5 Badass Stoic Lessons From Marcus Aurelius
There’s been a massive reawakening to Marcus Aurelius and his work in the last few years and I believe this is because in our modern lives we’ve become obsessed with the idea of sharing our feelings in a cacophony of unproductive emotional diarrhea.
The mainstream media seems to think that if men share how they feel everything will magically heal, no more mental health and no more suicide.
Now, I’m not against men sharing their feelings especially if it’s related to all too real traumas in the world, that is a key element of freeing your spirit and turning a trajectory from a negative spiral to the recovering man’s path.
However, sharing trauma is just that, an ‘element’, it is not the whole of recovery and if we are fooled into thinking this way we will suffer the fate of so many modern men and find ourselves lost and suffocating in a sea of emotional victimhood and pain.
Recovering from any state of suffering is all about balance and finding the line between empathy and action, relying on as much as grit and balls as open-mindedness and deep sharing, is the way out of chaos.
I personally see this idealization of sharing feelings and the turn against ‘traditional’ masculinity as part of our modern malady – the general hostility our culture has towards men and masculinity.
Hence, men are being deprived of an authentic masculine influence, as we belittle and demonize the patriarchal influence and emphasize the feminine.
The truth is that men need both, but the vast majority of men need the masculine influence far more.
I see this as the subconscious reason as to why men are flocking to stoicism as a philosophy and Marcus Aurelius in particular.
Marcus Aurelius acts as a sort of cultural father, part historical, part wise man and part mythological hero.
Who Was Marcus Aurelius?
Marcus Aurelius himself is known as a philosopher king because, well, because he was a king and a philosopher.
He ruled in Rome around 2,000 years ago and he was known as the last of the ‘five good Emperors’, largely because he had a very deep purpose in his life that stretched beyond being a ruler.
He committed his to finding the optimal mode of being for a man and this is why he’s gained such traction today.
As our society grapples with what it means to be a man, dismissing the man of old as a bigot and celebrating the feminine qualities only in contemporary men, we’ve become lost in a world of plastic pop-stars, celebrity love island, porn and purposelessness.
Marcus Aurelius may not have watched Love Island, but he understood the threat of falseness, egocentrism, aimlessness and caving in to every desire, opportunity to show-off and living hedonistically.
Henceforth, men like Marcus Aurelius can provide us with a solid foundation in life, orienting us in the correct direction so we can get immediate and long-term gains.
Lesson 1: “You have power over your mind not outside events, realize this and you will find strength.”
This is a great starting point for you on your own journey into true, powerful living, but also an intro to stoicism itself.
This is because this lesson is taking away all the extraneous matter, all the exterior stuff of life; what other people do, what political systems do, and what the social world, your society and culture does.
All of these things are things that you can’t really control and therefore they are things you need to let go of.
According to Marcus Aurelius, we must instead go inside and order ourselves, for only when we’ve truly ordered our inner world do we start to see the external world changing for the better.
Now what’s so beautiful about this quote is the use of the word ‘strength’.
Aurelius doesn’t mean brute force by this, he means internal emotional strength; that a certainty, that inner knowing, that ability to be resilient, the strength to go out in the world and not be affected by what happens externally.
This is something that’s sorely needed among men today and it’s something that really is at the root of why so many men feel lost.
Yet while so many men don’t have that inner certainty, we can start to work towards it and start to build an inner iron confidence and faith in ourselves by organizing our minds.
2. “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
This is a really awesome quote as it both feeds into the last one and takes it that bit further.
This quote shows us that the way we perceive the world is not fundamentally accurate, and that really matters.
You may remember the famous stories about people who witness a crime and in their notes to a police sketch artist the story they tell becomes more and more fantastical and inaccurate.
That’s because as humans our minds are always creating different stories and why this is important for Marcus Aurelius is because we have a story for reality itself.
In order to find the truth, we must accept that everything we’ve been told about the world is just a million interpretations of life now formed as your worldview – it is not the raw unadulterated truth.
As all people do this, our progress has come by virtue of pooling our perspectives via the scientific method, yet as we’re finding out in this day and age, even that’s quite limited in its scope when it comes to the bigger questions of life.
Again, this is why people are reverting to stoicism as it reminds us not to get too obsessed with the way we view the world and not too upset with other people for getting their view of the world wrong either.
We must be mindful that these views of the world do not point to deep transcendent truth.
Now if we combine lesson number one and lesson number two, we’re starting to get a stronger flavour of what it means to be a stoic.
