Sympatheia

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“Meditate often on the interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of all things in the universe. All things are mutually woven together and therefore have an affinity for each other—for one thing follows after another according to their tension of movement, their sympathetic stirrings, and the unity of all substance.”

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.38

Perhaps the most radical idea in all of Stoicism: Sympatheia is the belief in mutual interdependence among everything in the universe, that we are all one. You will find this link between all beings throughout the works of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca. In Meditations, a book written only to himself, Marcus refers to the common good more than 80 times, self-identifying not just as a citizen of Rome, but of the World.

Marcus knew that reminding himself of the limitations of his individual perspective would help him be a better person and a better leader. Taking the ‘view from above’ as he termed it, would challenge his preconceptions down at ground level and help him see the world around him more accurately, fairly and empathetically.

This is something we can all do. Sympatheia is an invitation to us to take a step back, zoom out and see life from a higher vantage point than our own. It changes our value judgments, weakens the power that luxury and temptation have over us, reduces the seemingly insurmountable differences between people and races and turns the worries of daily life from anxiety attacks to absurdities.

This Stoic insight was captured brilliantly two thousand years later in the words of American astronaut Edgar Mitchell as he looked out at earth from the quiet confines of the Apollo 14 lunar module: “In outer space you develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it.”

What Mitchell was looking at out the module window, that inspired these moving words, was itself captured photographically the following year during the Apollo 17 mission. One of the most famous, most reproduced images in all of human history: The Blue Marble.

That is why we created this medallion. So you can carry a reminder with you every day that you are not alone, that you are part of something bigger than yourself, that there is a greater good to which we all owe a duty above and beyond our own selfish concerns. The medallion is a prompt in your pocket, to ask yourself: Who am I? What am I doing? What is my role in the world? Are my problems really that big of a deal? Or are they pretty small in the bigger picture?

The front shows the famous 1972 “Blue Marble” earth, which instantly changed man’s perspective on himself. It is a view Marcus Aurelius could only imagine but still understood. The image is a prompt to zoom out of your own bubble and see the world as a whole and understand the interdependence of everyone on it.

The back features Marcus’s timeless wisdom:

“Revere the gods, and look after each other. Life is short—the fruit of this life is a good character and acts for the common good.”

We are all connected and unified and made for one another. The Stoics knew it, the Buddhists knew it, and so should we. This fact should never be far from our minds. And with this medallion, it won’t be.

As with all our other coins, the Sympatheia medallion is handcrafted in the United States by a custom mint operating in Minnesota since 1882. Each coin is shipped in a velvet ring box with an accompanying information card, explaining the practice to anyone receiving the coin.

Dimensions: 1 9/16” in diameter, 2.778 MM thick, 26.2 grams.

Shipping Information: We ship worldwide. North American orders are shipped from the U.S. and the rest of the world from the U.K.