Dissecting Meditations, a personal journal by Marcus Aurelius Part #8

What you are getting into: 832 words, 5mins read

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Here, I will share my contemplations upon reading the published personal journal of Marcus Aurelius, a roman emperor from 161-180 AD. Thoughts mainly stemmed from Stoicism, and Marcus Aurelius used the notes for guidance and self improvement. It’s a translated book by Gregory Hays, or you can read it online.

For this and upcoming posts I attempt to dissect quotes I favour upon reading the book.

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

— But it’s nice here…

So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best as they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

— But we have to sleep sometime…

Agreed. But nature set a limit on that — as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. You’ve had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota.

You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.

Is helping others less valuable to you? Not worth your effort?

My favourite quote in the book of Meditations. If there’s nothing you took from all the posts on Stoicism, take this quote away.

It’s so straight forward. I want to sleep more, but I have yet to hit our quota for work. Doing good for myself, love ones, and the world is working. Why do I want to indulge in more sleep as compared to doing good?

By reading this over and over again it reframes my mind from lazing to being a workhorse. “The time for lazing is over, it is time to work,” I should remind ourselves the moment I wake up from slumber. If I compare the quota of sleeping and working with eating and drinking, it brings me clarity. At times I overeat, then I hate myself for doing so. But the times I sleep above my quota, I don’t feel guilty. Why? Because I neglected loving myself. If, I love myself enough, I will take care of my body. This capsule that I reside in, called ‘body’, takes me from birth to death. If, I love myself enough, I will have adequate sleep. If, I love myself enough, I will give my body the nutrients it needs so I have energy to work. If, I love myself enough, I will exercise my body to keep it fit and healthy. If, I don’t have proper nutrition and exercise, I may have troubles sleeping, resulting in irregular sleeping cycles. And in turn I am not able to show up and do my best work.

My point: Take care of yourself before taking care of others.

Most people who only leech without providing any value have some form of care and concern from someone else. What about those people who are able to provide care? It takes work to provide care. They must have taken good care of themselves didn’t they? Why don’t I take care of myself so I can take care of others?

Once you I yourself enough, I will understand that working gives me meaning. It gives me a sense of purpose. Purpose cannot be found. Purpose is found by doing. Don’t listen to the millions of blogs and books that preach ‘find your passion’. Show up and do the work. If don’t I know what to work on, then the work is finding work I can lose yourself in. Passion cannot be discovered by tests, questionnaires, or travel1 — it’s an abstract concept, much like love. There’s no one true definition, everyone holds a different opinion, yet we all have a common understanding on what it is.

So stop with the hedonistic behaviours. Get disciplined and go get stuffs done.

  1. This is the biggest misconception. “Finding yourself through travel” may be the second most outrageous slogan after “diamonds are forever”. Believing this hype may be disastrous.

Even in today’s modern age, a man should follow the Gentleman’s code

What you are getting into: 536 words, 3mins read

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Olu Eletu

Every man should follow some form of code. For me, it’s the gentleman’s code.

They are timeless codes that will endure the test of time. Many complain that chivalry is dead. No they are not, there are just too many boys around.

These are the codes I follow, and I hope you do too:

