Monday, July 24, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4: 25-26

Try out too how the life of the good man goes for you - the man content with his dispensation from the Whole, and satisfied in his own just action and kind disposition.

You have seen that: now look at this. Do not trouble yourself, keep yourself simple. Someone does wrong? He does wrong to himself. Has something happened to you? Fine. All that happens has been fated by the Whole from the beginning and spun for your own destiny. In sum, life is short: make your gain from the present moment with right reason and justice. Keep sober and relaxed.

A few weeks ago, while talking to my kids about life choices, I offered up this bit of advice.  Pursue a life of pleasure; pursue a life of thrill-seeking adventure; pursue of life of ease; pursue getting rich; pursue fame; pursue all of these to the end and see where it takes you.  I'm willing to bet that none of these pursuits will bring you true happiness and contentment.  Rather, you will almost certainly come to the realization that these pursuits were empty promises.  You might think these pursuits would bring you what you truly seek, but you will still be discontented and will be off in search of yet some new thing to make you content.

Another, more recent, example came when I learned of person who always needs to plan for some new big event or travel plan - they need something to look forward to and I assume that if they didn't have something to look forward to, they would be discontented and depressed.  I understand that thought process - I used to think this way too.  Eventually, I came to the humble conclusion that daily life is enough.  I learned to be content with my lot in life and to be grateful for what I do have and less concerned for what I don't have.  I'm not a sage and I still look to things and events to settle my anxiety, but I am much more accepting of getting up in the morning, exercising, working, commuting, interacting with others and dealing with day-to-day events.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4:24

'If you want to be happy', says Democritus, 'do little.' May it not be better to do what is necessary, what the reason of a naturally social being demands, and the way reason demands it done? This brings the happiness both of right action and of little action. Most of what we say and do is unnecessary: remove the superfluity, and you will have more time and less bother. So in every case one should prompt oneself: 'Is this, or is it not, something necessary?' And the removal of the unnecessary should apply not only to actions but to thoughts also: then no redundant actions either will follow.

Efficiency and focus - these lead to a life of meaning and happiness.  Time, money and thought spent on superfluous things leads to a dead end.  What are we doing to benefit society?  Are we raising decent children?  Are we helping others in our community?  Are we doing no harm?

Life with a purpose and minimal time spent on low-value-add activities should be the aim for all.

(see also Citadel, p. 55, 187)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4:23

Universe, your harmony is my harmony: nothing in your good time is too early or too late for me. Nature, all that your seasons bring is fruit to me: all comes from you, exists in you, returns to you. The poet says, 'Dear city of Cecrops': will you not say, 'Dear city of Zeus'?

For this commentary, I wish to share a passage from Inner Citadel by Hadot (p. 143):
This brings us back to the theme of the present. A particular event is not predestined for me and accorded with me only because it is harmonized with the World; rather, it is so because it occurs in this particular moment and no other. It occurs in accordance with the kairos ("right moment"), which, as the Greeks had always known, is unique. Therefore, that which is happening to me at this moment is happening at the right moment, in accordance with the necessary, methodical, and harmonious unfolding of all events, all of which occur at their proper time and season.
To will the event that is happening at this moment, and in this present instant, is to will the entire universe which has brought it about. 
(see also Citadel, p. 75, 143, 260)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4:21-22

You may ask how, if souls live on, the air can accommodate them all from the beginning of time. Well, how does the earth accommodate all those bodies buried in it over the same eternity? Just as here on earth, once bodies have kept their residence for whatever time, their change and decomposition makes room for other bodies, so it is with souls migrated to the air. They continue for a time, then change, dissolve, and take fire as they are assumed into the generative principle of the Whole: in this way they make room for successive residents. Such would be one's answer on the assumption that souls do live on.

We should consider, though, not only the multitude of bodies thus buried, but also the number of animals eaten every day by us and other creatures - a huge quantity consumed and in a sense buried in the bodies of those who feed on them. And yet there is room for them, because they are reduced to blood and changed into the elements of air and fire. How to investigate the truth of this? By distinguishing the material and the causal.

No wandering. In every impulse, give what is right: in every thought, stick to what is certain.

I admit, this passage (verse 21) is very odd and I'm unsure exactly what to glean from it.  First off, a question such as, 'how does the earth accommodate all the dead bodies?' is a rather odd question and seems a little un-Stoic.  It is a thing out of our control, therefore why worry about it.  Furthermore, it does not surprise me the earth can hold the dead via decomposition.

