It is important to understand that nature creates in parents affection for their children; and parental affection is the source from which we trace the shared community of the human race … As it is obvious that it is natural to us to shrink from pain, so it is clear that we derive from nature itself the motive to love those to whom we have given birth. From this motive is developed the mutual concern which unites human beings as such. The fact of their common humanity means that one person should feel another to be his relative.
– Cicero, On Ends, 3.62-3
Take 5-10 minutes to sit quietly and practise the Circle of Hierocles exercise given here. Think of yourself as gradually expanding the circle of those you are concerned with till you reach the circle of human beings in general.
The following visualisation or meditation technique is loosely based on Hierocles’ comments:
- Close your eyes and take a few moments to relax and focus your attention on the things you’re about to visualise.
- Picture a circle of light surrounding your body and take a few moments to imagine that it symbolises a growing sense of affection toward your own true nature as a rational animal, capable of wisdom (virtue), the chief good in life.
- Now imagine that circle is expanding to encompass members of your family or others who are very close to you, towards whom you now project an attitude of family affection as if they were somehow parts of your own body.
- Imagine that circle expanding to encompass people you encounter in daily life, perhaps colleagues you work alongside, and project natural affection toward them as if they were members of your own family.
- Let the circle expand further to include everyone in the country where you live, imagining that your affection is spreading out toward them also, insofar as they are rational animals akin to you.
- Imagine the circle now growing to envelop the entire world and the whole human race as one, allowing this philosophical and philanthropic affection to encompass every other member of the human race.
Also see what Albert Einstein said: see this link.
Let us embrace in our minds the fact that there are two communities – the one which is great and truly common, including gods and human beings, in which we look neither to this corner or to that, but measure the boundaries of our state by the sun; the other, the one to which we have been assigned by the accident of our birth.
– Seneca, On Leisure, 4.1
What benefits each of us is what is in line with our constitution and nature; my nature is rational and political. As Antoninus, my city and fatherland is Rome, as a human being it is the universe. It is only what benefits these cities which is good for me.
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.44.5-6
How far did you succeed in fulfilling your local roles and responsibilities while also bearing in mind the broader values shared by humanity in general – or the needs of those human beings currently without a home or country of their own?
This morning, at 4:30am, while on a walk with my dear wife, I commented that every year leading up to Stoic Week, I get excited and tell myself that I am going to really work at it. Inevitably, however, my busiest week at work coincides with Stoic Week! But instead of being frustrated this week, I've been quietly focused, content and happy! I am busy helping others at work and at home and in the neighborhood. And the more I'm engaged at work and at home, the more compassion I have for others.
As I write this at 8pm tonight, I reflect on what I have done today. I was able to spend a couple of hours with my wife, as we went on a walk this morning and enjoyed a warm beverage for breakfast. Then I quickly got ready and drove to my work's campus, where I ran a two-hour meeting for our leadership team. I was able to stay focused, calm and engaged. After that meeting, I drove to our satellite office where my team was in a "dojo" learning the principals of agile. Then, by mid-afternoon, I needed to get home to meet the contractors who fixed up our home. While they were here, I answered many questions for my manager and handled a few work requests. By six o'clock, my oldest son and my youngest daughter and I met a neighbor 7th grader at the school basketball court to help him get ready for school basketball try-outs. Then we headed home, cleaned up, ate dinner as a family. Virtually everything I did today was in support of others - and I felt content for having done it! This is what being human is all about; this is our nature.
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