This post will be purposely short and to the point. It originates from a bit of journaling this morning. I like to start my day with a grateful practice, but my thoughts often turn to other questions about the meaning of our existence on this planet. Enough said, here is the journal from this morning:
I am grateful for being alive today, and having the opportunity to live a more fulfilling life.
The question you must ask yourself is what is the purpose of all this? What do you mean by living a more fulfilling life?
Why am I here? Is it to fulfill a destiny, serve others, or to master my own philosophy?
Maybe it is all or none of the above. Maybe it’s as the Buddha taught to end suffering.
Whose suffering? Your own and all sentient beings.
How? For me it must be by writing and actions.
It’s not much of a reach to say we all have more than one purpose for living and these can be noble or selfish, or even some combination of the two. As humans we are fairly complex, possessing desires, dreams, and sometimes selfless motives for what we do.
There are many noble reasons to exist including:
Service to your community
Taking care of your family
Showing compassion for others
Being more mindful and spiritual
Becoming a better human being through philosophy
On the other side of the coin exists our selfish or negative motives:
The accumulation of wealth and material things
Sensory desires like sex, drugs, drinking, etc.
The desire to punish, belittle, and criticize those that are different from us
Wrong thought such as anger, hate, or envy
A preponderance of ego; thinking you are better than everyone else
The selfless or noble motives for your life result in happiness and the selfish in destruction. The choice is always yours alone.
What is Epictetus saying when he would prefer a shorter life than one that is longer but of less account? Remember though he qualifies it with a shorter and nobler life, and the word nobler is the key. There are two definitions for noble with one being “one of the nobility or a higher class”, but Epictetus was referring to “having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.” I think this also speaks to the stoic principle that your time on this earth is limited and it is up to you to make the most of it, and living a noble life does just that.
You are bestowed with the power of choice, and you can choose to live your life as a shining example for this world, or you can waste your time and live aimlessly. You know what is the correct choice, so today seek to live a noble life.
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Epictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are beyond our control; we should accept calmly and dispassionately whatever happens. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline.