“Sometimes, even to live is an act of courage” – Seneca
Several years ago I bought a book on the philosophy of Epictetus – the ancient Greek philosopher that lived in 55 A.D. I was profoundly effected by his words of wisdom, but only recently I discovered he was also the founder of Stocism.
Let me tell you, Stoicism is totally what I’m in to these days.
Remember that Stoicism isn’t about judging other people. It’s not a moral philosophy you’re supposed to project and enforce onto the world. No, it’s a personal philosophy that’s designed to direct your behavior. This is what Marcus Aurelius meant when he said: “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.”
Definition from Britannica: “Stoicism, a school of thought that flourished in Greek and Roman antiquity. It was one of the loftiest and most sublime philosophies in the record of Western civilization. In urging participation in human affairs, Stoics have always believed that the goal of all inquiry is to provide a mode of conduct characterized by tranquillity of mind and certainty of moral worth.”
“I don’t think your life has to have a purpose, or you have to have a grand ambition; I think it’s okay to just wander through life finding interesting things until you die. I think this goes for art too; you can just make the kind of art you find interesting and you don’t have to plan some great arc to your literary career.
I think the traditional (Western, white) narrative arc has tricked way too many people into thinking their lives have to have one grand epiphany, some flash of great meaning and deep insight, when in reality most people experience these things in much smaller ways throughout life.
I think this also leads a lot of people to miss the stuff that actually makes them happy, because it’s mostly the small stuff. They spend their entire lives looking for a lightning strike and miss out on everything else.” —twitter.com/ambernoelle#ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm
“A yogi in the cave or in the forest can attain enlightenment by renunciation and asceticism. However, only the wise knows how that soul will respond when faced with others and their karma. A householder can become enlightened by fulfilling to the best of his/her ability family obligations and by the performance of their own dharma. The householder has the greater advancement because that soul is always faced with other souls and their karma. In summary, the householder is tested daily and succeeds daily. The cave yogi is rarely tested, and thus is never quite sure where he stands in the battle of self-discipline.”-Goswami Kriyananda, “Thought for the Day”
“Nobody likes being wrong, we’re told. Least of all those individuals who suffer from pathological narcissism. They have to believe that they were right all along, even when it becomes obvious they are very much in the wrong.
Figures who live in the public eye, such as celebrities and politicians, if they become overly-incentivized by praise, risk turning this into a habit. As Aristotle once said, habits become our “second nature”. They solidify into character traits if we’re not careful.
So do we always have to be right? The ancient Greek philosophers — who loved paradoxes — said the opposite: maybe true wisdom requires the capacity to delight in being proven wrong. My favourite expression of this idea comes from Epicurus:
In a philosophical dispute, he gains most who is defeated, since he learns the most. — Epicurus, Vatican Sayings, 74
How crazy is that? Perhaps sometimes the person who gains the most is the one who loses the argument. The one who wins the argument gains nothing, except perhaps some praise — but what does that matter? The one who loses, though, gains knowledge, and perhaps gets a step closer to achieving wisdom. It wasn’t just Epicurus who had this paradoxical insight. The rival Stoic school of philosophers taught essentially the same thing. This article will focus on what one Stoic in particular, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, said about the benefits of being proven wrong. (For a more in-depth discussion of Marcus’ life and philosophy, see my book How to Think Like a Roman Emperor.)
The Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius looked up to one man above all others: his adoptive father, the preceding emperor, Antoninus Pius. In his private notes, which we call The Meditations, Marcus carefully lists the qualities he most admires in Antoninus, despite the fact that by this time he had been dead for over a decade.
