Life IS Art, as Art is Life

Have you ever been watching a movie or play, or read a book and stopped in awe because you realized the author was speaking directly to you? That their work, while not directed at your own life or situation, was a reflection of the themes, struggles, and adversities you too have experienced? 

This is art at its finest. 

The inspiration for art is taken from the world around the artist. It could be events that have happened directly to them, it could be a theme that transpired in their own life that propelled them to produce the piece of art in the first place. 

Marcus Aurelius was no stranger to art. His tutor, Diognetus, was a Stoic philosopher and painter who taught Marcus about philosophy and art. Marcus’s years and dedication to learning taught him a lot about the arts and he had a great respect for them. It is why he probably reminded himself of how art is just a reflection of life when he wrote to himself in Meditations :

There is no nature which is inferior to art, the arts imitate the nature of things.

What is so important about art is that it breaks down our mental walls for advice and guidance. Through an allegory or story, we are transported to a world which shows us key insights, strategies, and guidance into situations which are all too familiar to our own lives. It creates a bond between us and the art, and allows that art to seep into our psyche and help teach us the lessons which are buried within the motifs. 

Most of us would ignore advice that was just handed to us. For the most part, it is a natural reaction to reject help and we’ve all done it before. The problem is, by listening to other people’s advice without the right mindset, our ego takes hold. We do not want to reveal that we’re not perfect. This of course is ridiculous because no one is perfect, regardless of what they project. But we refuse to show vulnerability. We do not want to look weak. We do not want to seem as if we need the assistance of someone else for a situation we ourselves are in because it makes it seem as though we are less than what we are. But it is this vulnerability, in fact, which connects us to others. It is by shutting down the ego and lowering our defenses to admit we need help which binds us to one another. 

But alas, the majority of us do not do this. It is scary to be vulnerable. It is daunting to be open, to expose ourselves to others’ opinions. We hear words in our head such as “what if they don’t accept me?” or “what if I am not good enough?” We’re afraid of losing a hold on our life to an extent. We spend so much time trying to create the perfect image of our life for others to see. We only put the best photos on social media, we only try to tell the best stories with our friends, we only try to talk about topics which we know people will be interested in, even if there is more we want to share. 

When we suffer in life, we tend to isolate the problem and project it out into the future. A situation which is momentary can suddenly become life-long in our mind. 

Art is there to pierce this ill-fated veil of life which prevents us from seeing the truth behind our problems. It is the mirror to the world. It reminds us that we’re not alone, that others too have experienced the same events, the same emotions, the same situations you yourself have or are, experiencing and as we discussed here about community, this is necessary in life. Maybe it is not the same exact situation, maybe the players are different, but the struggles you face have been faced by others before you and will be faced by others after you. Art helps to bridge this gap within all of us and reminds us that we’re not alone. It provides a path, guidance in a noise polluted world. 

Art allows us to be transported to another world, to see common problems we face and portrays them in a medium which does not harm us but allows us to observe, as an audience, the lives and situations of the characters. We can see how these characters handle their situations, what they did right, what they did wrong. 

And this is why we lean into art. This is why art is so important to the soul. Through art, artists are able to clearly share their inner emotions, turmoils, loves, hates, and ideas. But why discuss the importance of art with Stoicism? Because art is not only the mirror of life, it is the mirror of the soul. Through it, we are able to better see and reflect upon our own lives and situations. Your brain works in the background to break down that story and absorb the themes, meanings, and actions of the art and allows you to digest it and then potentially apply it to your own life. 

Art is a mirror to the lives we live. The next time you are watching something, or reading a story, ask yourself, is there something I can take from this? Try and find the parallels between the art and your own life, and see if there is any wisdom and guidance you can gleam. 

Life creates art, but art finds ways to help us truly live. 


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FAVORITE STOIC QUOTE (Epictetus)

The philosophy of Stoicism is steeped in actionable advice that we can apply to nearly all aspects of our lives. There are several that have been influential on me and my development over the years.

FAVORITE QUOTE

Today’s favorite quote comes from Epictetus, as transcribed by one of his students, Arrian, in book II of the Discourses.

It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.

