Role Models

Stoic Week 2015 centered on Marcus Aurelius and opened with the same theme shared in the first few pages of Meditations: role models.

I’ve never been one to consciously consider my own role models, although I know I have them. I suppose my pessimistic nature is more inclined to make a list of people from whom I’ve learned how not to act. Nevertheless, here is my own list of role models. I’ve tried to keep the attributes related to Stoicism. Here goes:

  1. From my mother – gentleness and kindness; to work for the good of humankind; who introduced me to travel and therefore helped me to see myself as a citizen of the world.
  2. From my father – spirituality without interference from a religious institution; to entertain an idea without necessarily accepting it as Truth; to have dignity and refrain from taking a man’s last penny, even when you have the power to do so.
  3. From my grandmother – hard work and hospitality; the value of a commitment; to accept life or death each day as it is dealt to you.
  4. From my grandfather – hard work; the importance of exercise and eating healthy in effort to maintain the body.
  5. From my great-grandfather – that intelligence and wisdom can surely exist in a man even if he has had no formal education.
  6. From my aunt – gentleness; the beauty of the divine; to separate a person’s character from his afflictions.
  7. From Victor – to live in the present and not spend a second worrying about tomorrow or regretting the past.
  8. From my boyfriend – to continually expand your mind; to appreciate this moment and not take anything for granted; to turn everyday moments into beautiful memories
  9. From Thor Heyerdahl – to seek out truth with your own eyes, even when everyone is telling you that they already have truth.
  10. From Bob Zellner – “When you see something wrong, you have to take action. You can’t study the problem forever.”

Now I’ll look at Marcus’ Meditations inversely. From 1.1 through 1.5, here are the attributes Marcus lists. Does anyone in my life exemplify these attributes?

  • Character and self-control from my boyfriend.
  • Integrity and manliness from my father. (or womanliness from my mother, obviously)
  • Reverence for the divine from my boyfriend.
  • Generosity from my grandparents.
  • Inability to do wrong or to even conceive of doing wrong from my coworker.
  • Simple living from my grandparents.
  • Education and money spent for a good cause from my grandparents.
  • Not to root for either team in a sports match from my parents (we were never much into watching sports, and I suppose there may have been a reason for that. 🙂 )
  • To put up with discomfort and not make demands from my grandmother.
  • To do my own work, mind my own business from my parents.
  • To have no time for slanderers from my boyfriend.

Marcus had his Stoicism studies a bit easier, in my opinion. He had tutors and mentors to help guide him in his philosophical journey. My family, on the other hand, doesn’t really feel comfortable discussing philosophy. I think they’re not sure if I’ve “gone off the deep end” or if they know what exactly Stoicism is. But the truth is, they do exemplify some of the same Stoic teachings that Marcus looked for in his role models and mentors, whether they are comfortable with Stoicism or not. 🙂 You don’t have to have approval from others in order to make progress. We can seek out role models who can demonstrate important characteristics, but the philosophical journey is ultimately an individual journey.

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