#15: Nature is a Masterpiece, Figs in Winter, and Cosmic Insignificance

Plus: 11 irrational beliefs that lead to nuerosis

Welcome, Stoics.

Discover how ancient Stoic wisdom can provide profound modern-day insights through captivating visual storytelling and thoughtful essays.

Gain practical communication strategies to revolutionize your interactions and relationships.

In today’s Nous

  • 🍃 Visualizing Stoic Wisdom: A deep dive video into Marcus Aurelius’s perspective on nature.

  • 🌎 The Power of Insignificance: An essay exploring the benefits of embracing your own insignificance.

  • 💓 Revolutionizing Communication: Practical tips from Stoicism to improve your interactions.

Read time: 8 minutes

🏹 Stoic Wisdom Arrows

🐗 Marcus Aurelius: Nature is a Masterpiece [Video]: I narrated a quote by Marcus Aurelius in this video and applied visuals to help the viewer understand the quote with more depth and derive more meaning from it. I personally love the way this turned out because it helped me see the wisdom of Marcus in a new way. Watch here.

🐜 Why Your Insignificance is a Good Thing [Article]: An essay exploring the beauty and usefulness of not living from a selfish ego-centric worldview and instead embracing your insignificance for greater freedom: Read here.

😔 11 Beliefs that Cause Neurosis [Note]: Donald Robertson shares a list of 11 irrational beliefs that cause Neurosis, taken from Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Read here.

🧰 Stoic Toolbox: Sit On Your “Buts”

Embracing our innate pro-social tendencies is a fundamental aspect of Stoicism. We aim to use logical reasoning to enhance societal well-being, fulfilling our responsibilities as friends, family members, and citizens.

It is crucial to continually seek ways to improve our communication and interactions with others. I gained awareness of numerous communication mistakes I had been making while reading "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen."

In my efforts to express empathy and understanding to my 5-year-old son, I often mirrored his feelings, using phrases like “I can see that you’re annoyed that someone knocked your tower down.”

However, I would inadvertently negate my previous empathy by following up with a "but," introducing my own perspective, such as:

“I can see that you’re annoyed that someone knocked your tower down, but it doesn’t matter. I can help you build a new one.”

This well-intentioned response, unfortunately, sends a message that his feelings are invalid, and I know better.

To illustrate this with a more extreme example:

Imagine telling a grieving friend, “I know you must be heartbroken about losing your family member, but death is a part of life, and it's not worth being too upset about.”

This clearly highlights ineffective communication.

To address this issue, avoid using "but" in sentences as it tends to diminish the other person's perspective. Instead, you can use phrases like:

  1. The Problem Is: “I can see that you’re annoyed someone knocked your tower down. The problem is that we are in a play center, and this might happen frequently. Would you like me to help guard your next tower?”

  2. Even Though You Know: “Even though we are in a play center and towers might get knocked down often, I see that you are upset because you put so much effort into building yours.”

I encourage you to practice these alternatives to enhance your empathetic communication, avoiding the use of "but" in your sentences.

🤖 Philosophy Remix: Marcus Aurelius on Social Media Addiction

Marcus Aurelius would often break down experiences or possessions into their raw elements to help himself remove them from a pedestal and release his attachment to them. He likely got this from Epictetus who wrote in his handbook:

In the case of particular things that delight you, or benefit you, or to which you have grown attached, remind yourself of what they are. Start with things of little value. If it is china you like, for instance, say, ‘I am fond of a piece of china.’

Here is a remix of Marcus Aurelius talking about social media addiction, using this “object deconstruction” technique from Epictetus:

When you find yourself incessantly drawn to the small, luminous rectangle in your hand, pause and reflect on what it truly is. This device, though crafted with precision and infused with the ability to connect across vast expanses, is but a collection of metals, plastics, and fleeting electric currents. The images and words that dance upon its surface, enticing your attention and stealing hours from your day, are mere pixels – tiny points of light that, in their aggregation, create the illusion of significance.

Consider the content that captivates you. The endless stream of updates, photographs, and missives from acquaintances and strangers alike – what are they but expressions of thought, fleeting and often inconsequential? They are not the fullness of life, but rather, fragments of existence, meticulously curated and presented for consumption.

Reflect, then, on the nature of your engagement. Are you not trading the irreplaceable hours of your life for moments of ephemeral pleasure and connection? Are you not sacrificing the depth of true experience for the shallowness of digital interaction?

Remind yourself of the impermanence of it all. The images will fade, the messages will be forgotten, and the device itself will one day cease to function. What, then, will remain? Only the time you have chosen to invest or squander.

So, when the allure of the digital world beckons, strive to see it for what it truly is – a tool, a diversion, a collection of base elements. Use it with intention and moderation, lest you lose yourself in the illusion and forsake the substance of life for the shadow of connection.

☢️ Free Productivity Course: Toxic Productivity

I created a 5-part productivity video series with Eric Brown. Here is part 1 all about toxic productivity.

📜 Stoic Quote: Wisdom to Action

What you love is nothing of your own: it has been given to you for the present, not that it should not be taken from you, nor has it been given to you for all time, but as a fig is given to you or a bunch of grapes at the appointed season of the year. But if you wish for these things in winter, you are a fool.

Marcus Aurelius

Quote Breakdown

Imagine this:

You’ve got a sweet, ripe piece of fruit in your hand. It’s there, it’s yours for the moment, but hey, it wasn’t always yours, and it won’t be for long. That fruit’s kind of like everything else you love or want—it’s not really yours, it’s just your turn with it.

You only get it when it’s in season. You’re not gonna find it in the middle of winter. So, if you’re sitting there in the snow, wanting that summer fruit, you’re out of luck. You’re just making yourself miserable for no reason.

Enjoy what you’ve got when you’ve got it. Don’t try to hold on to it too tight, and don’t go wishing for it when it’s not the right time. Things come and go, and that’s just the way it is.

Quote Application

Each day, take a few moments to reflect on the things you have and appreciate them as they are, without taking them for granted. At the same time, remind yourself that these things are impermanent, and practice letting go of your attachment to them.

This could help cultivate a sense of contentment and resilience, regardless of external circumstances. Additionally, when you find yourself desiring something that is not available or realistic in the moment, remind yourself of the quote and try to shift your focus to what is present and attainable, rather than clinging to unrealistic desires.

I personally use the phrasing of Marcus and frequently tell myself:

Stop wanting figs in winter.

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Thank you for reading. As Stoics, we understand that the future is uncertain, so let's say, "I will be in touch soon, fate permitting!"

Jon Brooks