The best thing that ever happen to me is reading about philosophy
I was never an avid reader but ever since I wrote on Medium, I felt an urgent need to read a lot to infuse my brain with ideas. The good authors on Medium also encourage prolific reading for serious writers.
I stumbled on Philosophy. To me, Philosophy was studying the mind, the attitude, the reasoning behind situations. It was almost a rationalization to help one get by life’s annoyances. I was not aware of the wisdom embedded in the principles expounded by the philosophers.
In my country’s culture where I grew up, there had been an emphasis on the Sciences. The ‘Big Four’ coveted careers were Accountancy, Medicine, Law, and Dentistry. Parents do not emphasize Art subjects like Literature, History, Geography, and the Arts even Philosophy as they were not ‘money-making’ prospects.
I was a Science student throughout. As I dived into further readings which included fiction and especially Philosophy, it all became very meaningful to me. I started to apply them to my daily life. That paved the road to a happy perspective of living in a challenging world.
The philosophers of the world were innumerable. Each had given his unique perspective to life. Their legacy to us was wisdom and the way to achieve peace and happiness.
I would focus on Marcus Aurelius whose thoughts resonate with many people who are acquainted with his writings. Marcus Aurelius was a powerful and rich Roman emperor in the second century and a Stoic philosopher. He was born about 2000 years ago and his reign was a period of tranquility and good government.
Stoicism is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with self-control and achieving happiness through the virtues of wisdom, ethics, bravery, and moderation. His greatest contribution to philosophy was his book called meditations” which he wrote to himself and now finds many practical applications in today’s world.
There are 12 books with about 185 quotations but I will just meditate on three of his quotes that have changed my life greatly.
1 Marcus Aurelius stressed the power of the mind.
He wrote, “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength”.
Then he said, “The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”
So, with calmness in our minds and peace in our souls, the solution to any problem will come. When confronted with an issue, I would usually take a breather — go for a drink, a short walk, chat with a friend. Later, ideas would surface. So far, my problems became resolved, or at least they seemed less severe than I first thought because the power to overcome is from my mind.
If some event stokes your anger and not within your control, you could put things in perspective. Look for the good rather than the negative aspects and you will find positives and become more appeased. Even if there is really none, the annoying event has built your character of resilience and patience.
Whatever you are feeling inside you, remains with you until you choose to expel them. Therein lies your strength.
2 Marcus Aurelius meditated on how people could act.
He wrote, “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”
Indeed, we have often overheard people complaining about other people’s behavior or performance out of the earshot of the person concerned. So and so should do this, she shouldn’t have done that. I can do much better than that.
Nothing would improve as the relevant person was not notified. If informed, his ego may deter him from taking action anyway. He suggested focusing on your own actions without criticizing the other party. Just watching you show the way may be more effective. No argument is needed. In that way, he would be inspired and be more receptive.
Hence, the best option is to become a role model. Do your part exceedingly well such that others would talk about it. Inspire instead of complaining. It would not change anyone’s behavior but turn yourself into a complainer and waste your time. So be the best employee, the best partner, best parent, best friend, best boss, the best person you can be and others will take after you.
3 Marcus Aurelius wrote about having a happy life.
He said, “ The quality of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.” So guard it accordingly.
This is the equivalent of “ You are what you eat”. Feed your mind with good books, biographies of great men and women, uplifting articles, and essays until you internalize their thoughts and opinions. Read about people who overcame adversities and you would be filled with wisdom. You would also develop gratitude for your current status.
Quotations from wise men and philosophers are a good place to start. Life will always hand you surprises, many exasperating but you could evade these arrows of annoyances by what and how you think. Reading from the right sources and listening to people who have experience are where you can pick up counter thoughts of negativity.
In a similar vein, if you want to write a good speech, one that has relevant rhetorical devices that are important to make an impact, then read and decipher good speeches made by famous people and imbibe their and thoughts and skills to produce a good speech.
By surrounding yourself with friends who have humor, positive minds, and who love learning, you would inevitably receive the goodness from them and enhance the condition of your life. Improve the quality of your thoughts and you will improve the quality of your life.
Two thousand years have passed but a wise man’s words will live on. Every day, meditate on these aphorisms and apply them unceasingly. Life is a pleasant one made unbearable due to our own reactions to events. The next time something annoys you, remember these three quotes and the situation will be mitigated much.
“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength”.
“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”
“ The quality of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.”
— — Marcus Aurelius