Our purpose on this planet(DW #807)
Sep 29, 2020
After the "The Big Three in Greek Philosophy", Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, Stoicism became one of the most influential philosophies of the Roman world and has continued to influence many of history’s greatest minds.
The Stoic philosophers (so called because Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school used to teach under a column or "stoa" around 300 BC) believed that the central work of human beings was to live up to their true selves.
Here’s how Seneca, one of the main Stoics, puts it:
"Man’s ideal state is realized when he has fulfilled the purpose for which he is born. And what is it that reason demands of him? Something very easy—that he live in accordance with his own nature."
Marcus Aurelius, another Stoic Philosopher (and Roman Emperor a hundred years after Nero), said something very similar in his classic Meditations: "Everything - a horse, a vine - is created for some duty... For what task, then, were you yourself created? A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for."
Many centuries later, Abraham Maslow echoed this idea: "Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What human beings can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature. This need we may call self-actualization... It refers to man’s desire for self-fulfilment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is potentially: to become everything one is capable of becoming."
So in order to fulfill our purpose as human beings, "what we can be, we must be." According to wisdom through the ages, our wellbeing lies in living with purpose and in being the best version of ourselves.
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