Some helpful words which improve the quality of your thoughts and life.
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” – Soren Kierkegaard
The above quote when teamed together with another Kierkegaardian idea that “life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”, can be extremely impactful and help people understand the nature of their lives. Whilst we solve many problems in our lives, our life in itself is not a problem to be solved, it’s just that we don’t understand it until we reflect back on it. In all likelihood, we are unable to fully understand the reality that we are currently living, the best we can do is try and make sense of our experience as things don’t work out in a mathematical sequence.
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” – Marcus Aurelius
Nothing is worse than seeing a person, especially a young person, whose life energy is dead inside. I see too many people who choose a life of security and comfort because they are afraid to do what gives them life. People worry about suffering from their choices, but as Seneca once said, “we suffer more often in imagination than in reality”, and the losses from bad decisions, but “more is lost by indecision than wrong decision”, said Cicero. All things COVID-19 aside, learn to become not afraid of what you want, as “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”, as Aristotle said. Which leads us to…
“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook of life.” – Carl Jung
Basically, if you do not know and accept yourself (in its entirety) then you will struggle to fully live, understand and interact in the world. In addition, Jung also said, “knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”, which is the Jungian idea of integrating the shadow, the darker element of our personality. It encompasses the old Christian notion to 'love your enemy' as the beginning of kindness and empathy as they are a human being just like you. To accept yourself fully takes courage and is what is needed for self-mastery as, “no man is free who is not a master of himself.”, said Epictetus.
“The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.” – Epictetus
The idea being that you open yourself up for manipulation and influence if you place more worth on things outside your command. It can be very subtle the way in which things have an effect on us and no one likes to feel dictated in what they should do or how they should act in life – no one likes to not feel in control of their life. We have control over our thoughts and feelings and less over outcomes, so it’s a no-brainer as to what Epictetus believes we should value.
“No man is crushed by misfortune unless he has first been deceived of prosperity” – Seneca
I think this quote is a lot deeper than what might be at first glance. Let’s take that first part, “No man is crushed by misfortune…”, meaning that a wrongdoing, bad luck or a hardship is not enough to destroy the spirit of a human being. Then the second part offering a caveat, “…unless he has first been deceived of prosperity”, i.e. falsely promised of success or wealth, which I feel is an incredibly important point in modern society. I feel a lot of people have been misled in terms of “do this and you’ll be successful/have a good life”, and it can absolutely crush their souls. You see plenty of people who are: “I’ve done the right thing, why haven’t I received my reward?”, and some of these people never fully recover from this betrayal. I guess Seneca was warning us of the snake-oil salesmen in the years to come!
So what do you think of these quotes? Do you have any other quotes which you feel have helped you in your thoughts and life? Let me know.
Hopefully you got something out of this week’s Take 5, even if it just started to stimulate ideas regarding your thoughts and direction in life.