering more about yourself and the universe. Practice Amor fati, but really practice it and try to understand it. It’s very easy to say it, it’s extremely difficult to practice it. Maybe you’ll one day discover yourself what Albert Camus said:

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
― Albert Camus

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I believe this is an open conversation, feel free to comment!

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