The Stoic concept of sympatheia reflects the notion of a well-integrated, interconnected cosmos in which everything in the universe is part of a grander whole. In his personal reflections, Marcus Aurelius writes, “Meditate often on the interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of all things in the universe. For in a sense, all things are mutually woven together and therefore have an affinity for each other—for one thing follows after another according to their tension of movement, their sympathetic stirrings, and the unity of all substance.”
In this fast-paced world filled with noise, distractions and overwhelm, it’s easy to forget the notion of sympatheia and get sidetracked. It’s easy to focus on our problems, our life and just taking care of the people around us. It’s easy to surround ourselves with people who are like-minded and the people that we care for. It’s easy to care only for our country and its development, not caring about other countries of the world.
But the truth is that when others suffer, we suffer. When the world goes through pain due to a catastrophe, we go through that pain as well. To paraphrase Marcus Aurelius, what’s bad for the hive is bad for the bee as well.
We are not citizens of one particular country, we’re all citizens of the world. What harms the world community, also harms the individual. The sooner we accept this notion of cosmopolitanism, the bigger impact and contribution we’ll be able to make.
We are all part of the same mighty living being. We all share resources of the same planet. We all breathe the same air; the water that we all drink has the same molecular composition. We all have hopes and dreams. No matter where you live, what your race is and what language you speak, we all have descended from the same long chain of human evolution.
We are not alone, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Instead of cultivating a narrow-minded perception of life, we need to take a broader perspective.
We all have a duty to work for the greater good. It’s important that we let go of our selfish concerns and look after each other. Because one is all and all is one.