Develop a mental attitude of ‘indifference to indifferent things’ to live a good life

Mental-Attitude

‘Life is warfare and a journey far from home’, Marcus Aurelius, a Greek Stoic philosopher remarked once. The
world has always been an indifferent and often a cruel planet to exist. Life can make us suffer badly and create
extremely painful experience, no matter who we are. So, to survive bravely in the world, replete with suffering,
pain, violent conflicts, heinous crime, terminal illness, abject poverty among large section of society and
struggle, we need to be physically and mentally fit at the same time.
What really matters in life is how well we are prepared to face any adversity that can strike anytime in our life’s
journey. Well said by some, ‘adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.’ Everyone
handles adversities and tough times in our own unique way. Philosophers, thinkers and spiritual leaders have
been prescribing their own mantras to handle tough times. However, Stoic philosophy is very unique in
providing solutions for adversities.
The Stoic philosophy is highly practical and give guidance and solutions to various problems that we encounter
during our life’s journey. These thoughts primarily show us the way as how to handle life’s adversities. What
kind of attitude and mindset we should inculcate so that we can overcome our disturbing days? The philosophy
of Stoicism teaches us about self-control, mental toughness and fortitude as a means of overcoming
destructive emotions like anger, hatred, fear etc. It can help us in overcoming adversities.
Many of the things said by Stoic philosophers were very radical, when seen in present / current scenario. Can we
say to anyone in this world that “if you find the life too distressing and painful then why not commit a suicide”,
when positivity in life is the ultimate mantra for successful life? Because the option of ending our life is always
available with us. Seneca, another highly respected and popular Stoic philosopher explain the rationale of ending
one’s life, “Must I await the cruelty either of disease or of man, when I can depart through the midst of torture,
and shake off my troubles? This is the one reason why we cannot complain of life; it keeps no one against his
will.” He further argues that we didn’t choose to come into this world but we have a choice to exist whenever we
want. This argument sounds logical.
We must realize a basic truth that we can’t control everything despite our best efforts. Things happen in their own
way. There are ‘laws of nature’ and everything in the world goes on its own speed and nature. We often have a
tendency to control others and many other things of the surrounding world on which we have little or no control.
Though we all know this very simple truth but ironically, we miss or ignore it. Fighting, arguing and worrying over
things that are completely independent of our control is a pure waste of time and energy. However, the fact is
we all tend to go beyond what’s under our control.  
Indifference to indifferent things is another important mental attitude, Stoic philosophy advocates for leading a
happy and contended live. Marcus Aurelius explained this aspect in Meditations: “To live one’s life in the
best way: the power to do this resides within our soul, if we are capable of being indifferent to
indifferent things.” He further, “To live a good life: we have the potential for it only if we can learn how to be
indifferent to what to make no difference”.
For a Stoic philosopher, indifference means that the external things that happen to us are neither inherently
good nor bad, and so our aim is to remain indifferent to those external things as well as circumstances, ups and
downs that we witness during our life’s journey. Instead we should focus on things which are morally or
inherently good. For a classic Stoic, the highest aim is living a virtuous and moral life. Rest of the things are
merely a noise.
In Stoic philosophy, ‘indifference to indifferent things’ is a very important concept/idea. All the three most
prominent Stoic philosophers – Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus have said that the Stoic is indifferent to
external things. For those things where we have no control, we should be indifferent. We should be
unperturbed about those things. We should show neither good nor bad feelings for them. The best way to
practice ‘indifference’ is to ask ourselves the question: “Is this worth it?” That’s what we should to do before we

react to anything. Just like Marcus pointed out, ‘the power to do this resides within your soul. It’s truly that
simple. We just need to execute on what we know, instead of letting our emotions take control’.
To face life’s challenges, we should be indifferent. We shouldn’t pass any value judgment when we have no control
over those external things. Everything outside of our control is indifferent. Stoic philosophy says that nothing is
objectively good or bad, things become good or bad when we judge them. Let’s consider an example. A person
meets with a serious accident and his leg had to be amputated. According to Stoic, the accident was not under his
control. So, he should be indifferent to its result. After the loss of his leg, the person has 2 options. First, he suffers
badly because of the traumatic incident. Second, he is indifferent to loss of leg as the accident was not in his control
and second, at least he is alive even after the serious accident.
We always have a choice, how to interpret any incident. When the incident was not under our control, like the
accident, we can judge it in whatever manner we like. The only practical interpretation is that the accident was
itself neutral, it was neither good or bad. Suppose someone is diagnosed with cancer. The disease itself is
neutral. It now depends on the patient how he/she takes it. It’s purely a subjective interpretation. Ideally
speaking we shouldn’t be disturbed by our emotions or passions.
This all shouldn’t give us the impression that ‘Stoics believe in being indifferent to everything’. That’s often a
misconception people have when they learn about the philosophy. In fact, Stoics do care about the matters that
truly concern us. If those things are morally good then that should concern us. We shouldn’t show indifference
to such things in life. We can’t attempt to be emotionally indifferent for such matters.
Apatheia in Stoicism is a state of mind in which we are not disturbed by the passions. Meaning thereby, we
shouldn’t react to any situation emotionally or passionately if that’s beyond our control. We should avoid value
judgment on such occasions. Whether it’s chilling winter or heat wave during summer, we should act
indifferently. Be indifferent if our expensive mobile is broken. It’s, however, reiterated that indifference doesn’t
mean if someone is dying on the road accident, we leave the person unattended. Stoic is an art learnt for
leading a virtuous life – without being judgmental on the things beyond our control.