Epictetus. Discourses. II.17

WHY THIS QUOTE MATTERS TO ME

This quote is an arrow straight to ego’s heart. Often in life, as we go through life and learn, we begin to feed our ego as we become more intelligent with the more we learn. But this quote always helps to center me and remind me that there is always more to learn. And the best way to learn is to be open to understanding that I do not know everything. Once you supplant the ego and you take on the mind of a child, eager to learn even if you think you already know, you are opening the doors to a deeper discovery of knowledge.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

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Is any man afraid of change? Why what can take place without change? Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. VII.18 – Change is inevitable. We are all in a constant state of change. But change is not necessarily a bad thing. Good comes from change. – Think of yourself. You are not the same today as you were yesterday. You hair has grown, you have learned and experienced events. You have gone through change even on a microscopic level. – Understand, change is inevitable. How you view and embrace change determines how you react to it. Rather than running from change or trying to avoid it, accept that it is a part of life, that it is through change and adversity that we grow. The person you were 10 years ago is not the person you are today. As time continues, you will continue to grow and change. Embrace it. – Follow @stoicwithin for more www.stoicwithin.com – #stoicwithin #stoicism #marcusaurelius

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Book Notes: Verbal Judo

The entire basis for Verbal Judo is to treat people with dignity and respect. 

George Thompson. Verbal Judo.

INTRODUCTION

Book: Verbal Judo
Author: George J. Thompson, Jerry B. Jenkins
Read: July 2019

NOTES

Five Universal Truths of human interaction: All people want to be treated with dignity and respect; All people want to be asked rather than told to do something; All people want to be informed as to why they are being asked or ordered to do something; All people want to be given options rather than threats; All people want a second chance when they make a mistake. 

Ancient Greeks: Action follows philosophy and that what we believe will dictate our actions in life. 

By truly believing and advocating the philosophy of respect for others, we can maintain tactical position even in adversarial situations, while allowing others to disagree and keep their dignity. 

The philosophical foundation of Verbal Judo promotes using language to achieve a professional purpose and to do so with real power and empathy. 

Sympathy vs empathy: We can feel the pain of others by merely asking ourselves how we would feel under identical circumstances.

We must communicate our purpose but we are not required to respect wrongful action. 

The entire basis for Verbal Judo is to treat people with dignity and respect. 

In this life, the most important thing you have is your relationships with people. 

TAKEAWAYS

Part of understanding others is understanding ourselves. But in order to do that, we need to keep a level head in situations which can escalate quickly. Verbal Judo is the key and provides plenty of tools and tactics for pausing before responding (very important) as well as creating buffers to help others remain calm so a conversation does not quickly escalate.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

QUOTE OF THE DAY

SIMPLE STOIC ADVICE (A Happy Life)

The beautiful thing about Stoic philosophy is the advice contained within it is just as applicable today as it was when it was first written all those many years ago. We can learn a great deal from interpreting the advice provided and using it to our advantage as we go throughout our own lives.

QUOTE

A pilot and a fair wind are necessary to a happy voyage; reason and art, to a happy life.

Epictetus. Fragments. XXX

ADVICE

Reason is one of the highest virtues one can hold in life. It is how we understand the world and events which unfold. Art is a gift to the world in which the artist helps us to understand events through their work.

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THE SAYINGS OF PUBLILIUS SYRUS (Part 10)

This is part ten in our series of aphorisms by Publilius Syrus who was a big influence on Seneca and his own work. He is quoted by Seneca in two of his letters to Lucilius, On the Value of Advice and On the Philosopher’s Seclusion, both coming from his Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium, known today as the Letters from a Stoic.  

If you have read Seneca’s work before, carefully study how the Syrus aphorisms have influenced him. 

Regardless of whether they have a Stoic context or not, they are nonetheless enjoyable. 

My favorite aphorisms are in bold.

The quotes are attributable to the D. Lyman translation.

To see other parts of this series, click here.


PUBLILIUS SYRUS #91
He who boasts of a favor bestowed, would like it back again.

PUBLILIUS SYRUS #92
Sympathy in benevolence is the closest all all kinships. 

PUBLILIUS SYRUS #93
A true benevolence knows the reason of its gifts.

PUBLILIUS SYRUS #94
To die by another’s command is to endure two deaths.

PUBLILIUS SYRUS #95
A favor granted before it as asked, is doubly acceptable.

PUBLILIUS SYRUS #96
Past happiness augments present wretchedness. 

PUBLILIUS SYRUS #97
He dies twice who perishes by his own hand.

PUBLILIUS SYRUS #98
Aid rendered the wrong-doer, makes you the greater sinner.

PUBLILIUS SYRUS #99
Conquest over one’s self, in the hour of victory, is a double triumph. 

PUBLILIUS SYRUS #100
Multiply your acts of kindness, and you teach the recipient to return them. 

WANT MORE?

We’ve enlisted the help of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca to assist us in providing even more additional guidance to help you live your most virtuous life. Want to see what wisdom they have to provide? Complete the form below and join our private monthly newsletter. Oh, and did we mention there’s also free goodies for signing up?