This moment of tranquility is brought to you by a beach at Carmel By The Sea.
Photo: D. Paul Graham
Monday 5 Things…..Stoic…..
Well. Here we all are in the middle of COVID-19. If ever there was needed a time to keep a clear head it’s now. I have been torn this past week on whether to pen a lighthearted M5T but the writings of an emperor, a playwright and a crippled slave kept coming to mind. Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus. All stoics these men, whose writings are good fodder to keep this virus in perspective. Hence, true to my British background via my mother, I have chosen to stay calm, keep a stiff upper lip, and don a hat and heart of stoicism, which became this morning’s M5T.
1. Finding Peace.
Aurelius wrote that we often withdraw from problems, responsibilities, and unmet reconciliation by retreating physically and emotionally. He encouraged brief meditations (I call it prayer) where you can quiet your mind and focus on resolutions. Definitely a good way to start a Monday morning, or any morning for that matter. In his most amazing book, ‘The Meditations’, Aurelius wrote “No where you can go is more peaceful, more free of interruptions, than your own soul. Retreat to consult your own soul and then return to what awaits you.”
2. Mortality Musing.
We will all have our time at which we leave this earth. The Stoics felt that never losing sight of our mortality was a way to live a full life. Seneca wrote, in ‘Dying Everyday’, "Let is prepare our minds as if we'd come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life's book each day. The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time." Come to think of it, the great philosopher of our day, Tim McGraw, wrote about this very stoic platitude in his song “Live Like You Were Dying.”
3. View From Above.
No, it’s not a 007 movie. It was a practice that Aurelius called 'Plato’s view'. He would envision all things impacting his life from a higher vantage point. He would change the perspective of his thinking, envisioning being high above conflict, challenges and troubles in his life. He would take himself to a view from above all ‘things’ and events in his life until he was at a point where his worries and troubles of the day seemed small in comparison to the bigger picture of what is going on in the world. Aurelius wrote, 'How beautifully Plato put it. Whenever you want to talk about people, it's best to take a birds-eye view and see everything all at once - of gatherings, armies, farms, weddings and divorces, births and deaths, noisy courtrooms or silent spaces, every foreigh people, holidays, memorials, markets - all blended together and arranged in a pairing of opposites."
Stoics separate what we can control and what is outside our ability to control; what we can change and what we simply are unable to change; where we can influence and where we can’t. Epictetus wrote, “The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and seperate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own."
5. Amor Fati.
Quite literally, 'a love of fate'. In essence, this is a mindset of not avoiding, not just tolerating, but truly embracing the moment, no matter how difficult, challenging, or painful that moment is. By doing so, adversity, pain and failure become catalysts for a full life. Epictetus, faced hardship after hardship, yet said "Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens happen the way it happens; then you will be happy."
Here’s to a week of peace beyond understanding, however you find it; living as if today would be your last, recognizing there is a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance; stepping back to gain a new perspective so that we do not fear; letting go of the things you can’t control and focusing on what you can control; and embracing, with determination and grit, any and all challenges that you may face as we all deal with COVID-19.
D. Paul Graham is passionate about people, culture, photography and business. He has embraced his wanderlust with his travels around the globe and is at peace with his need for spirited drives in all things automotive.