self-reliance

Modern problems, philosophy, Psychology, Self development

Two ways of living


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“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” 
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Living for today or living for tomorrow. Plain and simple. This is, at the core, a matter of courage, the courage to live and embrace life as it is or the lack of courage and hiding in a “better tomorrow” or “better times”. Bear with me.

Imagine a mighty mountain, a tall, white and insultingly big one staring right at you, daringly, from the distance, you can almost hear it saying: “Come and try if you dare”.

What is the goal of climbing a mountain? Getting to the top?

The top is where the glory is right?

No, no, no, no No! If you’ve ever climbed a mountain before and spent 12 gruesome hours in altitude, suffering through the cold cutting your face like little knives in the night and still keep going further even though the altitude is making you want to vomit just to get to the bloody top?

Hell no. Getting to the top is just a bonus, once you get there, you experience a blissful high and sense of achievement for about………. 20 minutes and then you have to get down, even more tired and suffer all the way back down, because you know, the summit is kinda like the middle of the trek. Then you get back on the car, open a beer and begin thinking how much you liked all that good suffering. Henry David Thoreau has a great quote for this feeling.

“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The reasoning here is that the goal was never the top, but the process. What happened inside of you as you got there. Your will to push, your will to bear, your decision to smile in front of all that tiredness, in front of your weary body, in front of adversity itself. The more adversity, the bigger your smile, the bigger the glory. Stoic Antifragility itself.

“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not only to endure what is necessary, still less to conceal it — all idealism is falseness in the face of necessity — , but to love it…” 
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Living for today or living for tomorrow. Back on it.

Living for tomorrow equals not living in the present. Equals living in expectancy of something to happen to start living at all. This is what’s fashionable in the 21st century. When I marry, I’ll be happy. When I afford my dream wedding then I’ll be happy. Once I finally buy that black BMW then I’ll be able to prove who I really am! When I know how to do this or that or have that job then my life will be so much better.

“They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” 
― Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

The mountain is just an allegory for everything else. It’s the Sisyphean myth.

When I get to the top, then I’ll be happy.

Now, if you follow this line of reasoning. Living for tomorrow means that getting to point a to point b is what will make you happy. So, if this is the case, then shouldn’t you do everything in your power to get to point B as fast and efficiently as possible.

If this is the case you should just take a damn helicopter and get to the summit. If that’s what’ll make you happy. But it won’t, and you very well know will not.

“They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” 
― Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

This will simply not do because you don’t really want “just getting to the top”. What you want is to be the badass who got at the top.

Being, stick this word into your head.

What you truly want is to be “the new wearer of clothes”, you don’t really want just the “clothes”.

Ironically.

You can do this right now. But it is painful, it is painful because just like with climbing the mountain you have to face all its adversities, and your own shortcoming, just so it is in life and anything you want. Pain and adversity give human life meaning. They make your challenges real, they are the price you have to pay for greatness. It’s not all pain and adversity, obviously, it depends on the lenses through which you look at them. Think about exercise, your legs hurt after you are done, but they hurt in a good way. This is what you want to achieve.

Living for the now.

When you think about living in the present moment, you might think: What about my goals, must I shun them away? Just concentrate deeply on what I’m doing at every moment?

No. When you climb a mountain, you have a goal, getting to the top, but that goal is just there to give you a sense of direction of where you want to go.

One thing is to set goals and then doing what is needed and another very different is to daydream about something being done. Life is now.

“First say to yourself what you would be;
and then do what you have to do.” 
― Epictetus

If you live for today, you live for what is now, you are not waiting for something to happen, you make things happen. You don’t fantasize about the time when something’s done, you are too busy being and doing whatever it is you want to do today.

Life itself becomes a Dance, a Journey.

Every moment of the trip or the dance is an end in itself. Every step you take, every pain you endure, everything becomes an end in itself. Everything welcomes you to live now and not tomorrow.

Life becomes a piece of art, a piece of music, a dance. The end of dancing is not getting somewhere, it is dancing.

Living in the moment and for the moment gives your life a new perspective, it takes meaning away from that uncertain future and gives it to the moment which is in your hands right now, under your control.

What are you going to do with it?

A great complement to this read: Stoicism and Power

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Stoic advice

Character, our inner citadel.


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What is character?

Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men tumblr_inline_os6onoarwr1uk9lm5_500and weak men create hard times. 

Character, as defined by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a reserved force that acts by presence, and without means.

There are many roads in life, the most difficult and worthy of them require a certain kind force and attitude, a spectacle of fortitude that only a few manage to comprehend and to embody.

This is character, the powerful attitude available to anyone but attained by the few.

To comprehend character we must comprehend first gravity and trees, yes, trees.

Gravity is a roman word that comes from the latin gravitas, the romans used it to describe a man with a strong personality. A man that similated an immovable force, like a strong, unshakable pillar. 

You can see it in the face of a man that is dead serious about something.

Character is a superb business quality as it gives assurance to a man’s purpose, a man of gravity will stand for what he believes in and fight for what he wants, character is synonym with self-assurance and confidence.

Emerson also compares character with self-sufficingness.

Winston_Churchill_fbSelf-reliance is a core characteristic of a stoic character. Let us not forget that character must be independant, it must stand alone.

This solid foundation that is character can be comprehended and explained with the inner citadel  concept in stoicism.

The Inner Citadel is a fortress around your innermost self, so that externals, meaning  all the things we cannot control, are powerless against our higher sense of will and reason.

The power to do this, to put things to the test of our will and become unmovable is what constitutes a man of character. It is a virtue that must be practiced at all times.

To illustrate this idea better, Aulus Gellius describes it just perfectly.

These representations of the soul, which the philosophers call phantasiai, by which a person’s spirit is momentarily moved, at the first glimpse of the thing which presents itself to the soul: they do not depend upon the will, and are not free. Rather, by means of some kind of force which is peculiar to them, they throw themselves upon people, in order to be known. Assents, by contrast, which are called sunkatatheseis, by means of which these representations are recognized and judged, are voluntary and take place through human freedom. This is why, when a terrifying sound is heard-whether it comes from the heavens or from the collapse of some building, or whether it announces some kind of danger, or anything else of that nature it is necessary that the soul of the sage, too, be also slightly moved and constricted and terrified; not because he judges that some form of evil is present, but because of the rapid and involuntary movements, which usurp the proper task of the mind and of reason. The sage, however, does not give his assent immediately to such representations which terrify his soul; he does not approve them, but brushes them aside and rejects them, and it seems to him that there is nothing to fear from such things. This is the difference between the sage and the foolish person: the foolish person thinks that things are as they appear to the first emotion of his soul-that is to say, atrocious and frightful, and the foolish person approves by his assent these first impressions, which appear to justify his fear. But the sage, although the color of his face was briefly and rapidly altered, does not give his assent, but maintains the force and solidity of the dogma which he has always had about such representations: that they are not at all to be feared, but they terrify people by means of a false appearance and an empty terror.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that if we are capable of fear, we will readily find terrors.727-architecture-interior-old-dirty

In ultimate instance, character is a decision. Is that final freedom of which Viktor Frankl writes in A man’s search for meaning. The inner freedom of choosing to face everything that happens with a stout heart. This inner freedom that is the ultimate power to choose how we are going to face life, with virtue and courage or with fear and cowardice.

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