How to Meet the Morning by Matt Van Natta

Restarting the blog after its summer break is, Matt Van Natta, aka the Immoderate Stoic, who considers how Stoicism can help us start the day the best possible way….

How to Meet the Morning

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself, “I have to go to work – as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for – the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?

-Marcus Aurelius

I am a fan of warm blankets. Place a cup of coffee nearby and a good book in my hand and I will stay cozy as long as possible. Of course, I can’t do that 24/7 without my life unraveling. So, like Marcus, I have to get up and face the day. I shouldn’t complain about this, that wouldn’t be very stoic after all. But how am I to prepare my mind for the day ahead? Well, thankfully we Stoics have a means of warming up our mental engines. It’s a form of early morning reflection called premeditation.

The longer form name is the premeditation of evil but I had just mentioned cozy blankets and didn’t want to shock your system. I think premeditation of ills is actually more fitting, but now I’m on a tangent. Premeditation is the act of mentally rehearsing the potential difficulties of the future so that you are better prepared when they actually arrive. We Stoics can take premeditation pretty far. We will mediate on the loss of loved ones, for instance. But let’s start our day a bit less intensly with a general reflection that Aurelius used himself.

Begin each day by telling yourself : Today I will be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness–all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good and what is evil.

This premeditation is a way to orient your mind towards the realities of the day. When you step out into the world, you can simply recognize that no one has the exact same agenda as you. I find it helpful to mentally recite the quote a few times, in the stillness after waking. Premeditation is an exercise, effort is required to adjust your thinking. It’s way too easy to assume you’re going to approach the morning stoically and then get instantly upset at morning traffic (which is never a stoic response).

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Summer Break & Video: Insights from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations

The blog is now going into a short summer break. Posts will resume on August 23rd. Hope you’ve enjoyed the various posts we’ve had throughout the year so far. And please get in touch if you have an idea for a guest post on anything related to how Stoicism can be still be practised today, or on similarities/differences between Stoicism and other philosophies. What makes this blog possible at all is all the people who write in to share their thoughts and reflections on Stoicism – please get in touch if you have something to say.

For now: a repost (from August, 2012) of a short 20 minute talk by Chris Gill for Youtube, which explores the nature of Marcus Aurelius’ philosophical project.

Questions covered include: what is at the core of Marcus philosophical project in writing his meditations? And how ‘Stoic’ was Marcus Aurelius? philosophical method? Includes discussion of key passages for understanding the aims of the Meditations as a whole.


On the Motivations of the Stoic by Michel Daw

What makes a Stoic get up in the morning? Michel Daw, who blogs at Living the Stoic Life, explores what it is that motivates a Stoic.

On the Motivations of the Stoic

 As to the question of how a Stoic is motivated, there are several layers to consider.

The first, of course, is Virtue. We must remember that virtue is not something that one merely has, it is something that must be DONE. In order to have virtue, we must BE virtuous; we must be courageous in the face of challenges, we must be just in the distribution of goods and rights, we must be temperate in our dealings as well as our acquisitions, and most of all we must be wise in our choices of action.

Second, we need to remember that when the Stoics speak of ‘indifferents’, we mean things that, in their nature, have no MORAL value. Nevertheless, they have other kinds of value. Good food and clothing, shelter and safety, these things have great PHYSICAL value. Relationships, friends, art, music, these things have great EMOTIONAL value. Books, education, conversation, these things have a great INTELLECTUAL value. And while Virtue alone is in my control, these other things are to be pursued and managed by virtuous means.

Third, while I must remember that as a Stoic I am in control only of my own action, I am also part of a family, a community, a country. I am human, and being human means that all ideas of individuality are an illusion. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the very language we speak and that forms the framework of our thinking are inheritances of the culture and species and we are bound to support it return. As humans, we require basic needs to function. We can speak of being ‘rational’, but in reality, we require a functioning body to think clearly. To borrow from Maslow, we need to have our physical, safety, social and importance needs met before we can even consider attempting the so-called ‘self-actualization’ of the rational mind.

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