The Daily Stoic for June 2nd. “Plato’s View”.
“How beautifully Plato put it. Whenever you want to talk about people, it’s best to take a bird’s-eye view and see everything all at once—of gatherings, armies, farms, weddings and divorces, births and deaths, noisy courtrooms or silent spaces, every foreign people, holidays, memorials, markets—all blended together and arranged in a pairing of opposites.”
—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 7.48
Now this concept of going up to see things in perspective is interesting. The higher you go, the smaller and less important things look in perspective.
I think what this high view gives you is disassociation. When you are down there, and you are heavily attached to the things around you, it’s easy for them to affect you: local or national politics, your football team, your neighborhood, even family.
Us, and them, and after all, we’re only ordinary men
— Pink Floyd, “Us and them”, from the “Dark Side of the Moon” album, 1972.
More than a question of physical proximity, I think it’s a matter of identity. To a group, political party, religious group, etc. While there’s nothing wrong with considering yourself part of any of them, that has some consequences. Namely, an emotional attachment, a sense of belonging to that group that creates that “us and them” distinction in our brains.
I guess as you apply Plato’s view and go higher and higher, these barriers start to blurry. Just as Edgar Mitchell, one of the first astronauts to see the earth from outer space, affirmed, you may feel like taking a politician out there to look down at The Earth.
Then this person would realize that we are not that different after all. That’s maybe the reason why traveling makes you a more open, tolerant person. It exposes you to other people and cultures and helps you realize your points of singularity don’t really matter that much.
The same applies to everything I can think of right now. So my question is: Are those differences that important?
We tend to put a lot of importance on things like the tone of our skin, the god we praise, the languages we speak, the color of our flags, or even the kind of people we love. Maybe there’s something in our nature that pushes us to look for a group identity to distinguish ourselves from others or feel superior to them.
Something to fight for and feel proud and rewarded at a subconscious level.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “Plato’s View”, talks about how as we go higher, up to a bird’s eye view, differences start to blurry and disappear. We are more similar than we think, but we insist on emphasizing the things that make us different, instead of equal. Why? Maybe that’s something rooted deep inside our nature?