Change the Way You Think About Life, Death, and Time with Stoic Principals
The loss of someone close, an incurable disease, a traumatising experience … There are so many unfortunate events that can happen to us in life, and that seem to be the obstacles to achieving happiness. This supreme value, very often considered the ultimate goal of human life, is it a sweet utopia or a truly accessible state? Many philosophies opt for the second option.
Stoicism gives rational and reasonable answers to explain the unfortunate chances of our existence. And what we learn from that increases year after year.
Here are some of the principles you should adopt that will help you gain a clearer picture of life, death, and time:
1. Practice resilience when faced with obstacles, failure, or tragedy.
To take a more modern example, the economic crisis is an external event that doesn’t depend on us but can bring us misfortunes such as layoffs, lower purchasing power, or additional stress. In the role of the victim of the economic crisis, a Stoic should admit poverty, endure external misfortunes, and finally accept his fate. In fact, if it’s not his responsibility to get out of his misfortune, then why wish for such a vain and utopian happiness? Like Camus’s Sisyphus in the Sisyphus Myth, it is precisely when one lives in the present, without seeking an impossible way out of his tragic destiny, that one becomes happy.
In any case, Stoicism is not the only answer to the crisis, but to all the unfortunate chances of our existence in general, which makes it a definitely universal and timeless philosophy.
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2. Reflect on what you spend the most time on
How many times have you wasted hours thinking about what you lack? Without realising it, the most functional thing would be: Use these hours to appreciate what you do have around you!
In general, human beings tend to give primary importance to money, but paradoxically, they didn’t learn to give their own time the value it deserves, and therefore, they waste it capriciously as if it cost absolutely nothing.
Another of the greatest Lessons that the Stoics provide us focuses on learning to taste each moment of our life’s time, appreciating what we have in the here and now.
Life is divided into three periods: what has already been, what is, and what will be. The present is a real and brief time, the future uncertain and the past that has already happened is irremediable.
Directing thoughts backward on what has already happened or longing for what could have been is to waste the hours. The most practical thing would be to extract the lessons that you have learned in previous experiences to apply them in the present time.
In this regard, Seneca used to say: “It does not matter how much water you put inside a raft since if it has no bottom, it will not be able to retain absolutely anything and this is what happens over time. No matter how many more years a person is going to live, they will never be enough, because they will be wasted since they are ignorant of what it really means to live.”
The present time is very short, to such an extent that many distracted don’t even notice its constant movement and waste it.
3. Remind Yourself That Time Is Our Most Precious Resource
Life, if you know how to use it, will be long.
For the Stoics, all the years that have passed throughout their lives have served them to make the most of and build their experiences. If time passes, then they invoke their memories as lessons, since all the teachings of the past have been transformed into a capital of wisdom that they apply and use in the present.
If there is something in the future, it is anticipated by calculating exactly what’s in your hands. In other words, it achieves a very refined quality of time, combining the past, the present, and the future into one to build a good life.
But for those who forget the past, reject the present and fear the future, life is as short as it is complicated.
4. Take Action
There are many people for whom the day usually seems so long and in their perception, pass very slowly. That’s when this compulsion to “kill time” arises. Later comes the struggle to spend time doing anything and the minutes that pass irritate you while you wait for a scheduled appointment. The wait slowly eats you away, since what you are looking for is to skip the days until it arrives.
This is how you begin to escape your own intolerance as time passes, jumping from one entertainment to another and the insatiable desires begin to multiply.
Look back and see when you made a plan, when you set a goal, and how many days passed without you trying despite having the time and opportunities to carry it out?
When has your mind been undisturbed?
How much time did you steal from yourself by suffering for what is not worth it?
How much time have you wasted in a sterile euphoria stemming from fleeting desire or seeking to please society rather than yourself?
How little of you have you reserved for yourself?
Ironically, many people spend their lives preparing to start living just in the near and uncertain future. It is then, when postponement is a great waste of time, since it robs you of the ability to taste the present, promising “an after” to start living, relegating living as a promise, in the long term, and not as a reality of the present.
5. We’re Dying Anyway.
It’s not something we like to talk about, but death is the only certain thing in our life. Confronting that is really liberating. Whether you realise it or not, death anxiety is the root of our fears. Our fight mechanism serves to preserve life, escape death. But it’s activated long before death enters, paralysing us from leaving our comfort zone to pursue our passions and creations.
Thinking about death as an option and something that is sought is a great step towards freedom. The idea of life and death is something that is not only covered by great men or only by the sage.
The Stoics looked death in the eye and accepted it as a natural part of life. Death is the way to return home, where man arrived, it’s the return to the house, so that man has only one entrance to life, but he has many means to get out of it.
The virtuous man should not care for his life, since the body is a prison of the soul and when he dies he frees himself from the prison he imprisons. This is Seneca’s version of death. We understand that the subject of death is something there is much more to study. This brief study is just a spark that can be investigated further.
We are gifted with the ability to experience deeply, which is a beautiful thing, regardless of our size and lifespan.
One should take a stoic view from above, and always remember how fleeting life really is. We might realise that many of the small (and even big) things we care about today will mean almost nothing in a hundred years from now.
Put the Stoic philosophy into practice and you will make a progress. It’s now up to you to accept these principles and practice. Focus only on what you have under control, and work hard.