We’re Part of This Beautiful Tradition
Do you remember the first time you heard about the Stoics? Maybe you read about them in another book. Maybe someone you know recommended them to you. Remember that feeling though? When those words first started going through your brain and you felt them in your soul for the first time? It was an incredible experience right? One of the most important and transformative moments in your life. Here’s the crazy thing though. Before the Vietnam war, James Stockdale had almost that exact experience when he was given a copy of Epictetus at Stanford. You could roll back the tape of history almost 200 years and find the exact moment that George Washington had his experience when, at 16, a neighbor passed along a copy of the works of the Stoics. Nearly 2,000 years ago almost the exact same thing happened, only instead of America it was in Rome, and a man named Junius Rusticus was loaning Marcus Aurelius a copy of Epictetus. A generation before that, someone was introducing Epictetus himself, then no more than a slave, to the works of Musonius Rufus. You could go back further still and sit in a book store and watch Zeno, washed up from a shipwreck, being introduced to philosophy by way of a reading of the works of Socrates. It shouldn’t take away from the beauty of your experience to learn that it wasn’t singular. In fact, it enhances it. It ties directly into the most moving passages of Marcus Aurelius, where he points out how long human beings have been doing the same thing, how we’ve been falling in love and fighting over money, improving ourselves and falling short, and yes, having our minds blown by great books, since as long as there have been books. We are part of a long tradition and it’s a long tradition that will continue after we’re gone. We’re not special. We’re a strong, but ordinary link in a timeless chain… that includes some of the greatest men and women to ever walk the earth. We don’t own these ideas. We are, as they say about Patek Philippe watches, just guarding them for the next generation. We are caretakers. And that’s important.
Duration: 3 min