A guide to the good life by Wiliam B. Irvine - 1 minute read
Many will agree with me that our lives are getting busier and more stressful. We want to slow down, relax, and recharge—but that is difficult when you are battling carrier, kids, big mortgages, and life goals. How are you going to succeed in all of this? Is it even worth it? Is this really what you want? Meet Stoicism—an ancient philosophy with answers and guidance that will make you rethink what’s really important in life.
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My thoughts and notes.
Don’t worry about things you can’t control. For things you have some but not complete control—life a possible work promotion—only focus on the part you can control, and that is your work efforts.
We can either spend this moment wishing it could be different, or we can embrace this moment. If we habitually do the former, we will spend much of our life in a state of dissatisfaction; if we habitually do the latter, we will enjoy our life. This, I think, is why the Stoics recommend that we be fatalistic with respect to the present. It is why Marcus reminds us that all we own is the present moment and why he advisers us to live “this fleeting instant."
"Water, barley-meal, and crusts of barley-bread,” Seneca tells us, “are not a cheerful diet, yet it is the highest kind of pleasure to be able to derive pleasure from this sort of food."
He heard that someone has spoken ill of his writing, and he start treating this critic as an enemy. But then he starts thinking of all the people whose writing he himself has critiqued. Would he want all of them to think of him as an enemy? Certainly not. Seneca’s conclusion: If you are going to publish, you must be willing to tolerate criticism.
To fulfill my social duty—to do my duty to my kind—I must feel concerned for all mankind. I must remember that we humans were created for one another, that we were born, says Marcus, to work together with the way our hands or eyelids do. Therefore, in all I do, I must have as my goal “ The service and harmony of all.” More preciously. “ I’m bound to do good to my fellow-creatures and bear with them."
Marcus says that he no more experts thanks for the services he performs than a horse expects thanks for the races it runs.
Marcus recommends that when we interact with an annoying person, we keep in mind that there are doubtless people who find us to be annoying. More generally, when we find ourselves irritated by someone’s shortcomings, we should pause to reflect on our own shortcomings.
Marcus agrees with Epictetus that it is foolish for us to worry about what other people think of us and particularly foolish for us to seek the approval of people whose values we reject. Our goal should therefore be to become indifferent to other people’s opinions of us. He adds that if we can succeed in doing this, we will improve the quality of our life.