To Live in Accordance with Nature
This was the goal that the Stoics sought. For many people,
this motto can seem quite vague and have little meaning at first
glance; however, you will find the more you return to these six
words, the more meaning they will have and you will understand
why the Stoics chose it as the motto for their school.
In simple terms,'Living in Accordance with Nature',means to live
with 'Virtue'; not virtue as we know it today, its original meaning
was to excel or, more accurately, flourish ('arete' - 'moral virtue'),
like a rose - reaching our fullest potential. Living in nature's
rhythm and living inharmony with the world.
Every Stoic practise, from rehearsing death
the premeditation of evils, every virtue, every act, thought and
word they penned was all directed toward this ultimate goal.
To know what is in your power and what is not, knowing what is
good and what is bad, what to seek and what to avoid, bearing
pain or misfortune with dignity and good cheer, accepting what
fortune throws your way, being thankful for what life gives you
and not asking for more than your due, knowing your time is limited and not wasting a single moment, living for the common good, not yielding to base emotions and desires but to reason and reason alone, being neither frantic nor dormant, neither anxious or blind, being an active participant in life - seeking truth and beauty, planting trees to shade generations to come, not allowing circumstance to dictate or define you, but to define yourself, to know yourself, accepting that just as rose will grow, bloom and wilt, so must you go through the cycle of life, not seeing the end as meaningless or ugly, but part of a natural cycle.
If a plant can grow and wilt, in perfect harmony, then surely you a human being can too.
There is much that can be said about 'Living in Accordance with Nature' and everybody will have their own personal take on what it means to some degree. It is a beautiful exercise to meditate or write about what 'Living in Accordance with Nature' means to you.
An example of someone 'Living in Accordance with Nature' is Seneca, and the story of his death explores this in both a tragic and beautiful manner.
The Emperor Nero, whom Seneca tutored and advised when he was younger, was convinced Seneca was part of a plot to kill him, and ordered he commit suicide:
‘Seneca, quite unmoved, asked for tablets on which to inscribe his will, and, on the centurion’s refusal, turned to his friends, protesting that as he was forbidden to requite them, he bequeathed to them the only, but still the noblest possession yet remaining to him, the pattern of his life which, if they remembered, they would win a name for moral worth and steadfast friendship. At the same time he called them back from their tears to manly resolution, now with friendly talk, and now with the sterner language of rebuke. 'Where,’ he asked again and again, ‘are your maxims of philosophy, or the preparation of so many years’ study against evils to come? Who knew not Nero’s cruelty? After a mother’s and a brother’s murder, nothing remains but to add the destruction of a guardian and a tutor.’- Tacticus (Annals 15.61):
When Nero demanded Seneca commit suicide, he knew he could not avoid death and so acted in accordance with nature and aimed to die well. He was calm and died on his own terms; Nero could end his life, but could not hurt him. Nero acted in accordance to his nature which was madness, Seneca, however, acted with ‘arete’.
Who was really harmed in this tale? Seneca who died well and who history remembers and respects, or Nero who was responsible for the death of his tutor, mentor and a good man, amongst many other terrible and wicked deeds.
Seneca is remembered and revered as one of the greatest men of his age, Nero, however, just another madman.
This is the power of 'Living in Accordance with Nature'.
Questions and exercises to get you started
What guides my thoughts and actions?
Reason and virtue? Or impulse?
How would I rate the quality of my thoughts in accordance with nature?
Am I aware of my impressions (the emotions, desires an impulses that drive my actions and dominate my thoughts)?
Do they help or hinder me?
When knocked, how long does it take to return to the rhythm of reason?
Whose soul do I currently possess?
That of a child
A rational being
What can I do right now to become closer to harmony and fulfil my nature as a creature of reason?
Quotes to inspire
Make your way through this brief moment called life in accordance with nature. Accept you death with a cheerful heart like an olive that may ripen and fall. Blessing the earth that bore it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth. - Marcus Aurelius
Act in accordance with nature and no one can stand in your way - Marcus Aurelius
What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately. - Seneca
The belief of the Stoics on this subject is simple. The supreme good, according to them, is to live according to nature, and in harmony with nature. - Cicero
A man who no longer postpones his endeavour.
Unpolluted by pleasure and invulnerable to pain.
Untouched by wrong or evil.
A wrestler of life, never overthrown by passion.
Welcomes that is allowed
Dyed to the core in justice
One who devoted himself to purely his own duty. - Marcus Aurelius