Just as when meat or other foods are set before us we think, this is a dead fish, a dead bird, or pig; and also, this fine wine is only the juice of a bunch of grapes, this purple edged robe just sheep's wool dyed in a bit of blood from a shellfish; or of sex, that it is only rubbing private parts together followed by a spasmic discharge- in the same way our impressions grab actual events and permeate them, so we see them as they really are. —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.13

Daily Touch of Inspirations
April 24th: A productive use for contempt
Ryan Holiday, The 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

There is one Stoic exercise that might well be described as contemptuous expressions. Stoics use an almost cynical language as a way to dismantle some of the fanciest or most coveted parts of life. Marcus's joke about sex- why would he say something like that? Well, if you take a second to consider sex in such an absurd light, you may be less likely to do something shameful or embarrassing in the pursuit of it. It's a counterbalance to the natural bias we have toward something that feels really good.

We can apply this same way of thinking a lot of things that people prize. Consider that envy- inducing photo you see social media- imagine the person painstakingly staging it. What about that job promotion that means so much? Look at the lives of other so-called successful people. Still think it holds magical power? Money, which we want more of and are reluctant to part with- consider how covered in bacteria and filth it is. That beautiful, perfect person you're admiring from afar? Remember that if they're single, other people must have dumped them at some point. There must be something wrong with them.

This exercise won't turn you into a cynic. But it will provide some much-needed objectivity.



The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom Perseverance and Art of Living

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