Why I Am Not a Stoic

This quote from a Roman emperor and one of the most prominent stoics in the ancient world should dissuade anyone from Stoicism

“Observe, in short, how transient and trivial is all mortal life; yesterday a drop of semen, tomorrow a handful of spice or ashes. Spend, therefore, these fleeting moments of earth as Nature would have you spend them, and then go to your rest with a good grace, as an olive falls in its season, with a blessing for the earth.”

                                                                                           —-Marcus Aurelius

What nonsense. In what sense is all mortal life trivial? There is no evidence that we are part of some grand scheme the importance of which reduces our individual lives to trivialities. Our lives are made meaningful by the way we occupy the small details of ordinary life. It is what Rousseau called “the tissue of little things” that make up the substance of life and give it character. The subtle gestures of romance, the quiet certainties of friendship, the moment of a caretaker’s resolve , the hypnotic rhythm of waves crashing on the beach, the inviting warmth of dappled sunlight—these “little things” support the meaningfulness of a life. If you pay attention there is a universe inside a garden or conversation.

Published by Dwight Furrow

Wine, food, and travel writing, philosophy, aesthetics

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