We can think of this as Marcus’ attempt to study and emulate what today we would call the Emperor Antoninus’ leadership qualities. He tells himself to be, in every aspect of life, a student of Antoninus (Meditations, 6.30). It’s a fascinating analysis of the man’s character. However, for our purposes, I just want to draw attention to one of the things that Marcus says:
[Remember] how he would tolerate frank opposition to his views and was pleased if somebody could point to a better course of action. — Meditations, 6.30
Earlier in the book we find something related:
And most admirable too was his readiness to give way without jealousy to those who possessed some special ability, such as eloquence or a knowledge of law and custom and the like, and how he did his best to ensure that each of them gained the recognition that he deserved because of his eminence in his particular field. — Meditations, 1.16
In other words, although he was a hard-working and intelligent ruler, the Emperor Antoninus also had the wisdom to know when to listen to experts. Marcus admired this as an example of the man’s strength of character, self-awareness, and humility. If someone showed him he was wrong, rather than being offended, he was pleased. It didn’t hurt his pride or damage his ego, as we say today. Antoninus was a big enough man, and emotionally mature enough, not only to deal with criticism but to actively seek it out and welcome it as an opportunity for personal growth. That was one of the qualities which made him such an exceptional leader.
Marcus says that it was his Stoic mentor, Junius Rusticus, who first persuaded him that his own character required correction and even therapy. (Literally, he uses the Greek word therapeia.) He also tells us that he often became irritated or angry with Rusticus and was thankful that he never lost his temper with him over the years. Elsewhere, Marcus tells us that showing a man his moral faults is like telling him he has bad breath or body odour (Meditations, 5.28). People often don’t like hearing it and so there’s an art to communicating criticism effectively. It requires a delicate combination of honesty and tact. Rusticus was adept at this. Nevertheless, Marcus found that it required lifelong training to genuinely welcome plain speaking and criticism from others.
We enslave ourselves to external things and other people whenever we betray reason. True, absolute freedom would consist in doing what we know is right, regardless of the cost. Sometimes it takes courage to admit you’re wrong, and in that moment you’ve broken free. If you change your mind to please other people, sure enough, that’s a form of slavery. However, if it’s because you genuinely recognize that you were in error then the opposite is true — you’ve liberated yourself by admitting your mistake.
“Some people think they can find satisfaction in good food, fine clothes, lively music, and sexual pleasure. However, when they have all these things, they are not satisfied. They realize happiness is not simply having their material needs met. Thus, society has set up a system of rewards that go beyond material goods. These include titles, social recognition, status, and political power, all in a package called self-fulfillment. Attracted and goaded on by social pressure, people spend their short lives tiring body and mind to chase after these goals. Perhaps this gives them the feeling that they have achieved something in their lives, but in reality they have sacrificed a lot in life. They can no longer see, hear, act, feel, or think from their hearts. In the end, they’ve spent their lives following other people’s demands and never lived a life of their own. How different is this from the life of a slave or a prisoner?”
“Arriving in Egypt, Pythagoras tried to gain entry into the Mystery Schools of that country. He applied again and again, but he was told that unless he goes through a particular training of fasting and breathing, he cannot be allowed to enter the school. Pythagoras is reported to have said, ” I have come for knowledge, not any sort of discipline.”
But the school authorities said,” we cannot give you knowledge unless you are different. And really, we are not interested in knowledge at all, we are interested in actual experience. No knowledge is knowledge unless it is lived and experienced. So you will have to go on a 40 day fast, continuously breathing in a certain manner, with a certain awareness on certain points.” After 40 days of fasting and breathing, aware, attentive, he was allowed to enter the school at Diospolis.
It is said that Pythagoras said, ”You are not allowing Pythagoras in. I am a different man, I am reborn. You were right and I was wrong, because then my whole standpoint was intellectual. Through this purification, my center of being has changed. Before this training I could only understand through the intellect, through the head. Now I can feel. Now truth is not a concept to me, but a life.”
“According to Vedanta, there are only two symptoms of enlightenment, just two indications that a transformation is taking place within you toward a higher consciousness.
The first symptom is that you stop worrying. Things don’t bother you anymore. You become light-hearted and full of joy.
