There's a deep-rooted desire in each one of us to be seen, to be acknowledged, to be rewarded. It's as though our actions, no matter how genuine, always crave an audience. This longing for recognition, for that proverbial pat on the back, is what Marcus Aurelius refers to as "the third thing" in his philosophical musings. Let’s delve deeper into this concept and understand why it’s so resonant even today.

We live in a world where "likes", "shares", and "comments" often validate our existence. Every picture posted, every story shared seems incomplete without the ensuing validation. It begs the question, why do we seek this “third thing”? Why isn't the act itself or the inherent goodness of it enough?

Marcus Aurelius asks a compelling question: If the deed has been done and someone has benefited from it, why then do we still hunger for something more? Is the mere act of goodness insufficient to satiate our souls?

Did you leave a big tip to that waitress or driver who was clearly struggling so they’d run out and thank you—or did you do it because you knew that it was right?” - The Daily Stoic, You do not need this.

The truth is, at some level, our societal conditioning has intertwined our self-worth with external validation. The good we do feels magnified when it’s seen, acknowledged, and appreciated by others. But, as Marcus Aurelius suggests, this relentless pursuit of the “third thing” can be a fool's errand.

Imagine a world where goodness is its own reward, where the act is complete in itself without the need for external affirmation. Such a world would free us from the shackles of incessant validation and allow us to live more authentically.

So, next time you find yourself seeking that “thank you” or that nod of appreciation, remind yourself of Marcus Aurelius’ wisdom. Question the roots of this need and contemplate on the purity of the act itself. Maybe, just maybe, you'll find that the joy derived from the act is enough, and the “third thing” is merely a superfluous addition to an already complete equation.

In the end, let’s strive to do good, not because the world will see, but because it’s intrinsically rewarding. Let’s challenge ourselves to be content with the first two things – the act and its impact – and let go of the elusive “third thing”.

Thanks for reading.


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