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Circles of Care

Each one of us is linked in human companionship, from our closest relatives to people on the other side of the world. Learn how the Stoic vision of cosmopolitanism can help us care for everyone on the planet--and even care for our planet itself! 

Stoic Circles of Care - Oikeiosis

An ancient Stoic writer named Hierocles described a nice way of thinking about our relationship to other humans. Think about the social world as a series of concentric circles, with one small circle nested in the center and many other circles radiating outward. You are in the center, because you definitely need to care about yourself! The next circle is your closest family members, whom you learn to love first as a child, and who continue to be the most important to you throughout your life. After that comes friends and neighbors--the people you know, like, and interact with regularly. All of these people are involved in your life, and you learn to care about them early in life.

The next circle describes members of our community. These are people we have a connection to in some way, even if we don't personally know all of them. The next circle is people who share our nationality or ethnicity, and the outermost circle is for everyone else around the world. 

Our goal as rational humans is to learn to care for all people in all these circles. It's easy to feel a sense of kinship with the people you know and love, or who are members of your own group. But when you stop to think about it, all other people are just as deserving of your care, even if you don't have a personal connection to them.

 

We can cultivate a connection to others in different ways. One way is through quiet meditation, such as the loving-kindness meditation adapted from Buddhism. Another way is through active involvement in your community. Both of these methods are important, and they complement each other. We highly recommend that you incorporate both quiet contemplation and active engagement into your everyday practice.