“Don’t return to philosophy as a task-master, but as patients seek out relief in a treatment of sore eyes, or a dressing for a burn, or from an ointment. Regarding it this way, you’ll obey reason without putting it on display and rest easy in its care.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.9
What really is the importance of philosophy in our lives? Is it simply an item on our perpetual daily to-do lists that we must check off at the end of every day? Or perhaps there is more to philosophy than to be just another productivity and self-help tool. The answer was given by Marcus Aurelius himself, about 2000 years ago. In his meditations, he writes that philosophy is like a medicine. It is like a pill or a bandage we can use when life beats us. And beat us it will, every day. As Ryan Holiday says, “Life comes at us fast”. Fortunes turn to misfortunes in a blink of an eye. Just take a look at this year that we are going through. A global pandemic infecting millions and killing hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. A recession that has wiped out decades of economic growth and has rendered millions of people jobless. Huge corporations that were talking about potential growth and new products and profits just a few months ago now filing for bankruptcy. A potential cold war between global superpowers fighting for their dominance. Life did come at us fast. And it beat us all pretty bad. It is in these times that philosophy can be just the medicine we all need. Now more than ever we need a remedy for our moral ailments and philosophical writings by great men thousands of years ago can provide us all just that. We all are patients of our own failings and philosophy is the ointment that could heal us — our confused minds and our bruised souls.
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.