I’m not exaggerating. Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations changed my life. But not in the way you might expect.
It wasn’t like I read it and then saw the world through a different lens. It was more subtle than that.
In fact, I only noticed the change when I was dealing with pain, anxiety, anger, grief, sadness, or jealousy. What you might call human problems.
I only realised the difference in my mindset when I came up against adversity. Which made me think.
Philosophy is like a preventive medicine. Texts like the Meditations, Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. They all prepare you for future problems.
The opposite of preventive medicine is a painkiller. Something that artificially and temporarily numbs the pain without actually solving the root cause. If philosophy is a preventive medicine, pleasure is a painkiller.
Activities like smoking, drinking, gorging yourself on food, going to watch a movie or a concert. They can all be painkillers. They make us feel good and distract our minds from it’s problems.
And like actual painkillers, if used too much, their impact lessens and they become addictive.
Between philosophy and pleasure, between preventive medicine and painkiller, we have cures. Something we take to treat a current problem.
The best cures for human problems are denarration, quiet, learning, and friendship. The first two allow us the time and space and clarity to define the problem. The third allows us to further understand it and develop a plan to overcome it. The fourth offers us support and comfort and strength along the way.
Anger. Jealousy. Sadness. Grief. Anxiety. Regret. These are just a few human problems. There are more.
You have three ways to deal with them.
1) You can use pleasure and distraction as a painkiller.
2) You can cure them with a combination of denarration, quiet, learning and friendship.
3) You can prevent them from becoming an issue in the first place through the use of philosophy.
I know which I would choose.