Culture | Philosophy | Stoicism

Going to Zero

“You’re alive. You have one very short life. When your life ends, it goes to zero. To you its indistinguishable, from your perspective your death is indistinguishable from the end of the world. As far as you’re concerned the world has disappeared. Because when you came into existence the world appeared. When you go out of existence the world disappears. And that is so consequential that it makes the rest of your life inconsequential. And that is a form of freedom. And so you should enjoy yourself. You should not suffer in this life.” – Naval Ravikant, on The Tim Ferriss Show Episode #473

There’s something very stoic about this Naval statement, in the recognition of Memento Mori. The stoics might have challenged him on the enjoy yourself/you should not suffer bit though. They would say that you should accept fate for whatever it brings you. Then again, they didn’t live in a democracy where all are created equal, but in an age of conquest and slavery and the unfair distribution of enjoying yourself and suffering in life (maybe we haven’t come as far as I initially thought). But ultimately I think he’s on point. Life is short, we all know that. So get on with enjoying it while you have it.

“Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?”- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

On my own path to zero, I’m doing my best to live the Thoreau mantra to rise free from care before the dawn and seek adventure. And isn’t that the same thing, really? The question is, what do you subtract to add such adventure or freedom to your life? Relentless pursuit of status? What is status but the recognition of others for your accomplishments? There’s nothing wrong with accomplishments. There is something off about craving status for status’ sake. To be quietly satisfied with reaching your goal seems the most pure form of accomplishment. Accolades blow in the wind.

Naval talks of reaching freedom through making enough money to not have to worry about anything. And there’s certainly freedom in that. But what is the cost of a walk in the woods watching the leaves rain down around you? What is the price of tracking the progress of Mars across the evening sky? The trick, I think, is to get to enough. For some that means being independently wealthy, for others, it means having enough to put food on the table with the time to burn those calories climbing personal mountains.

“Watch the stars in their courses and imagine yourself running alongside them. Think constantly on the changes of the elements into each other, for such thoughts wash away the dust of earthly life.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

There’s a reason that boats, recreational vehicles, bicycles and hiking gear are selling out this year. People are seeking that freedom and enjoyment. Trying to book a campsite in Acadia, hiking jammed trails in the White Mountains and navigating the bike-clogged rail trail are glaring reminders of just how many people are looking for their freedom to enjoy life in a year when climbing the corporate ladder seems suddenly less relevant than holding on to things that are more essential.

Since we’re all marching to zero, finding that which is essential and then making the most of our time seems the only logical goal. Not living in a chaotic frenzied orgy of mad pleasure-seeking, but in the pursuit of that which is worthy and towards purpose. To use Ryan Holiday’s words from The Daily Stoic; “too many successful people are prisoners in jails of their own making”. So freedom to fully realize your life is attainable for all if we would only unlock our own cages.

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