Stoicism was a popular philosophy of personal ethics in ancient Greece and Rome. It was popular until around the third century AD. It has been defined as “a moral philosophy that emphasizes the discipline and mastery of the emotions in order to reach a wiser, rational, and peaceful mindset.”
Recently, Stoicism has seen a sort of resurgence in popular culture. There have been articles about it in the New York Times, The Atlantic, and on pages all over the internet.
Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor, wrote a personal diary called Meditations that is based in the philosophy of Stoicism and is one of the main books being read by those who are currently interested in Stoicism. The last time I read Aurelius’ book Meditations was when I was in college. I recently reread the book, and found some awesome correlations between Odd Fellows philosophy and Aurelius’ observations.
Below is Part I of a list of excerpts (direct quotes) I think correspond to some of our teachings. Since Marcus Aurelius was writing in a type of diary, when the world “you” is used, he is referring to himself.
- Doctors keep their scalpels and other instruments handy, for emergencies. Keep your philosophy ready too–ready to understand heaven and earth. In everything you do, even the smallest thing, remember the chain that links them. Nothing earthly succeeds by ignoring heaven, nothing heavenly by ignoring earth.
- That everything you see will soon alter and cease to exist. Think of how many changes you have already seen. “The world is nothing but change. Our life is nothing but perception.”
- That every event is the right one. Look closely and you’ll see. Not just the right one overall, but right. As if someone weighed it out with scales. Keep looking closely like that, and embody it in your actions: goodness–what defines a good person. Keep to it in everything you do.
- Constant awareness that everything is born from change. The knowledge that there is nothing nature loves more than to alter what exists and make new things like it. All that exists is the seed of what will emerge from it. You think the only seeds are the ones that make plants or children? Go deeper.
- What follows coheres with what went before. Not like a random catalogue…but logically connected. And just as what exists is ordered and harmonious, what comes into being betrays an order too.
- In short, know this: Human lives are brief and trivial…
- Before long, all existing things will be transformed, to rise like smoke (assuming all things become one), or be dispersed in fragments.
- Some things are rushing into existence, others out of it. Some of what now exists is already gone. Change and flux constantly remake the world, just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity.
- The elements move upward, downward, in all directions. The motion of virtue is different–deeper. It moves at a steady pace on a road hard to discern, and always forward.
- Alexander the Great and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to both. They were absorbed alike into the life force of the world, or dissolved alike into atoms.
End of Part I
Scott, Your Conductor, not a philosopher.
Scott Moye is author of the book “Think Like An Odd Fellow! Wisdom and Self-Improvement in 21st Century Odd Fellowship.”