If you are an extrovert, feel free to skip this article.
If you are introverted, please read on. This will be important.
The world is full of loud people constantly spouting forth ego and ignorance, trying to fit in with social norms, and attempting to impose those same expectations on us, the quiet ones.
We, who generally prefer books over social interaction. We, who like to think before we speak. We, who never jump right into anything without having given careful thought to all factors first. We, who know that someone is a true friend because they understand silence. We, who believe there is a proper time and place for spontaneity.
By all accounts, the ancient Roman Stoic and emperor Marcus Aurelius was like us, and was more comfortable with solitude than being social.
Yet, he still made one thing very clear:
Even though the world seems to be populated with crude, cruel, and vociferous people, we, in order to have a good life, must do all that we can to love and serve them to the best of our abilities and within reason.
Marcus’s motivation for doing so was by realizing that people, from all walks of life, are as interrelated and interconnected as brothers and sisters.
Some of the Stoics, including Marcus, put forth that our connection to others stems from the idea that we are a product of the gods.
But if one reads the Stoics extensively, it is clear they realized we share a common bond, regardless of our origins, in the simple fact that we are all human.
If the Roman Stoics were alive today, they would wholeheartedly embrace the mountains of evidence that prove that every single person on this planet shares common ancestors.
Even if over tens of millions of years we grew apart genetically in terms of eye, skin, and hair color due to the process of natural selection, scientists have proven that underneath those appearances, we still share 99.99% of the same genetic structure, whether you’re from Norway or Japan or Kenya.
Being that we are all essentially the same hard drive with different packaging, how did we thrive and flourish as a species?
One key aspect was simply our ability to reason, which made us vastly superior to other creatures in controlling our environment.
Keeping in mind that we have no fangs or claws, that we walk upright with our hearts exposed, and have offspring that don’t take days or weeks to mature, but years, it is apparent that reasoning skills have been important to our flourishing as a species.
The second key characteristic that allowed us a continued existence was the fact that we are social creatures, and where one lone individual is relatively weak, in numbers, we are strong.
Acta Non Verba: Every morning, Marcus had some thoughts he used to prepare himself for the day. If you haven’t seen them already, you’ll find them at the beginning of Meditations. I did take the liberty of rewriting them for our 21st century purposes.
First thing, every morning, tell yourself: today I am going to encounter online trolls, incompetent customer service representatives, dishonest politicians, irresponsible drivers, robocalls, fake news, ego-driven coworkers, and idiots.
But I know that the universe operates on the principles of cause and effect; that goodness leads to happiness and selfishness to suffering. I know that people can seem like morons, but they are the same species as I, and share the same potential in terms of the mind and its functions.
I shouldn’t let them get under my skin, or blame them for my own anger or resentment, for we were born into this world to work together.
To work against one another is contrary to our successful evolution, and what could be more like working against one another than abandoning my critical thinking skills, and wanting revenge or reacting with anger towards someone with whom I am interconnected.
Another thing you can do is something I’ve co-opted from Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.
Throughout your days, weeks, months, years – whether at home, work, the streets, or the interstate – every time you see another person, either think, or even say quietly to yourself, “We are same.”
Remember: If you want a good life, you must love and help other people. (But that doesn’t mean you have to have lunch with them.)
View yourself as a citizen of a worldwide community and act accordingly. – Epictetus
We are all chained to Fortune: for some of us the chain is of gold and loose-fitting, for others, tight and of base metal, but what does it matter? All men are held fast in the same captivity. – Seneca
These things I can know about my nature and the laws governing it; that I can reason and that I cannot exist alone, without the company and cooperation of others. – Marcus Aurelius
Our human contract is not with the few people with whom our affairs are most immediately intertwined, nor to the prominent, rich, or well-educated, but to all our human brethren. – Epictetus
If the mind is common to us all, then so is reason that enables us to understand and tells us how to treat one another…Indeed, what other citizenship is shared by the whole human race? – Marcus Aurelius
Live in harmony with everything around you, and love—without reservations or conditions—those with whom you live and work. – Marcus Aurelius
Stephen Sumner is a writer with over three decades experience studying what it means to have a good life. He has a BS in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University. His favorite pastimes include reading, fountain pens, and growing insanely hot peppers. Click here to follow him on Twitter.
Original, non-meme image from Aaron Mello via Unsplash.com.