We are all experiencing, to varying degrees, a series of trials the extent, outcome and consequences of which are still unknown to us. Assuming this is the case, what could be more distressing than this paradigm shift? Let us imagine for a moment the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, rewriting his thoughts almost two centuries A.D. He is about to be besieged by his own troops led by his former general, who is fomenting a rebellion against him. “Be like the promontory that the waves beat without respite: it remains standing and the anger of the waves falls asleep around it.” Borrowing from maritime language to illustrate this metaphor, Marcus Aurelius invites us to observe, in the Stoic philosophical tradition, a detachment in relation to what surrounds us, in order to refocus, gather our strength and have the courage to think about the future.
In this respect this deterministic doctrine in the straight line of Epictetus can be a remedy against the turbulence of our present world by advocating the subtle art of governing and governing oneself. Marcus Aurelius succeeds in conceptualising the mind and intelligence as the seat of manageable thoughts. When decisions seem to be imposed, suffered or eluding their logic, recalling these principles, the art of living and the sense of duty responding to a moral conscience can prove salutary to anyone who feels deprived of his free will and room for manoeuvre. The additional strength of this Stoic’s thought is, in addition to duty, to set an example and to control his negative emotions tethered to the body, this inner anchoring preventing him from feeling anger, hatred and resentment. Thus, the possible wickedness of others is, in his eyes, driven by ignorance.
What does one do when one feels the outside space shrinking? Enlarging your interior space can be a 3rd way. “If you’re suffering from something externally that’s not what’s troubling you, it’s your judgement about it – it’s up to you to make it go away.” he adds (Thoughts VIII, 47). To orient one’s subjectivity so that the events we experience are perceived as they really are, and not obscured by our value judgements and our socio-emotional baggage (for some, semi-trailers!). This helps me accept what happens to me by adding a pinch of optimism, a touch of positivity and a zest of awareness of the harmony of the whole formed by the successive paintings of my destiny. What is the advantage of this approach? An elevation of the soul, disciplined emotions (we did not say muzzled or repressed) thanks to a refocusing leaving the uncertain shore of agitation to reach the immutable calm of the open sea.
And all this for the ultimate end point of purgatory? Here is the essence of the profound wisdom of the stoic Marcus Aurelius in accepting the very idea of our finiteness and death: “You have embarked, you have sailed, you have landed: disembark!” Do not flee from events, neither from things nor from beings, but confront them without hatred, without animosity, without vain resistance. We are of infinitesimal importance with regard to the universe (prevalence of three worlds, the personal, social and the cosmological) and we must prepare ourselves for the ultimate stage which is oblivion: “Soon you will have forgotten everything; soon everyone will have forgotten you.” So, all the more reason to shine in the eyes of those close to us, in our professional environment, for the short period of our existence without fighting against our deepest nature but, on the contrary, putting it into perspective. Another important point is to show by words or other means – precisely because of the ephemeral nature of our existence – to the people dear to our hearts who are our role models through their journey, their approach, their way of being, the important role they play in our lives while it is still possible. Everything else is vanity or ultimately of little importance.
What should we do when it is no longer action but turmoil that seems to rule the world? To give pride of place to introspection, to question the thoughts and environmental conditions that enchant our daily life, bring happiness, bliss and joy by distinguishing clearly between what depends on me and what does not depend on me. As Marcus Aurelius writes again in his sublime “Thoughts to Myself”, “to have the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change and the discernment to distinguish one from the other”, aphorisms and reflections partly written during his military campaigns, originally intended for his own use, a diary that was doomed to destruction after his death and which ultimately survived, fortunately for all its readers.
Let’s use our transversal intelligence and look at things differently. For example, this could mean changing other things while waiting for better days. Improvements to your website? Changes to your documentation? A refresh of your company presentations? These are all aspects that are often relegated to the bottom of the priority list under a pile of more important files and to be reconsidered in the future. The Tradeo team looks forward to supporting you in your desire for change in terms of professional editing, translations and interpreting assignments.