For the second verse (22), it is almost as if he snaps back to it, telling himself to not think about such matters.  Rather focus time and effort on what action ought to be done and to focus on what is in your control.

(see also Citadel, p. 29, 41, 45, 186)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4:19-20

One who is all in a flutter over his subsequent fame fails to imagine that all those who remember him will very soon be dead - and he too. Then the same will be true of all successors, until the whole memory of him will be extinguished in a sequence of lamps lit and snuffed out. But suppose immortality in those who will remember you, and everlasting memory. Even so, what is that to you? And I do not simply mean that this is nothing to the dead, but to the living also what is the point of praise, other than for some practical aspect of management? As it is, you are losing the opportunity of that gift of nature which does not depend on another's word. So ...

Everything in any way beautiful has its beauty of itself, inherent and self-sufficient: praise is no part of it. At any rate, praise does not make anything better or worse. This applies even to the popular conception of beauty, as in material things or works or art. So does the truly beautiful need anything beyond itself? No more than law, no more than truth, no more than kindness or integrity. Which of these things derives its beauty from praise, or withers under criticism? Does an emerald lose its quality if it is not praised? And what of gold, ivory, purple, a lyre, a dagger, a flower, a bush?

Fame is fleeting.  It is not real.  It adds no value.  And the value inherent in people and things does not go up or down because of fame or the lack of it.

I enjoy history and reading about it.  What impresses me the most when I read and study history is the amount of fame people place on others.  History is so deep and wide, you also quickly gain an appreciation for how obscure important people become.  Kings, emperors, tyrants, queens, vicars, popes, dictators - all have held sway and power over millions in their time.  Yet they are all forgotten today.  We only know and remember people because someone else thought it important to put their names in a book.

The real value of things is inherent.  People ought to focus on their nature (the ability to reason and think and to help others.)  People ought to focus on excelling at improving their character.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4:18

What ease of mind you gain from not looking at what your neighbour has said or done or thought, but only at your own actions, to make them just, reverential, imbued with good! So do not glance at the black characters either side, but run right on to the line: straight, not straggly.

"Keeping up with the Joneses" - that is a game that is often played in America.  Envy is at the center of this phenomenon.  We let "what others think of us" into our own minds and we let that virus infect us.  We let it distract us and have sway over us.

We ought to focus on improving our own character and helping and serving others.  That is the straight line we ought to pursue.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4:13-17

'Do you possess reason?' 'I do.' 'Why not use it then? With reason doing its job, what else do you want?'

You have subsisted as a part of the Whole. You will vanish into that which gave you birth: or rather you will be changed, taken up into the generative principle of the universe.

Many grains of incense on the same altar. One falls to ash first, another later: no difference.

Within ten days you will be regarded as a god by those very people who now see you as beast or baboon - if you return to your principles and the worship of Reason.

No, you do not have thousands of years to live. Urgency is on you. While you live, while you can, become good.

Beasts, pets, farm and wild animals will eat, sleep, poop.  Some can be taught tricks, but you will never carry on a conversation or philosophical discussion with any of them.  Humans, on the other hand, can reason, talk and philosophize.  We possess reason - use it!

You are part of the whole - birth, life, death.  Accept it.

Some die young, other die old - no difference.

You stop using reason?  Give yourself 10 days to focus on becoming reasonable again.

You will die at any moment.  Live now.  Be good now.

good link to wallpapers with this quote.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Afib & Cardiac Ablation

I was an avid runner from around the age of 16 or 17 up to around the age of 33 or 34.  Then I started cutting back and then around the age 37, I switched to just walking and occasionally playing basketball.

Around the age of 30 is when the atrial fibrillation started.  At the time, I did not know it was afib.  All I knew was that after running a warm-up mile, my heart rate was really fast and gave me the sensation of flip-flopping around.  I would walk it off and then finish my run just fine.  This didn't happen regularly.  Sometime I would go on my run and nothing would happen at all.  Sometimes, it would be around mile 3 or 4.  But the times I remember it most was during that warm-up mile.

Around the age of 31, I asked my doctor about it and she referred me to a cardiologist.  They hooked me up to the stress test machine and my heart beat just fine.  I think I was running maybe a 6 or 7 on a steep incline on the treadmill - nothing.  I described to him what I felt when I did happen.  He said I'd be fine and keep exercising.

