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Marcus Aurelius on mental health and getting back to basics

Marcus Aurelius on mental health and getting back to basics


In Meditations, Aurelius distills the central pillars and tenets of stoic philosophy. Although it was essentially a journal and never intended for a general readership, it has become one of the most widely read philosophy works in the world. 

I wanted to elucidate six key concepts of stoicism represented in icons, starting with the four pillars:

Courage, or fortitude, is the first pillar of Stoicism. It refers to the ability to face and endure difficult situations without fear or hesitation. Courage involves accepting what cannot be changed and embracing the challenges that come with life.

Justice is the ability to treat others fairly and with respect. Justice involves recognizing the inherent value and dignity of all individuals and acting in a way that promotes the common good and the greater good of society.

Temperance is the ability to exercise self-control and restraint. This includes moderation in all aspects of life, such as avoiding excess and indulgence in pleasures, and managing emotions and desires.

Wisdom is the ability to understand and navigate the world in a rational and logical manner. Wisdom involves using reason to make decisions, seeking knowledge and truth, and recognizing the limits of one's own knowledge.

These pillars are book-ended by two central concepts to stoicism - which in latin are referred to as Memento Mori and Amor Fati.

Memento Mori translates to "remember you must die" from the Latin. It serves as a powerful tool to cultivate humility, gratitude, and perspective. Stoics believe that by keeping in mind the fact that our lives are finite and that death is inevitable, we are more likely to appreciate the present moment and make the most of our time.

Amor Fati translates to "love of fate," from the Latin. It is the idea that one should embrace and love everything that happens in their life, both good and bad, as it is a necessary part of the universe's unfolding. It involves accepting one's fate with gratitude, recognizing that every event that occurs is an opportunity to learn, grow, and become stronger.

About the Art

“In this illustration, I drew inspiration from one of Notre Dame's stained glass rose windows, a fractured relic in the shape of a Roman Legionnaire's helmet. Like the stoic's ideal state of mind, stained glass is at once orderly and beautiful. Ideas radiate out from central first principles in a natural and inevitable succession of deductions and balancing forces. At the helmet's edge I added six pictograms, representing the four pillars of stoicism (Courage, Justice, Temperance and Wisdom) as well as two central concepts of stoicism: Memento Mori ("Remember Mortality"), and Amor Fati ("Love Fate").”

Art by Evan Robertson. All rights reserved.

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