“For philosophy doesn’t consist in outward display, but in taking heed to what is needed and being mindful of it.” — Musonius Rufus, Lectures, 16.75.15–16
As a kid, I was obsessed with Sam Raimi’s Spider-man movies. I would watch them every time they were on TV. I could really identify with the not-so-popular nerdy Peter Parker who barely had any friends and was just living in his head. But then he puts on the costume and off he goes swinging across the city and saving the world. He had great powers and he took on great responsibility. I would just dream of being the kid under that mask…if only a radioactive spider could bite me. Now in my mid-twenties, I realize that I’m not going to be spider-man. I am no superhero and neither are you. But an even more important truth that I have realized is that we all are fighting our own battles as well. Granted we may not be fighting to save the city or the world, but nevertheless we do have battles to fight. We all have demons we must overcome on a daily basis. Some demons we find out in the world while some we find within us. We have to fight arrogant co-workers or incompetent-yet-demanding bosses. We have to fight our addictions and insecurities. We have to fight for a better body and a calmer mind. Every day, from dawn till dusk, we all fight for our souls. We may not have costumes to show but we do have scars we tend to hide. And that is what the Stoics remind us as well. It is not about what is outside. It is more important what is within. Stoicism, or philosophy, is not about physical appearances or tokens that we can show to the world. Stoicism is about understanding the better way to live and being mindful of it when opportunities arise where we must use our philosophical learnings. Stoicism is about accepting the fact that we may not have the superpowers or the costumes of superheroes but we certainly must build a character just like them. Because believe it or not, it was Spider-man’s character that made him a hero, not the costume.
This article is a part of my Stoic Musings challenge, inspired by the book “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman, where I take a quote from the book and reflect on it, every day.