Hobbes would say that life is the war of all against all. That humans are violent and selfish and untrustworthy. The Stoics wouldn’t disagree with that characterization. Epictetus knew real slavery first hand, he was a victim of the whim of a tyrant. Marcus would say that life itself was warfare and being kept from your home. Yet, unlike Hobbes, there was still a hopefulness in the Stoics. They knew that while humans were capable of awful things, we are at our best when we helped others, worked with others and contributed to a greater cause.
“We are made for cooperation,” Marcus said, “like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.”
Remember that, today, when you get frustrated with others. Or when you turn on the news and see the worst of mankind on display. That is what is not natural. Don’t excuse it just because it’s common. Don’t write off your fellow citizens just because things look bad right now. We are capable of so much more. And the greatest contribution we can make is by starting, ourselves, to offer a little cooperation.
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