Throughout history, humans have been fascinated with the concept of order in the universe. Philosophers from both the East and the West have explored this idea, and their teachings have helped people shape our understanding of the world. In this blog post, let’s explore the different schools of thought and how they relate to the modern world.
Eastern Philosophy: Taoism and Confucianism
The first recorded answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?” came from Lao-tze, the ancient Chinese philosopher who wrote the Tao Te Ching. His answer was simple: “Follow the order of nature.” This concept became the foundation for Taoism, which emphasizes living in harmony with the universe. Early Taoism did not provide specific instructions on how to align with this way, but rather focused on acknowledging its existence.
Confucius, another Chinese philosopher, sought to provide more tangible guidance for how to follow the Tao (The Way). He developed a set of rules called “The Rites” that covered everything from how to present oneself to a public official to how to eat rice. By living in accordance with the Rites, Confucius taught that one would live in harmony with nature.
Western Philosophy: Plato and Aristotle
Shortly after, in Ancient Greece, Plato introduced the concept of the “Idea of the Good,” which is similar to Lao-tze’s Tao. Plato believed that we each possess a subconscious understanding of nature’s perfect order, and the more we can align with that order, the better our lives will become. Like Lao-tze, Plato spoke in abstract terms about the Good, but offered no specific guidance on how to achieve it.
Aristotle, Plato’s student, believed that the purpose of life was to “live well.” He argued that in order to be happy, one must act in accordance with virtues, which are the natural laws that govern human behavior. He listed eleven virtues required for living well, such as Courage, Liberality, and Magnanimity. Each virtue represented the “golden mean” between two corresponding vices, and the closer our actions align with virtue, the happier we will become.
Practical Application: The Stoics
While the teachings of Taoism and Confucianism in the East, and Plato and Aristotle in the West, were valuable, they could be difficult to apply in daily life. The Stoics emerged in Ancient Greece to provide a practical application of philosophical living. They acknowledged a perfect order within the universe, which they called the Logos, and taught that by identifying our own personal logos, we could better align with the universal Logos.
The Stoics offered a series of lessons and exercises to help people connect with nature and achieve harmony. For example, they recommended periodically removing oneself from civilization’s luxuries for a few days at a time, as a reminder of what is truly important. They also taught the mantra Memento Mori, which translates as “Remember you must die.” By contemplating our own mortality, we can learn to make the most of our lives.
Deliberate Practice in Creating Order
Deliberate practice is a critical component of achieving harmony in our lives. Just as the Stoics taught that discipline is required to align ourselves with nature, deliberate practice allows us to develop the skills and virtues necessary to achieve harmony. By practicing intentionally and consistently, we can improve our abilities and better align ourselves with the natural order of the universe.
The concept of deliberate practice is relevant to all of the philosophical schools of thought discussed in this blog. By continually practicing and striving to improve, we can achieve greater balance and harmony in our personal and professional lives.
The philosophy of order reminds us of the importance of deliberate practice in pursuing purpose in our lives. By striving to align ourselves with how we were designed to live helps us live more fulfilling and purposeful lives.