Develop a mental attitude of ‘indifference to indifferent things’ to live a good life
‘Life is warfare and a journey far from home’, Marcus Aurelius, a Greek Stoic philosopher remarked once. The
world has always been an indifferent and often a cruel to exist. Life can make suffer badly and become
extremely painful, no matter who we are. So, to survive bravely in the world, replete with suffering, pain, violent
conflicts, heinous crime, terminal illness, abject poverty among large section of society and struggle, we need
to be physically fit and mentally fit at the same time.
What really matters in life is how well we are prepared to face any adversity that can stuck anytime in our life’s
journey. Well said by some, ‘adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.’ Everyone handles
adversities and tough times in our own unique way. Philosophers, thinkers and spiritual leaders have been
prescribing their own mantras to handle tough times. However, Stoic philosophy is very unique in providing
solutions for adversities.
The Stoic philosophy is highly practical and give guidance and solutions to various problems that we encounter
during our life’s journey. These thoughts primarily show us the way as how to handle life’s adversities. What
kind of attitude and mindset we should inculcate so that we can overcome our disturbing days? The philosophy
of Stoicism teaches us about self-control, mental toughness and fortitude as a means of overcoming
destructive emotions like anger, hatred, fear etc. It can help us in overcoming adversities.
Many of the things said by Stoic philosophers were very radically, if we see then in current scenario. Can we say
to anyone in a world that “if you find the life too distressing and painful then why not commit a suicide”, when
positivity in life is the ultimate mantra for successful life? Because the option of ending our life is always available
with us. Seneca, another highly respected and popular Stoic philosopher explain the rationale of ending one’s

life, “Must I await the cruelty either of disease or of man, when I can depart through the midst of torture, and
shake off my troubles? This is the one reason why we cannot complain of life; it keeps no one against his will.”
He further argues that we didn’t choose to come into this world but we have a choice to exist whenever we want.
This argument sounds logical.
We must realize a basic truth that we can’t control everything despite our best efforts. Things go in their way.
There are ‘laws of nature’ and everything in the world go its own speed and nature. We often have a tendency to
control others and many other things of the surrounding world on which we have little or no control. Though we all
know this very simple truth but ironically, we miss or ignore it. Fighting, arguing and worrying over things that are
completely independent of our control is a pure waste of time and energy. However, the fact is we all tend to go
beyond what’s under our control.  
Indifference to indifferent things is another important mental attitude, Stoic philosophy advocates for leading for
a happy and contended live. Marcus Aurelius explained this aspect in Meditations: “To live one’s life in
the best way: the power to do this resides within our soul, if we are capable of being indifferent to
indifferent things.” He further, “To live a good life: we have the potential for it. If we can learn to be indifferent
to what to makes no difference”.
For a Stoic philosopher, indifference means that the external things that happen to us are neither inherently
good nor bad, and so our aim is to remain indifferent to those external things as well as circumstances, ups and
downs that we witness during our life’s journey. Instead we should focus on things which are morally or
inherently good. For a classic Stoic, that highest aim is living a virtuous and moral life. Rest of the things are
merely a noise.
In Stoic philosophy, ‘indifference to indifferent things’ is a very important concept/idea. All the three most
prominent Stoic philosophers – Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus have said that the Stoic is indifferent to
external things. For those things where we have no control, we should be indifferent. We should be
unperturbed about those things. We should show neither good nor bad feelings for them. The best way to
practice ‘indifference’ is to ask ourselves the question: “Is this worth it?” That’s we should to do before we react
to anything. Just like Marcus pointed out, ‘the power to do this resides within your soul. It’s truly that simple. We
just need to execute on what we know, instead of letting our emotions take control’.
To face life’s challenges, we should be indifferent. We shouldn’t pass any value judgment when we have no control
over those external things. Everything outside of our control is indifferent. Stoic philosophy says that nothing is
objectively good or bad, things become good or bad when we judge them. Let’s consider an example. A person
meets with a serious accident and his leg had to be amputated. According to Stoic, the accident was not under his
control. So, he should be indifferent to its result. After the loss of his leg, the person has 2 options. First, he suffers
badly because of the traumatic incident. Second, he is indifferent to loss of leg as the accident was not in his control
and second, at least he is alive even after the serious accident.
We always have a choice, how to interpret any incident. When the incident was not under our control, like the
accident, we can judge it in whatever manner we like. The only practical interpretation is that the accident was
itself neutral, it was neither good or bad. Suppose someone is diagnosed with cancer. The disease itself is
neutral. It now depends on the patient how he/she takes it. It’s purely a subjective interpretation. Ideally
speaking we shouldn’t be disturbed by our emotions or passions.
This all shouldn’t give us the impression that ‘Stoics believe in being indifferent to everything’. That’s often a
misconception people have when they learn about the philosophy. In fact, Stoics do care about the matters that
truly concern us. If those things are morally good then that should concern us. We shouldn’t show indifference
to such things in life. We can’t effort to be emotionally indifferent for such matters.
Apatheia in Stoicism is a state of mind in which we are not disturbed by the passions. Meaning thereby, we
shouldn’t react to any situation emotionally or passionately if that’s beyond our control. We should avoid value
judgment on such occasions. Whether it’s chilling winter or heat wave during summer, we should act
indifferently. Be indifferent if our expensive mobile is broken. It’s, however, reiterated that indifference doesn’t

mean if someone is dying on the road accident, we leave the person unattended. This art Stoic learnt for
leading a virtuous life – without being judgmental on the things beyond our control.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *