Part Five: Helping others
While Stoicism has become more popular of late, there are still many misconceptions around what it is. The most typical assumption is that a Stoic is uncaring or unfeeling, someone who doesn’t show emotion. In fact, Stoicism is really about cultivating a deeper, more joyful life and a vital part of that joy are through compassion for our fellow humans. Throughout Meditations Marcus Aurelius reflects on the interconnectedness of all beings.
Constantly think of the universe as a single living being, comprised of a single substance and a single soul; and how all things issue into the single perception of this being, and how it accomplishes all things through a single impulse; and how all things work together to cause all that comes to be, and how intricate and densely woven is the fabric formed by their interweaving
When we come to understand that we are all part of a larger entity, it fosters a sense of connection and stimulates us to act for its greater good. In our current times, we have seen and experienced the good that we are capable of. True, there are still those who seize on the opportunity to be selfish. Stoics do not look down on these people, instead taking pity on them, and if the chance arises, teaching them. The true Stoic knows that they cannot control whether the other person will listen and act, but only that they have taken the right action and done what they can.
Taking action is one of the key disciplines of the Stoics that we have discussed in this series. While we should spend time thinking and ruminating on the words, as Seneca said, we must turn those words into works. Stoicism is a practical philosophy. It is not for sitting on the sidelines or being an armchair critic. As Stoics, we have a social duty to help others. Many Stoics have spent time in public service, whether this is through voluntary efforts or taking a public office. Marcus Aurelius reminds us to keep in mind at all times:
For all that I do, whether on my own or assisted by another, should be directed to this single end, the common benefit and harmony.
Fulfil your social duty
While it might not be easy or comfortable, there is a greater joy to be found in selfless duty. There are many ways that you can make a contribution, however small. Writing this series is my own small contribution in the hope it helps someone else. I have also found ways to continue with Scouting activities for our Scout group, even though we cannot meet face-to-face. Constraints can breed creativity. Help your neighbours and relatives, small gestures can often make a big difference. Offer to shop for them, especially if they are part of the vulnerable group. Or perhaps donate some food to a food bank or an anonymous donation to a charity that’s doing good work.
All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way. — Marcus Aurelius
If you have found the idea in this article useful or helpful, then please share it with your friends and family so they too can see if it would be beneficial in their own lives.