Modern Stoics tend to call this “the dichotomy of control” and many people find this distinction alone helpful in alleviating stress. T he Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was the last famous Stoic philosopher of antiquity. Born in Ucubi, Cordoba, to a Praetor and Senator’s son, Marcus Annius Verus and a very, very wealthy woman named Domitia Lucilla, Marcus was destined for greatness. Being superior to pain and pleasure allows us to fully accept the … He did this by nature and also by learned practices, all the way from his youth to his dying breath: “Adorn thyself with simplicity and with indifference towards the things which lie between virtue and vice. Available for everyone, funded by readers. He was a keen student of the science and, to him, what ascetic habits he could afford, considering his status, came easily indeed. Indeed, the writings of Marcus Aurelius seem to have come from an unbound well of emotion tamed and insight woven into true intellectual and analytical skill. Am I proud to look up to this person? This striving is part of the reason why his works are such an invaluable source of lessons in overcoming and remaining positive throughout life’s tests. Tragically, only four daughters and one son outlived him, which was, no doubt, something of a trial for one who held so dearly the people close to him. It’s not the virus that makes us afraid but rather our opinions about it. Nor is it the inconsiderate actions of others, those ignoring social distancing recommendations, that make us angry so much as our opinions about them. Delivery charges may apply. In the middle of this plague, Marcus wrote a book, known as The Meditations, which records the moral and psychological advice he gave himself at this time. Marcus Aurelius was a man who lived by the Stoic laws, which so capably go into making a virtuous man. Read what he warns about leaving things to chance: “The universal intelligence puts itself in motion for every separate effect… or it puts itself in motion once, and everything else comes by way of a sequence in a manner; or individual elements are the origin of all things. It was Diognetus who Marcus admired for his freedom from the hindering superstitions of men and also for the Stoic principles he displayed in his conduct and teachings. Marcus Aurelius, through decades of training in Stoicism, in other words, had taught himself to face death with the steady calm of someone who has done so countless times already in the past. The piety and simple diet she preferred began to groom him for a Stoic way of life, as did the family’s attitude toward wealth, which they didn’t seek to flaunt with pomp and gusto but rather to use wisely in the pursuit of virtue and the service of men. The Stoics believed that when we’re confronted with our own mortality, and grasp its implications, that can change our perspective on life quite dramatically. Love mankind. This is an extended example of one of the central practices of Stoicism. Hence, “It’s not events that upset us but rather our opinions about them.” More specifically, our judgment that something is really bad, awful or even catastrophic, causes our distress. No confusion in your words. It’s also the basic premise of modern cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the leading evidence-based form of psychotherapy. Any one of us could die at any moment. Cato the Younger – the most interesting Stoic ever? Seneca The Younger – philosopher and dramatist, How to Keep a Stoic Journal – 7 Days of Example Entries, Interview With Donald Robertson, Author Of How To Think Like A Roman Emperor. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius by Donald Robertson (St Martin’s Press, £21.99). During a tour of his Eastern Provinces, in the years leading up to 172 AD, he paid a visit to Athens, where he set up the ‘Four Chairs Of Philosophy’ to preserve the Stoic, Aristotelian, Platonic and Epicurean branches. “All that comes to pass”, he tells himself, even illness and death, should be as “familiar as the rose in spring and the fruit in autumn”. Illness overcame him in 180 AD and following his death he was immediately deified, which is no surprise, given his strength of character and steadfast kindliness. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. His name at birth was supposedly Marcus Annius Verus, but some sources assign this name to him upon his father's death and unofficial adoption by his grandfather, upon his coming of age, or at the time of his marriage. The virus can only harm your body – the worst it can do is kill you. According to one historian, his circle of friends were distraught. He frequently applies Stoic philosophy to the challenges of coping with pain, illness, anxiety and loss. However, fear penetrates into the moral core of our being. It is very common to hear in both academic circles, as well as more close-knit Stoic circles, Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 CE) being referred to as the philosopher king. He grew into a very well made man, this quote may give you insight into his attitude toward life: “No carelessness in your actions. Public duties began when he became consul in 140 AD and by 161 AD, he was Emperor. He did this by nature and also by learned practices, all the way from his youth to his dying breath: “Adorn thyself with simplicity and with indifference towards the things which lie between virtue and vice. He returns to this theme many times throughout The Meditations. In a word, if there is a god, all is well; and if chance rules, do not thou be governed by it.”. This applies to unhealthy emotions in general, which the Stoics term “passions” – from pathos, the source of our word “pathological”. During the last 14 years of his life he faced one of the worst plagues in European history. What happens to me is never directly under my control, never completely up to me, but my own thoughts and actions are – at least the voluntary ones. Even historical figures or fictional characters can serve as role models. Marcus even slept on the floor, until his mother’s contrary entreaties took effect upon him. It was only during those last 10 years that Marcus Aurelius compiled his great work, although its format was more like a journal (and, originally, with no title) than an actual philosophical treatise. He studied day and night, mastering geometry, literature, oratory and drama but it was Diognetus, a master-painter who’s lessons were not limited to art, who gave Marcus his philosophical sense of direction.
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