“Watch the stars in their courses and imagine yourself running alongside them. Think constantly on the changes of the elements into each other, for such thoughts wash away the dust of earthly life.”— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.47
I started watching Planet Earth a few days back, and as I reached the middle of the first episode and marveled at the extraordinary sights, I had a profound realization. Here are the exact words that I said to myself in my mind, “Look at that! Man… I am nothing.”
I felt the infinitesimal smallness of my human life, of any human life for that matter, in comparison to nature and the vast planet that we live in.
It’s natural and normal for us to spend our day-to-day life thinking that we’re the center of the universe. After all, it’s not the world that matters, what matters is what’s going in our world. Right? It’s easy to get seduced by the ego and fall in the trap of “me” — that it’s my life, my career, my success, my well-being that’s the most important in the world. However, when we look at nature and at the wonders of this beautiful planet that we inhabit, it gets easier to dissolve this resurfacing ego. Because there are things in this world much bigger than us. Add to that the historical timeline of Earth and the relatively tiny span in which we humans have lived, along with the expansive universe out there, and it’ll not take long for you to understand how little you, your life and your problems are.
Seneca said, “The world itself is a huge temple of all the gods.” When you zoom out and look at this planet, when you learn the fact that this spinning orb is more than 4 billion years old, when you go out and stare up at the stars in the night sky, and then when you look at your life and the challenges you faced or are going through, you understand one important and sobering truth: It just doesn’t matter. God, Nature, the Universe, the Higher Power — call that supreme force whatever you may — is indeed bigger than your problems.
Our life is nothing but a blip, our existence is nothing but a tiny dot. So whenever you feel overwhelmed with what’s going on in your life, or get carried away by power or deceived by the magic spell of hubris, just reflect on the vastness of this world or look at the limitless sky above you. Lose yourself in the Universe, and soon you’ll find your true self — your Higher Self — again.
PS: If you enjoyed reading this essay and are inclined to learn the essential tools and strategies of Stoicism in these uncertain and difficult times, I encourage you to read my eBook Daily Stoicism which is the third book in The Daily Learner series. Through this book, you can be in tune with the Stoic philosophy on a daily basis as you face the challenges of everyday life with practical wisdom and inner fortitude. The wisdom of great philosophers such as Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius as well as modern authors such as Ryan Holiday and Donald Robertson has been distilled in a form that is easy to digest and consume (even if you’re not a reader!). The condensed timeless knowledge in these meditations will guide you in navigating through the complexities that come with modern living, and help you in your quest to live a virtuous and meaningful life, especially in this global health crisis.
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