So for the last decade, I've been running, playing basketball and walking with this afib.  I thought it might have been my diet or maybe it was caffeine intake or stress.  But there was no rhyme or reason to it whatsoever.  It came and went as it pleased.

It progressively got worse.  I began to notice it in the morning after waking up.  Some days it persisted all day long.  Other days, not a peep.  One time, while playing in a basketball league game, I nearly passed out.  It was going all crazy on me and I barely made it to the bench.  My ear were ringing and I was dizzy.  That was the worst it got until this year.

In February, I was bit by a copperhead.  While in the ICU the first night, the nurse saw my heart all over the place - irregular, fast, slow.  She was really freaking out about it and I just didn't think it was a big deal.  A cardiologist came and saw me and said I was fine.  They did a sonogram of my heart and weren't too concerned, but that I should schedule a visit with Dr. Morales as soon a possible.

Towards the beginning of March, I was wearing a heart monitor for a week.  By Thursday of that week, I got a call from the doctor asking me to start taking Xarelto.  This was to thin my blood to prevent a stroke.  When I saw him again, he diagnosed me with atrial fibrillation.  There are two ways to deal with it: medication or ablation.  Medication would not work so well with me.  The medication is supposed to slow the heart down, but my heart rhythm is already slow (around 50 resting, 60 normal).  Ablation would fix the issue and since I'm younger, I would be a good candidate.  So I opted for the ablation.

Monday July 3 was my pre-op.  They took blood and a chest x-ray.  The rest of the time was just paperwork.

Wednesday July 5 was a CT scan of my heart.  I arrived at 8am, but the machine had been down when the nurses came in, so I had to wait 50 minutes.  I went back to the room, had an IV in my right arm and then she gave me a nitro glycerin pill under my tongue.  When the iodine was administered in the IV, it felt like a peed my shorts, but that was expected.  About 10 minutes later, I was done.  But the nitro glycerin pill gave me a nasty headache all day long (the nurse said this might happen).

Thursday morning, we were at the hospital by 6:30am.  They took me back, put the gown on and laid down.  They needed to get 3 IVs in me.  My wife was there for support since I hate IVs so much.  She did a great job helping me through.  I was fasting, so finding a vein was difficult to say the least.  After 7 pokes, they got the 3 they needed.  But it was a little too much for my dear wife and she passed out!  After a few minutes, she came to and on we went with the show.  Chest, back and groin shaved; anesthetist then got me hooked up and they wheeled me back.  I kissed my wife good bye and the next thing I knew, I was awake and groggy.  The nurses were putting a lot of pressure on my groin to stop the bleeding.  My wife was by my side again too.  It must have been around 11:30 or noon.

A few minutes later, they wheeled me to my room.  I could not move my legs at all for the next four hours - I just had to sit perfectly still to ensure the groin incisions did not open.  The hardest part of laying there was the ache in my lower and mid back.  I wanted to bend my knees to relieve my back, but I could not.  I watched Wimbledon and golf while I lay there with my wife by my side.  Dr. Morales came to visit me.  I asked him how many he's done now, and he said he's lost count.  He said I asked that question before I was knocked out.  I vaguely remember asking him.  He said it was standard procedure - everything went well.

4pm came and I could move around a bit.  The catheter came out - and on my heavens - that was the worst part of the whole two days.  For a few seconds it was extremely painful and uncomfortable - I yelled out.  I was still quite dizzy and needed to take things really slow.  I started drinking water and nibbling on some food.  The next goal was to urinate by midnight - piece of cake!  Otherwise, they would need to put the catheter back in!

I drank and drank.  My stomach was getting pretty full.  I got up, walked around.  Nothing.  Also, my room was not cooling off.  Eventually they were able to move me down the hall and that room was much cooler!  10pm came - no need to urinate yet.  11pm - nothing.  I started walking up and down the hallway to try to work that water out.  I just needed the anesthesia to wear off and let me pee before midnight.  I told the nurse I really didn't want the catheter.  So at midnight, when I still had not urinated, he did a sonogram of my bladder and said about 200ml was in there.  He said patients can go up to 1000ml, so he would wait a little longer to put the catheter in - hallelujah!  I dozed off.  2am - the urge came!  I was never so happy to pee.  Every 90 minutes from then on I needed to get up and go.

