Marcus Aurelius wrote about the importance of accepting others and working with others in his collection of thoughts, Meditations. In his writing he addresses the importance of accepting the shortcomings of others and being willing to cooperate with them in part of a functioning society. No matter how much we strive to be great, we will always be around those who do not share the same goals as us, and do not try to live up to the same principles that we do. Aurelius writes that we should understand this and be willing to meet with them and work with them even though it can be a challenge for us. He writes,
“Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil…I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him. For we are made for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting agains one another to be vexed and to turn away.”
In this passage Aurelius is accepting that people will approach and see the world differently than he does, and he attributes their shortcomings to their ignorance. It is important that we read this and do not think that we can place ourselves above others by criticizing them for being ignorant. Aurelius would argue that we must treat them with the same respect with which we treat ourselves, because we are oftentimes guilty of the same type of ignorance and misunderstanding in our own life. I think it is also important to say that we should not go about life trying to educate others and show them of their ignorance. The best way to combat the misunderstandings of others is to build relationships with them, gain their trust, and engage with them to better understand their points of view while sharing your understanding of the world.
Aurelius is arguing that we must accept others because we need to cooperate with them in all that we do in society. We cannot hate others or try to avoid interactions with them as our society depends on our participation as a unit. We must find a way to mesh with others and adept to those who are ignorant of their actions and behaviors. If we do not, then we shut out those with whom we happen to be working with. By overcoming the pitfalls of our own personalities and the behaviors and actions of others, we can better align to improve the lives of all in society.
I had originally written this post prior to reading Corey Booker’s book United in which he retells his life story and explains his perspectives of the world. Booker’s thoughts go hand in hand with Aurelius’ quote above. He sees us as a united people despite how different we may look and behave, and despite how different our country has treated people throughout our history. As a senator from New Jersey, Booker is striving to better our country from a platform of togetherness in which we must find ways to cherish the power of our connectedness and lift each other up. In Booker’s mindset, despite our differences in thought, appearance, culture, and beliefs, we all share our common humanity, and when we work to improve the experiences and lives of one, we improve the universe for all.