I’ve been returning back to the presocratic schools and enjoying their metaphysical exploration for the nature of the universe. They resonate with my love of fiction and fantasy, the ubiquitous inclusion of the 4 elements in almost all fantasy involving magic, the themes of love and strife in almost all stories.
Fate and destiny, lofty words that can be used as a reason or as an excuse for events. In stories, it is the hero’s destiny to rise above evil, it is the villain’s fate to perish and fail. What about the rest? Does fate and destiny apply to all equally? Is there a quantum of destiny, can it be measured?
The Stoics believe that the universe IS god. Because logic and virtue are the ultimate goals of a virtuous life, god must have the ultimate logic and virtue. It falls then that the universe is the most logical and virtuous thing that exists. In their belief, the universe is in a constant state of destruction and recreation, travelling from a raw primordial state towards its ultimate end at which point the cycle repeats. But because it is the most logical and just, the cycle follows a set course from start to finish, and your small speck of time in this process is determined from the start.
This is a foundational bedrock of Stoic philosophy. Because of this fate and destiny, they believe there is absolutely no point in being frustrated with your lot in life. What you can do is become aware of your virtuous self and live life until its end in tranquillity, knowing your course is destined. Those that are unaware of this, those that do evil, they’re the ones suffering because they believe that the universe is against them, or that they have a choice in determining what happens.
“Walk the long gallery of the past, of empires and kingdoms succeeding each other without number. And you can also see the future, for surely it will be exactly the same, unable to deviate from the present rhyhtm. It’s all one whether we’ve experienced forty years of an aeon. What more is there to see?”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.49
I initially recoiled from this quote, thinking this is a combination of “History repeats itself” and apathy. But thinking a bit more about it, I think it’s meant more in a “learn from past mistakes”. It’s incredibly difficult to predict the future, we’ve been trying to do so for millenia, but there are general themes that do repeat.
People are born and die, civilizations rise and fall. I get hungry every day. Sadness comes and goes, and so does happiness. In the short lifespan of a human life, patterns emerge for which you can prepare for, to make sure it doesn’t overwhelm you. Taxes, illness, strife, these things repeat over and over yet each time it seems like it’s the new reality and will not end. I’ll try to better prepare myself for the future. Hardships now will end one way or another.