“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate binds you together but do so with all your heart.” – Marcus Aurelius
What do we mean when we consider someone “Stoic”? We generalise a person under the category when he/she doesn’t show much emotional reaction to situations or circumstances. Stoicism, in the current era has become somewhat synonymous to lack of passion or emotion towards life. Although this interpretation of the philosophy is somewhat wrong but we can take this stereotypical perspective to extract the meaning of “Love” for stoics.
For stoics, “present” is the most crucial concept. In their writings, they focused solely on “living in the present” and enjoying as well as appreciating what you had in the moment. To them, the most important thing is loving what you have around you. They have no place of desire or envy in the concept of love. The stoics tends to reject the concept of desirability and criticises the pursuit for love. According to them, life is wasted in the pursuit of something which you don’t have and leads to nothing but misery. Due to this reason, scholars criticises stoicism as an anti-romantic philosophy. Is it really against the romanticism which is being portrayed by other philosophies in the concept of love? It is evident from their writings that they were not against romanticism but endorsed the concept of loving each and every aspect of your life with all your heart and will.
Stoics were critical of the pursuit that we endure in the name of love which brings us nothing but sadness, failure and misery. This concept is evident in this era of social media. We all are bombarded with people and their lifestyles which either makes us envious or fills us with desire, but at the end we only feel miserable about our lives instead of appreciating what we already have. More than often we tend to get attracted to the people that doesn’t value us while ignoring the ones who cherish our presence in their lives. So, stoicism reminds us that the greatest kind of love is loving what we already have.
The another crucial aspect of stoicism is that it establishes the concept of “impermanence” to all the objects we love. It says, every attachment of ours is bound to fade away and die including our body. Even though death is the ultimate truth, acceptance of this impermanence is quite difficult for human nature. In a way, knowing the nature of the objects we love, we can comprehend the true nature of “Love and Loss” according to them. The harshness of this concept is justifiable in an optimistic way because it reminds us the constant loss and renewal of love in our lives. Although we are bound to people and objects that we love but it certainly helps in the mitigation of the loss that comes with living.
To me, stoicism makes the concept of love much more simpler and acceptable. It constantly reminds us to appreciate the things we already have in our lives and cherish every moment loving the things that fate binds us with. It gives us clarity about chasing things which necessarily brings misery and sadness but no happiness. On one hand, it teaches us appreciation and on the other, it teaches us the inconsistency of Love and Loss in life. It establish the fact that life is nothing but a flowing river which constantly flows with ups and downs and we should accept each part of it and value little things in our life.