Be strong and do good
Act as if it were your last
Seek truth and reason
Today’s haiku, and consequent writing prompt, is inspired by none other than Marcus Aurelius, one of the most famous stoic philosophers of all time, and the last of the “five good emperors” in Roman history. His writings are in inspiration to us all, and between wading through Meditations and a wealth of his finest quotes, I came up with the above 5/7/5 (haiku) tribute to Aurelius and his stoic beliefs.
Meditations, which is a collection of 12 short “books” that Marcus Aurelius wrote in the 2nd century CE., is a powerful work. It implores one to “analyze your judgement of self and others and developing a cosmic perspective,” and Aurelius “advocates finding one’s place in the universe and sees that everything came from nature, and so everything shall return to it in due time” (wiki). When I found the book in my collection, I was intrigued, and also reminded of Tim Ferriss’ love of stoicism (mostly Seneca), which prompted me to investigate further.
What I love about the writings of Aurelius especially is the pragmatism and real, concrete advice, written thousands of years before the drama of Facebook or the interruption of a cell phone. Assuming we can believe the translation, he was on to something: put aside all the bullshit, and get at what’s really bugging you: you. If we were to really focus on health, shouldn’t we, as the individual, be the starting point? Yes, we’re all in “this” together, but if you’re pissed off, angry, if something just isn’t quite right, it’s mostly like you, and not them. My favorite self-help writer Don Miguel Ruiz echoes this in The Four Agreements, and I couldn’t agree more.
My haiku speaks to this: be strong, in your actions, your words, your thoughts, and your life. Do good, to yourself first and foremost (self-love is crucial!) but also to others, and to animals. “Act as it if were your last” – this may be cliche advice, but the thought is worth contemplating. If today were your last day with someone, or in town, or on earth, what would you do? Waste time squabbling about stupid stuff? Worry about things we can’t control? Hell no – we’d act, enjoy, experience, and love. Love is crucial to all of this, mind you. Seek truth and reason: don’t fear an imaginary god and eternal damnation, don’t be plagued by societal guilt that you aren’t living up to what you’re “supposed to be.” Seeking truth goes hand in hand with what Ruiz called his “Fifth Agreement:” Be Skeptical. Absolutely. With reason, we can determine what is real, and what is not – what is a human-construct, and what must logically be. Be skeptical, but loving, truthful, but caring.
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. (Marcus Aurelius)*
Photo: Jungle_Boy (thanks for the CC license!)
*Apparently there is controversy as to whether he actually said this or not. Who cares? It’s a great quote and the foundation of the Atheist’s Wager.