The Daily Stoic for April 30th, “What Is In Keeping With Your Character?”.
“Just as what is considered rational or irrational differs for each person, in the same way what is good or evil and useful or useless differs for each person. This is why we need education, so that we might learn how to adjust our preconceived notions of the rational and irrational in harmony with nature. In sorting this out, we don’t simply rely on our estimate of the value of external things, but also apply the rule of what is in keeping with one’s character.”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 1.2.5–7
In You Don’t Have To Have An Opinion, two months ago, I described how I consider myself apolitical, and proudly so. Why?
Because in my opinion, each one of us is a completely different person. Even if we may have very similar opinions, it would be impossible to find two people that thinks exactly the same about everything. Not even identical twins would share the same views on every subject.
Hence, when you call yourself a left-winged person, or a right-winged person, a part of you stops thinking critically. Your mind adjust to that script, and adopts those rules as your own.
The same applies to religions, football teams, anything that carries a series of preconceived ideas or dogmas. You may agree with some of them, or even most of them. However, as soon as you declare yourself “I am a …”, you are accepting all of them.
Even if you don’t do at that very moment, being surrounded by people that accepts them linearly will make you adhere to them in the long run.
What Is In Keeping With Your Character?
Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too…
— John Lennon, Imagine, 1971
While education may seem like a good vaccine against these kind of biases, most often it’s not. I know lots of highly educated people whose political or religious views impose strong opinions on them.
Education, as everything today, is subject to the influence of politics, religion, lobbies or other forces, depending on where you’ve grown up.
Character, as today’s stoic meditation suggests, is a strong defense against this. However, character alone won’t help you question your beliefs. We are all a product of our education and our environment. As such, we all have our biases, prejudices, and the influence of our families, colleagues, friends, institutions, etc…
Remember when you turned 14 or 15 and started questioning everything? In my humble opinion, we all need to recover that spirit regularly and question what we believe or think about the world that surrounds us.
Analyze to which exempt our opinions are our own, or are the result of what others try to sell us. And consider if some of the things we used to believe in still hold true today…
Today’s Daily Stoic, “What Is In Keeping With Your Character?”, asks us to consider if our opinions, the way we see the world, is a result of the influence of external factors: politics, religion, social groups, our education… While I think education helps, it’s not a silver bullet. In my opinion, we need to learn to question our beliefs, what we see, think, and defend, every day.