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  • Daniel Vargas

Stoic's opinion on being a man

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one” - Marcus Aurelius

Becoming a man and discussing what it means to become one can be debated among men for hours, and still this topic can be discussed to be hashed out again. Everyone’s experience is different and everyone’s roles and responsibilities are different as well. As we live in a modern society it can be difficult to cater to biological desires, such as finding abundance in food, women and knowledge. These are, in a manner of speaking resolved. So what have the stoics written to help us understand what it means to be a man?

Epictetus wrote that we should control what we can and let go of what we can't and we will find the strength to accomplish many things. He grew up as a slave and he wrote that this is something that he cannot actively change, however, his intellect was. through hard work and study he impressed his master at the time and was given an education. It will never benefit you to dwell on what you can't control. Being a man can mean controlling what is possible. Focus on what is within your power and act accordingly.

Seneca would state that life moves with or without you, it is filled with uncertainty so you must live in the moment. This is something I feel every man in today’s age can take to heart. You must be in the moment of your life. This can be far more truer for the one that relives in his mind the glory days of his youth. Many live too far in the past and too far in the future. Seneca’s life was turned upside down when he was exiled after being promised bountiful wealth, influence and family. Instead of giving into despair he reasoned that his life would be filled with learning and travel, to continue to live his life in this moment, not too far ahead. Focusing on here and now can prepare you for your future.

Understand what you truly value. Seneca, for example reasoned that the comparison of loss between your materialistic wants and desires would never compare to the loss of spouse, child or family member. These are irreplaceable and would send you in a spiral of despair should something happen to them and you were left inattentive to the true values of your life.

Marcus Aurelius was a sage that was known to give his all in everything that he did and learned. In work, you give it your all, in your marriage you love with everything, and above all, you accept the fate you are given. Marcus was dealt many adversities for being an emperor, but he rarely lost his temper and tackled every challenge with strength and conviction. He knew that life is unfair in its challenges and that there is no situation in which you will find perfection. But facing every challenge with quiet strength and discipline will build a better and stronger version of yourself.

A final note that we find from stoic teachings is finding your own path. Seneca was a big fan of calling out sheep in the crowd, people who did not question their own intellect. It's not enough to learn from great people or trust information when presented. You become wise in challenging why you believe this to be true. This is following your own path.

Seneca believed that after learning something new, you grow wiser by challenging yourself in understanding why you think something is true and to question the fancy a thought without accepting it. Push against your comfort zones and you will find a path that is only your own. Don’t look for footprints, this is your own life, look up, stand tall and be proud to one day call yourself a Sage.

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