Art of Manliness: 21 Epigrams Every Man Should Live By and
“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” —Marcus Aurelius
In Rome just as America, in the forum just as on Facebook, there was the temptation to replace action with argument. To philosophize instead of living philosophically. Today, in a society obsessed with content, outrage, and drama, it’s even easier to get lost in the echo chamber of the debate of what’s “better.” We can have endless discussions about what’s right and wrong. What should we do in this hypothetical situation or that one? How can we encourage other people to be better? (We can even debate the meaning of the above line: “What’s a man? What’s the definition of good? Why doesn’t it mention women?”) Of course, this is all a distraction. If you want to try to make the world a slightly better place, there’s a lot you can do. But only one thing guarantees an impact. Step away from the argument. Dig yourself out of the rubble. Stop wasting time with how things should be, would be, could be. Be that thing. (Here’s a cool poster of this quote).
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” —Epictetus
There is the story of the alcoholic father with two sons. One follows in his father’s footsteps and ends up struggling through life as a drunk, and the other becomes a successful, sober businessman. Each are asked: “Why are you the way you are?” The answer for both is the same: “Well, it’s because my father was an alcoholic.” The same event, the same childhood, two different outcomes. This is true for almost all situations—what happens to us is an objective reality, how we respond is a subjective choice. The Stoics—of which Epictetus was one—would say that we don’t control what happens to us, all we control are our thoughts and reactions to what happens to us. Remember that: You’re defined in this life not by your good luck or your bad luck, but your reaction to those strokes of fortune. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
“This is not your responsibility but it is your problem.” —Cheryl Strayed
It is not your responsibility to fill up a stranger’s gas tank, but when their car dies in front of you, blocking the road, it’s still your problem isn’t it? It is not your responsibility to negotiate peace treaties on behalf of your country, but when war breaks out and you’re drafted to fight in it? Guess whose problem it is? Yours. Life is like this. It has a way of dropping things into our lap—the consequences of an employee’s negligence, a spouse’s momentary lapse of judgement, a freak weather event—that were in no way our fault but by nature of being in our lap, our f*cking problem. So what are you going to do? Complain? Are you going to litigate this in a blogpost or an argument with God? Or are you just going to get to work solving it the best you can? Life is defined by how you answer that question. Cheryl Strayed is right. This thing might not be your responsibility but it is your problem. So accept it, deal with it, kick its ass.
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That is all.
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