Friday morning came, they gave me all the info I needed before being discharged.  I took my meds and then the nurse wheeled me out to the car and I came home.  Friday at home was just sitting in the recliner.  I walked around the house quite a bit, but the headache just would not go away.

Today is Saturday July 8 as I write this.  My sleep last night was good.  I was so glad to be able to sleep on my sides!  My headache is much more mild than yesterday and I feel my strength returning much more quickly.  Today I will take it really easy.  Tomorrow will probably be the same.

The doctor said to lay low for two weeks.  Then I'll have a check-up with him and see what he says.

Flutters and a higher beat rate is expected these next two days.  I've had flutters every so often, but things return to normal very quickly.  I'll post back here in two weeks and again in a month.

The ablation will have been a success if I can run and play basketball again with little to no issues.  The doctor was saying that in a month I could be back to basketball.  That would be amazing!

 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4:12

Always have these two principles in readiness. First, to do only what the reason inherent in kingly and judicial power prescribes for the benefit of mankind. Second, to change your ground, if in fact there is someone to correct and guide you away from some notion. But this transference must always spring from a conviction of justice or the common good: and your preferred course must be likewise, not simply for apparent pleasure or popularity.

Simply put, Marcus admonishes that we should act according to reason and justice; and that we should be willing to listen and heed advice from others when we are about to deviate from acting according to reason and justice.  Be careful of your motivations.

(see also Citadel p. 204, 301)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4:11

When someone does you wrong, do not judge things as he interprets them or would like you to interpret them. Just see them as they are, in plain truth.

So much anguish and anxiety we experience is simply in our heads.  Furthermore, people know this and depend on the fact that they can get into other peoples' heads!  But the key here is that we have to let other people into our heads for them to have sway over us.  And knowing that we can let other people into our heads, we also know we can just as quickly kick them out.

Our mind is a citadel and we have complete control over what comes in and tells us what to do and what to think.

To have discipline of assent, the first step is to simply break things down.  Marcus does this over and over again in his Meditations.

What does breaking things down mean?  It means making "a definition or sketch of what presents itself to your mind, so you can see its essential nature and identify it clearly, in whole and in all its parts, and can tell yourself its proper name and the names of those elements of which it is compounded and into which it will be dissolved" (Book 3:11).

You can immediately do this with the most alluring of objects in your life now: seeking fame, consumerism, sex, money, power, perfect health.  All objects and ideas that fall in these categories or virtually anything that is out of our control that we think could make us happy.

Breaking these things down is the process of taking the glamour and prestige and knocking it down.  A diamond ring is just a piece of compressed carbon.  Fame is just the clapping of hands and mouths.  Money is just paper.

Break the allure.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Washington & Jefferson loved the Stoics

From www.mountvernon.org: "At the end of the hard winter at Valley Forge, General George Washington defied a congressional ban on theatrical productions and entertained his men with a production of Joseph Addison's 1713 tragedy Cato."

See also George Washington's Favorite Play

From Classical Wisdom Weekly: "The founding fathers were also inspired by the philosophy. George Washington was introduced to Stoicism by his neighbors at age seventeen, and afterwards, put on a play about Cato to inspire his men in that dark winter at Valley Forge. Whereas Thomas Jefferson had a copy of Seneca on his nightstand when he died."

Jefferson's reading list includes Epictetus, Seneca & Marcus Aurelius

Monday, July 3, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4:10

'All's right that happens in the world.' Examine this saying carefully, and you will find it true. I do not mean 'right' simply in the context of cause and effect, but in the sense of 'just' - as if some adjudicator were assigning dues. So keep on observing this, as you have started, and in all that you do combine doing it with being a good man, in the specific conception of 'good man'. Preserve this in every sphere of action.

The discipline of desire is nothing more or less than loving what the nature of the world and universe desires.  Since what naturally happens in these spheres is out of our control, we have no choice but to desire the will of the world and universe.  If we were to wrap up our contentment and happiness in the weather and we wished for only 75 degree weather, with clear skies and 30% humidity with a slight breeze, we might be deeply disappointed and sad most days of the year if we lived in Texas.  Therefore, one should not place their happiness in the weather.  Rather one ought to focus on what is in their control and be happy and content with what they can control.

