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Stoic Week day 4: Community

Fourth day of the Stoic Week, we are beginning to end, and again the suggested text to be pondered brings back high school memories:

It is important to understand that nature creates in parents affection for their children; and parental affection is the source from which we trace the shared community of the human race … As it is obvious that it is natural to us to shrink from pain, so it is clear that we derive from nature itself the motive to love those to whom we have given birth. From this motive is developed the mutual concern which unites human beings as such. The fact of their common humanity means that one person should feel another to be his relative.

Cicero, On Ends, 3.62-3.

There is in the Stoics this idea of interconnectedness (is that a word?) of all people that is central in their development of a social policy. We are all the same tribe, and we should work together as part of the same unit – an extension of what Marcus Aurelius told us yesterday.

Now an interesting bit is, according to some researchers, our brain is hardwired to function with groups of 60/80 individuals, more or less the size of a tribe of neolithic hunters-gatherers. With larger numbers we start to have problems – and that’s the reason why, for instance, on Facebook people are so aggressive and at the same time so tribal.

Now Stoic thinker Hierocles’ idea

‘The right point will be reached if, through our own initiative, we reduce the distance of the relationship with each person.’

Hierocles, 2nd century AD

sounds quite cool, and Hierocles himself, in imagining each individual at the center of a set of concentric rings, had sort of a solution for the “over-crowding” problem mentioned above: it is true that we should try and bring the people in each circle closer, but the circles still stand, and provide a certain distance that might be beneficial.

More in general, we are part of a civilization, and while Robert E. Howard had a lot to say against it, I still think that our shared civilization is a good starting point from which to try and build a sense of community, and define a general direction in which to move all together.

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