East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Stoic Week day 7: Nature

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The final day of the Stoic Week takes us to the Stoic view of Nature, which is at the same time naive and perceptive. We will need to reconcile it with our own modern view, which is in itself an interesting exercise.

The works of the gods are full of providence, and the works of fortune are not separate from nature or the interweaving and intertwining of the hings governed by providence. Everything flows from there. Further factors are necessity and the benefit of the whole universe, of which you are a part. What is brought by the nature of the whole and what maintains that nature is good for each part of nature. Just as the changes in the elements maintain the universe so too do the changes in the compounds.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.3

We know, living on a world in which resources are rapidly waning and that is slowly turning into a trap from which our civilization might not get out alive, that Nature is not so benign and constant in nurturing us.

But there is in the Stoic view this idea that man is apart of the natural system, that too often is forgotten – and it could be argued that if our civilization is in dire straits it is because those of us that were in the driver’s seat forgot we are a part of the machine, probably blinded by the profits.

I like Marcus Aurelius’ view of Nature as a system in flow – so much similar to the worldview of the Taoists and of modern science – in which all the parts must work in harmony. I like it because it is a simple observation that can lead to great things – and it’s a pity it did not.

Being part of the natural system does not mean we need to be fatalistic, just as knowing that we are part of the animal world does not mean we must behave in a beastly way. Understanding such simple facts would be a good start in a healthy direction.

And so the Stoic Week ends, leaving me with this double message – that what comes from the outside has no weight on my happiness as long as I know my spirit and my reactions to external stimuli, and yet that I am part of a whole, and inside and outside should work together.
I will probably never be a good stoic, but this simple set of exercises, readings and meditations was quite interesting.
Did it make me better? I do not know, but I certainly hope so.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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