Continuing with the weather analogy; to be happy and content every day, we ought to love and embrace the will of nature and weather.  It if is a rainy, cloudy day, we can love it; go with the flow and settle down to read a book.  If it is hot and steamy, perhaps we can swim in the pool that day.  We cannot change the weather, but we can adjust our attitude toward it.

To make this point even more impactful, consider this quote from Stephen Hawking from a recent news report:
"In his talk, titled My Life In Physics, he spoke about his early realisation of his medical problems when he went skating with his mother, according to Cambridge News .
"I fell over and had great difficulty getting up," he said.
Prof Hawking was later diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), at the age of 21.
"At first I became depressed," he said. "I seemed to be getting worse really rapidly.
"There didn't seem any point working on my PhD because I didn't know I would live long enough to finish it.
"But then the condition developed more slowly and I began to make progress in my work. 
"After my expectations had been reduced to zero, every new day became a bonus and I began to appreciate everything I did have. While there's life there's hope."
Hawking eventually embraced and loved his fate (amor fati).  No one says embracing fate is always easy.  But if you want to be content, you must embrace and love your fate.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4:5-9

Death, just like birth, is a mystery of nature: first a combination, then a dissolution, of the same elements. Certainly no cause for shame: because nothing out of the order for an intelligent being or contrary to the principle of his constitution.

With such people such an outcome is both natural and inevitable - if you wish it otherwise you are hoping that figs will no longer produce their rennet. In any case remember that in a very brief time both you and he will be dead, and shortly after not even your names will be left.

Remove the judgement, and you have removed the thought 'I am hurt': remove the thought 'I am hurt', and the hurt itself is removed.

What does not make a human being worse in himself cannot make his life worse either: it cannot harm him from outside or inside.

The nature of the beneficial was bound to act thus.

In these five short passages, Marcus succinctly reminds us:

1. We are going to die - this is natural!  So don't freak out about something that is natural.  Furthermore, thinking of death often, helps you to appreciate what you have now and it helps you become more focused on living a high-value life.

2. Other people and their actions are out of our control - this is natural!  You know how a certain manager will act and behave - accept it and move on.  You know children will throw tantrums - accept and and teach them to control themselves.  You know a car salesman is going to try to sell you a car.

3. Those other people will die too.

4. You attitude of any situation is under you control.

5. Love your fate and the fate of the whole.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4.4

If mind is common to us all, then we have reason also in common - that which makes us rational beings. If so, then common too is the reason which dictates what we should or should not do. If so, then law too is common to us all. If so, then we are citizens. If so, we share in a constitution. If so, the universe is a kind of community. In what else could one say that the whole human race shares a common constitution?  From there, then, this common city, we take our very mind, our reason, our law - from where else? Just as the earthy part of me has been derived from some earth, the watery from the next element, the air of my breath from some other source, the hot and fiery from its own origin (for nothing comes from nothing, nor returns to nothing) - so the mind also has its source.

We humans, were designed to be social.  To go against that notion goes against our very nature.  At the very center of our view is our individual self - our individual mind - our soul.  Therefore, knowing we we our individual selves need, we can reason that other rational beings need the same things.  We ought to have compassion and we ought to share and have compassion towards others.

One of the concepts that helps me have love towards others is the concentric circles.  Some call it the circles of compassion.  The Human is Contemplative blog does a great job describing this concept:
Hierocles used concentric circles to explain the oikeiƓsis, which could translate as appropriation. The first circle is our own minds, the next circle outward is our immediate family, then extended family, community, country, and the entire human race. The stoic endeavor is to draw these outlying people closer and closer toward the inner circles with respect to our concern. Thus, the process of oikeiƓsis in human beings is one of expanding our identity of 'self' to encompass everyone. This has also been described as the stoic notion of brotherly love.
The next time you are commuting and someone cuts you off, give them the benefit of the doubt - bring them into your circle.  Viewed differently, you should pretend it was you who just cut someone off.  What "excuse" would you offer as an apology to the person you cut off?

In summary: put yourself in other peoples' shoes.

(see also Citadel, p.42-43, 312)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Commentary on Meditations B4:3 The Inner Citadel

Men seek retreats for themselves - in the country, by the sea, in the hills - and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophic, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself. No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than that into his own mind, especially if he can dip into thoughts there which put him at immediate and complete ease: and by ease I simply mean a well-ordered life. So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself. The doctrines you will visit there should be few and fundamental, sufficient at one meeting to wash away all your pain and send you back free of resentment at what you must rejoin.

