Stoicism

You have so much to do. So much going on.

There are only so many rolls of toilet paper left at the store. Only so many jobs available. Only so many kids who get accepted to the Ivy League, only so many spots on the bestseller list.

So you fight. You claw. You might even kill to get what you want.

What choice do you have?

This is a lie we have believed since time immemorial, Alanis Morrissette sang on her latest hit song, “Ablaze.” That we’re in conflict with each other. That life is zero-sum.

One became two, and then everyone was out for themselves
Everyone was pitted against each other, conflict ruled the realm
All our devotions and temperaments are pulled from different wells
We seem to easily forget we are made of the same cells

We have been struggling with this since the beginning, since the Stoics and beyond. Chrysippus, a competitive athlete, wrote more than 2,000 years ago about what scholars now call the No Shoving Rule. Yes, we’re competing with each other, he said, but we’re all on the same team. To cheat or trip or push an opponent? To do this is to lose, even if you win. Marcus Aurelius, the emperor of Rome, continually stressed this to himself. I am a citizen of the world, he said. We are all made from the same material and revert back to the same material. We all have an important role to play.

That’s what sympatheia is about. That’s what we can’t forget—even as we try to get ahead, even as we try to survive in this crazy messed up world. As different as we all are, we are made of the same cells. As different as our interests and needs are, in the end, we are all aligned.

So be good to each other. Be humble and kind. Be generous. If you fight for anything, fight for justice and fairness. That’s what we were put here for.

P.S. We think that every leader and citizen should think deeply about this idea of sympatheia. We were made for each other and to serve a common good, as Marcus put it. That’s why we made our Sympatheia challenge coin, which can serve as a practical, tangible reminder of the causes and the larger whole we are all members of. You can check it out in the Daily Stoic store.

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