What Marcus Aurelius is telling us is that we should not judge everything immediately as if we’re the ultimate arbiters of truth, we should instead go internal, leaving the anger and the rage of political discourse at the external level.
We should instead seek to stay calm and measured in our soul spirit, watching, observing, and trying to stay aware that there are different forms of thinking there are different forms of the way people articulate and perceive truth.
The more we do this, the closer we get to accurate decisions in our lives.
3. “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
The first two quotes have really taken us away from the drama that we experience in the dynamic level of day-to-day life.
They have really shown us that we look at the world in quite an unsophisticated way a lot of the time and we have to take a few steps back to get to the heart of stoic philosophy and to the very core of a stoic life.
The root place here is the pure appreciation of life itself.
This is so alien to us today where we want perfection and demand harmony.
I myself had virtually no appreciation for life until I had a breakdown (or breakthrough) because I wasn’t even awake to the reality of life at its core for so long.
When you’re in a state of ungratefulness for the sheer miracle of life itself, you’re prey to, above all, market men.
In this day and age, everyone wants to sell you something with the promise of making you feel better, but that thing that you buy, whether it’s clothes, a new watch, drugs, alcohol, whatever, it will never complete you because fundamentally you haven’t got to the heart of life itself.
Only an appreciation of this takes us to the place where we see how lucky we are to exist.
The kindness of life becomes evident, I mean what have we ever done to deserve 30 years of clean oxygen.
That’s just a blessing we don’t even think about, we just take it for granted, and with that we miss the absolute beauty of being alive, the majesty of the universe which is in your soul, the impossible miracle of life itself.
Whenever you intellectually think about our origins in life and the big ‘why’ question, you only make yourself sick with existential angst.
However, the moment you let go intellectually and live from the heart – the source of gratitude, that’s when you can really make meaningful gains in your appreciation of life.
So in essence this quote is less about what can you get from life and more about how you can admire life by giving your awe.
4. “He who lives in harmony within himself lives in harmony with the universe.”
Now for those brave, persistent, searching souls who are still reading at this point (glad you’re still with me, brother!) you can probably see I’ve structured these quotes in such a way that they’re really taking us on a little journey.
We’ve travelled right to the source of the internal gratitude for life itself and now we’re coming out again towards external life once more, only now we’re better prepared.
In this lesson, Marcus Aurelius is aligning the wellbeing of yourself with the well-being of the universe, implying that these things are one in the same.
There is a very deep principle here and that’s that you are innately part of the universe and the sooner you realize that the sooner you can let go of your demands on life.
As we grow and watch our mind, we see we make judgments on every little thing that goes on externally.
Our mind raves on how someone is annoying, how someone else is brainwashed, why we’re anxious about this or that.
Yet when we stop listening to all this chatter we realize that we are part of something much, much bigger, and when you acknowledge this you bring an internal harmony that is literally bringing an internal harmony to the universe itself.
We see we are the eyes of the universe looking out on life that imbued us with a huge monumental purpose of as part of existence itself.
We are existence looking at existence.
There’s nothing airy-fairy about this, it’s complete practical truth.
When you look at the world this way you can see we really are the universe, both spiritually and physically.
In truth, we’re actually composed of food, of water, and of sunlight – of all these things that we see in the world that we think are separate from us.
We literally are the minerals we eat.
5. The soul becomes dyed with the colour of thoughts
In many ways, we’ve done a complete circle now. We’ve gone into the deepest part of our internal selves and come back out through the universe.
Finally, we’re going back to how we think, however now we’re coming at it from a slightly different perspective, especially with regard to the rest of the lessons within this piece.
As you move on with your life you now have a duty in that you must take control of what’s going on in your mind.
Now, of course, there are going to be random thoughts and you can’t stop that sort of thing, but you need to get out of that place of believing all these thoughts and start taking a stoic step back.
Every thought pattern is an opportunity to realize your true nature and then come out and apply that to the way you think.
When you start doing that you’ll notice a marked change because all negative thinking leads back to the ego and that is where our fundamental misrepresentation of life begins.
You must understand that by thinking you are therefore imposing a new reality on the universe and you have a duty to make sure that the reality you’re imposing is for harmony and at one with what is true.
As you start to understand that power you start to have a massively positive influence on life, like I said before, the cynic in your mind will tell you that’s not true but we have to move away from the faith in the cynic and it’s short-term security.
Such security always leads to long-term pain.
We have to change our belief system because what we think repetitively – what we tell ourselves – is what we become.
That is what Marcus Aurelius is truly getting at in these life lessons.
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