Simple Stoic Advice

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

The beautiful thing about Stoic philosophy is the advice contained within it is just as applicable today as it was when it was first written all those many years ago. We can learn a great deal from interpreting the advice provided and using it to our advantage as we go throughout our own lives.

Today’s quote comes to us courtesy of Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.74:

Quote

“No one objects to what is useful to him.
To be of use to others is natural.
Then don’t object to what is useful to you — being of use.”

Advice

Socrates is said to have once stated, “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” Similarly, the Stoics saw themselves as part of the bigger whole.

As humans, we are part of a much bigger web which is society. Our nature, according to the Stoics, is to work with one another and for one another. In book two of Meditations, Marcus writes:

“We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.”

We often fall into the trap of believing we are an island, not in need of anyone else for our own survival. And while we can at this point live isolated lives if we so please with the expanding technologies which are available to us, we ultimate need one another for survival.

Marcus and the Stoics knew this and one Stoic whose work partially survives, wrote a brief description on how to prioritize our place within society. Hierocles lived around the time of Epictetus and was himself both a student and teacher of the Stoic philosophy. If we had to summarize the “Golden Rule” of Stoicism, however, it would be in Hierocles’ quote:

“Act by everyone, in the same manner as if you supposed yourself to be him, and him to be you.”

Reciprocity is a powerful psychological tool built out of our need for survival with others. We must make ourselves available to assist others in their needs just as others rely upon us for their needs. This cycle of reciprocity, built on the foundation of reason (as we are rational creatures) helps us to survive.

Rather than reject the ability to help another, look deep within and understand that they may one day be the ones there to help you in your time of need. We are, as Marcus says, all tools for one another.

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