“An important place to begin in philosophy is this: a clear perception of one’s own ruling principle.” – Epictetus, Discourses, 1.26.15
What is your ruling principle? I once thought philosophy held my answers. Heck, I once thought religion held my answers. At some point, I realized it is my reasoning. For example, I looked to both philosophy and religion for answers. Why did I choose one over the other? Why do some choose religions over philosophy? We use our ability to reason as a means of determining how we will act. What we will believe.
When we are aware of how we operate, at our core, there is clarity. We can understand not only what we’ve done, but also how to repeat it or correct. Philosophy, or religion, is simply a framework we operate within. I lean towards Existentialism. Others may prefer Empiricism. What makes this so great, whatever framework our reason guides us to, there we find a reason to…live.
Tennessee Williams puts a comedic spin on this self-awareness:
“There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.”
I can’t recommend the second option, but that third option seems palatable. While he is presenting a solution to deal with our physical who, we can take this into the Stoic realm of natural purpose. If we get a clear look at who we are we will see that we are beings that can reason. That is all we’ll ever be. Let’s accept that because it’s beautiful.