  1. Be courteous and respect other people’s feelings and opinions.
  2. First impressions matter, so dress up, stay well groomed, and smell nice.
  3. The main purpose of dressing well isn’t to impress, it’s self-respect. When you have self-respect, exuding confidence comes naturally — that’s the main purpose.
  4. Opening the door or giving up a seat for a lady isn’t up for discussion.
  5. Starting / instigating a fight is for school boys, but men obtain the power to end one.
  6. Learn how to fight, pray that you will never use it. But when you use it, it is to defend your love ones.
  7. Handwritten “Thank you” cards aren’t outdated. What’s outdated is thoughtful appreciation. Use them.
  8. Don’t play games when it comes to love. If you like them, tell them. Ask them out by calling, not texting.
  9. Make sure everyone has their plate before you start eating.
  10. We don’t always have to be the center of attention, but we are always noticed. It is our signature as gentlemen to come, make a statement, leave, and be remembered.
  11. Admit when you’re wrong. Apologise sincerely, make it up for the oversight, learn from it, and move on.
  12. Don’t harp on past mistakes.
  13. Be a friend, look after each other’s back. No backstabbing business.
  14. Control your emotions, let your guard down appropriately, and never lose your temper.
  15. Watch your language. Foul language signify lack of etiquette and style.
  16. Own a well tailored suit. If you cannot fit the suit you own, make a new suit.
  17. A gentleman never has to tell anyone he is a gentleman. He just is.
  18. Know yourself. Know what you like, what you don’t. Know what you know, what you don’t. Know what values and principles you uphold, what you don’t. And if you don’t know yourself yet, then your job now is to know yourself.
  19. Never engage in gossip. If you are in the vicinity, walk away. If you can’t, defend the absent. If you can’t, walk away.
  20. A gentleman have his own dedication. Know your dedication.
  21. Look forward and keep your shoulders upright when you walk. Don’t ever use your phone to text when walking. If you really need to send that text else you or someone might die, stop, get to the side, and finish your business.
  22. Develop a hobby. A hobby takes your own off worries and trains your ability to focus.
  23. Develop a sense of humour and optimism. It has the power to disarm even the mightiest guard walls.
  24. A gentleman gives nothing but his best for any endeavours he is passionate about. He shall not waste time pursuing trivial things.
  25. Last but not least, a gentleman loves his partner, family, and friends with all his heart and he vow to never break their heart.

With that, I leave you with this timeless passage:

An open letter to people who lacks empathy

What you are getting into: 675 words, 4mins read

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Annie Spratt

Recently I have come across people who have absolutely no empathy. They only care about themselves. To the point where they think they are the center of the whole entire universe. They only talk about themselves. They care about nothing. They don’t care about people who have no food, no water, no water, no access to education, no access to internet, well you get the idea. Yet they think they are living the toughest life there is in the whole entire universe.

I think they lack empathy.

This article talks about empathy.

Empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection. Words from Brene Brown.

There are four qualities of empathy by Theresa Wiseman:

  1. To be able to see the world as others see it—this requires putting our stuff aside to see the situation through the eyes of a loved one
  2. To be nonjudgmental—judgement of another person’s situation discounts the experience and is an attempt to protect ourselves from the pain of the situation
  3. To understand another person’s feelings—we need to be in touch with our personal feelings in order to understand someone else’s. This also requires putting aside “us” to focus on our loved one
  4. To communicate our understanding of that person’s feelings—rather than saying, “At least…” or “It could be worse…” try, “I’ve been there, and that really hurts,” or (to quote an example from Brown) “It sounds like you are in a hard place now. Tell me more about it.”

Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes requires tremendous amount of effort. We need to let down our guard, to feel the emotions they are feeling, to open ourselves up. In order words, we need to be vulnerable as well.

Raise your hand if you know people who are immensely judgmental. Without getting all the facts right, they jump into conclusions. I am no saint either. I too have times where I judge someone without even knowing what they have been through. This is because of our biological nature. Back in the caveman days humans require quick judgment in sensing danger. However, now that the world have industrialised, we have not shaken that innate trait off, and it is causing a lot of problems.

Even if we let our guard down and try to feel what people are feeling without any judgment, are we even good enough to communicate what we think in our own minds to them? To speak in a way that doesn’t raise their defence walls higher. To express our condolences and that we have experienced their pain once in our lives before.

What if we have yet to experience such sorrow?

Then we keep our mouths shut.

Empathy is a choice and it’s a vulnerable choice. In order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling. Rarely, if ever, does an empathic response begin with, “At least…”

Here are some of the examples Brene gave:

They: “I had a miscarriage.”

I: “At least you know you can get pregnant.”

They: ”I think my marriage is falling apart.”

I: “At least you have a marriage.”

They: ”John’s getting kicked out of school.”

I: “At least Sarah is an A-student.”

Someone shared something with us that’s incredibly painful and we’re trying to “silver lining” it. I don’t think that’s a verb, but I’m using it as one. We’re trying to put a silver lining around it.

But this approach almost always doesn’t work. We try to sympathise by silver lining it and we end up making things worse. When trying to sympathise we may end up making the other person feel worse than they did before they approached us.

So don’t sympathise. Let’s empathise instead. Stop silver lining it. Let’s understand their plight. If we can’t, then let’s just keep our mouths shut.

Because sometimes the best thing we can do is just listen.