During one of my sacred weekend routines of reading the Mail & Guardian (M&G) newspaper, I came across what I call an amazing philosophical feast prepared by Eusebius McKaiser, former radio 702 talk show host (issue June 19 – 25 2020). He wrote a brilliant piece titled ‘A way to find meaning in a strange world’.
As a student of Stoicism, the article deeply resonated with me. In the article, McKaiser tackles the perennial and ancient philosophical question of ‘what is the meaning of life?’ He says he always found the question a rather strange one.
What I personally like about the article is that he presents an alternative view of understanding the question that closely connects us to the existential angst we find ourselves in 2020.
The ancient Stoic philosophers would fully agree with the following question that McKaiser poses to himself and everyone.
He says, “Given that I will die and just do not know when, what is the best way to live my limited life so as to confer on it some sense of purpose that explains why it is not a pointless existence, but one filled with … meaning? How should I live?”
One of my favourite authors, Viktor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search For Meaning once articulated the same question differently, “Life asks you the meaning of life, you don’t ask life. You are questioned by life. It’s not what you expect from life, but what life expects from you.”
In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius one of the famous Stoic philosophers wrote “you could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
The Stoics used the expression memento mori to invigorate life, have a sense of urgency and create meaning. It was this powerful idea that fuelled the ancient Stoics. Covid-19 is a reminder of memento mori.
In good and trying times like these let’s strive to be better individuals and constantly improve ourselves, do what matter the most to you, who knows it might be the last day you do it if not try again the next day. Philosophy is something that lasts a lifetime…and the earlier it begins the better.