The second symptom is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this accelerates to the point where you actually experience the miraculous.”
“The ancient Greek word “Daemon – daimon.” was originally referred to as a lesser deity or guiding spirit. To Plato Πλάτων 426-347.B.C.E, the etymology and origin of this term meant, to be knowing, wise or intelligent or more appropriately to be inspired or motivated by a spiritual Force or Genius. Interestingly, Apollonius of Tyana Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ Τυανεύς. c. 15-100.A.D and Socrates Σωκρᾰ́της. c. 470-399.B.C.E, both claimed to have a daimonion, which was Seen as the “favour of the gods.” literally, a “divine something.”
Socrates often said that this inner voice was born with him and that it frequently warned him against mistakes. As according to Socrates, the Daimon was not an evil spirit or malevolent spirit, but rather a friend, and a counsellor or guardian spirit. Thought to be assigned to each person at their birth. For the Greeks divided daimons into two categories, either being benevolent or malevolent. Intriguingly these spirits are said to resemble that of the jinn or genie of Arab folklore… (( interestingly the word ‘Genius’ is derived from the Arabic term for Genie.)) In today’s terms through psychological understanding, the term daimon – daemon, whether good or bad, has come to represent an elemental force which contains within it an irrepressible drive towards individuation.”
There are plenty of women AND men in the world who are ridiculously demanding, self absorbed and emotionally avoidant, but I don’t hear men being called “high maintenance” very often. When a woman is called “high maintenance”, it could be true, but it also might be a way of dismissing her power. Maybe a woman referred to as high maintenance, is actually high value.
It takes effort to make your life work well, to heal yourself and become a high value person. It takes a lot of work, and ANYONE can do it.
Getting your s*** together is worth it, because it helps one to thrive in life. A high value person, in my view, is someone who takes responsibility for the own happiness, makes an effort to not cause harm or hurt to others, and lives a life of honor and integrity.
It’s someone who aims to live a life in harmony with the eight fold path in Buddhism: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. Once this person has achieved their own happiness and stability, they try to be helpful to others and guide and support them too.
“Last time I checked, having standards doesn’t make a woman high-maintenance, it just makes her a person who knows what she wants.
It doesn’t make her a mission impossible, it just requires a bit more effort than it normally would. And putting in extra effort can be a problem to some, which is why it’s always easier to come up with excuses than it is to step up your game.
She is the kind of woman who doesn’t depend on anyone.
It’s because she knows to lean on someone in life means to be left without anything once that someone decides to walk away from her.
That’s why she takes care of herself and she makes life good for herself. She doesn’t need you to do that for her.
She’s perfectly capable of doing it on her own.
She knows her worth.
She feels good about herself and she isn’t afraid to show it. But she only feels this way because she’s worked hard on herself.
She’s aware of how much she brings to the table and she always keeps in mind that she’s more than good enough.
And there is nothing more valuable in this world than a woman who knows her worth.
She knows where she wants to be in life. And she knows how to get there too. She’s a person who constantly pushes her limits and who’s constantly trying.
She keeps working on herself. She takes care of her looks and her brains as well.
She knows what she deserves.
And she isn’t settling for anything less. That’s why she might appear as high-maintenance to some. But she is just asking for as much as she’s ready to give and that’s all.
In case you’re failing to reach her standards or win her over, perhaps it’s not the problem that she has set her standards high, but that you have your efforts set really low?
You don’t get to disrespect her.
She doesn’t let people treat her badly and she never allows other people to project their insecurities on her.
She is a high-value woman and she holds her head high. That’s why she’ll never put up with someone who tries to bring her down to feel good about himself or with someone who disrespects her.
You don’t get to treat her right only sometimes.
She wants constant effort and she deserves someone who’ll treat her right on all occasions.
She deserves someone who’ll treat her right even when she makes a mistake. She deserves someone who’ll try constantly to prove his love, his admiration and his commitment to her.
You don’t get to be mediocre.”