It’s amazing, that one of the things that I treasure about getting older (for me at least,) is that I have an increased sense of gratitude for the life that I have. I really value the experience of living. Every moment is precious.
“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …”
It’s not that the clock is running down, although it certainly is for me, compared to someone born yesterday or even twenty or thirty years ago. It’s simply that I am grateful for all of those experiences and events that have shaped my character making me the man that I am today.
To paraphrase Epictetus, I am grateful for life as it is, not as I’d like it to be.
“Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will—then your life will flow well.”
This includes not just the good times, but the bad times too. It’s easy to be ‘nice,’ or to live for virtue when times are good and life is pleasant or when there’s precious little to care about.
A carefree life may sound idyllic, but it will offer you nothing in terms of spiritual growth, it’s only when you are tested by the vagaries of fate or the capricious nature of the world in general that your true character gets a chance to shine through. The roughest diamonds must be cut and polished before they can be beautiful gemstones, and so it is with the soul.
“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”
This is why it’s absolutely essential that you act on your learnings, and put your philosophy into practice, like the noble Emperor Marcus Aurelius, or the irrepressible Musonius Rufus.
“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honoured.
“You will earn the respect of all if you begin by earning the respect of yourself. Don’t expect to encourage good deeds in people conscious of your own misdeeds.”
The act of embodying your philosophy is the equivalent of cutting and polishing your own inner diamond. It makes you not only a beautiful person but a valuable one too because you above all others will have the skills, learning and aptitude to be a source of good things for your fellow man and a real benefit to your friends, family and community.
Whether you believe the soul to be merely an old term for the ‘psyche,’ and as such, merely the projections of that lump of grey/white matter that sits at the center of your head or as something else that goes on to survive the death of the body as an intangible entity is unimportant. To live for virtue and to embody virtue in all of your deeds is its own reward. The virtuous man does not live in fear of a terrible afterlife in order to compel his behaviour, but pays no regard to the afterlife, because he knows that his behaviour is good.
“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.”
“He who fears death will never do anything worth of a man who is alive.”
It seems fitting that we turn to Socrates for our final words, (although not strictly a stoic).
“Virtue does not come from wealth, but wealth, and every other good thing which men have comes from virtue.”