And what is it you will resent? Human wickedness? Recall the conclusion that rational creatures are born for each other's sake, that tolerance is a part of justice, that wrongdoing is not deliberate. Consider the number of people who spent their lives in enmity, suspicion, hatred, outright war, and were then laid out for burial or reduced to ashes. Stop, then. Or will you fret at your allocation from the Whole? Revisit the alternatives providence or atoms - and the many indications that the universe is a kind of community. But will matters of the flesh still have their hold on you? Consider that the mind, once it has abstracted itself and come to know its own defining power, has no contact with the movement of the bodily spirit, be that smooth or troubled: and finally remember all that you have heard and agreed about pain and pleasure.

Well then, will a little fame distract you? Look at the speed of universal oblivion, the gulf of immeasurable time both before and after, the vacuity of applause, the indiscriminate fickleness of your apparent supporters, the tiny room in which all this is confined. The whole earth is a mere point in space: what a minute cranny within this is your own habitation, and how many and what sort will sing your praises here!

Finally, then, remember this retreat into your own little territory within yourself. Above all, no agonies, no tensions. Be your own master, and look at things as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal creature. And here are two of the most immediately useful thoughts you will dip into. First that things cannot touch the mind: they are external and inert; anxieties can only come from your internal judgement. Second, that all these things you see will change almost as you look at them, and then will be no more. Constantly bring to mind all that you yourself have already seen changed. The universe is change: life is judgement.

The great passage from Meditations is Book 4.3.  In this, Marcus lays out all that is needed for your Inner Citadel.

People experience anxiety and stress from work and the busyness of life.  They think they need an escape or vacation.  People will drown their cares in alcohol or eating or drugs or time away from work - a week in Europe or in the mountains or on a white-sand blue-water beach, or at Disney World.  They seek to "get away from it all".  Marcus tells them and us, that if you want this reprieve, it is already there in your mind.  A quick trip to your mind, a re-cap of your doctrines and voila, you are ready to rejoin society.  And you can do this anytime; no need to schedule your escape.

Next he tells us how to quickly revisit those doctrines.  Do you hate, resent, are frustrated with, are bothered by or are disgusted with someone?  Remind yourself that rational beings are meant for each other (discipline of action).  Work with the other person; have compassion and understanding towards others.  Most likely, they are not acting out of mal-intent.  And what if they were acting with malice?  That is out of your control.  Either the other person is acting in accordance with the universe or they are acting randomly.  If they are acting in accordance with the universe, accept it.  If not, then don't you act badly or randomly - an ordered life is a content life.

Does fame (or lack of it) bother you?  Soon you and all those who you would want to cheer you on will be gone.  This world a speck in the vast universe.  This lifetime a blip on the infinite.  Fame is pointless.

Lastly, the two "most immediately useful thoughts" you should have while in your Inner Citadel are:

1) Peoples' opinions, actions, world events, elections, wars, natural disasters - they cannot touch the mind.  All the good or bad you place on these externals come from your mind.  It is your attitude that determines if things or good or bad or indifferent (discipline of assent).

2) Change is constant - the universe is change and life is all about how you view it (attitude / judgement).  At the very least, if you don't like something, eventually it or you will change.  Accept this constant; accept what the universe doles out to you and everyone else; accept your lot in life (discipline of desire).

(see Citadel p. 38-42, 53, 55, 105, 147, 149, 176, 265, 291)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B4:1-2

Wherever it is in agreement with nature, the ruling power within us takes a flexible approach to circumstances, always adapting itself easily to both practicality and the given event. It has no favoured material for its work, but sets out on its objects in a conditional way, turning any obstacle into material for its own use. It is like a fire mastering whatever falls into it. A small flame would be extinguished, but a bright fire rapidly claims as its own all that is heaped on it, devours it all, and leaps up yet higher in consequence.

No action should be undertaken without aim, or other than in conformity with a principle affirming the art of life.

Ryan Holiday's book The Obstacle is the Way is based off the premise of this passage.

The true key to resiliency is attitude and how you view the world.  Each of us has a "ruling power" - the essence of what makes us human - the ability to choose how we think, feel and act.  And this ruling power is flexible.  That is the secret sauce - we are not some robot made of some rigid set of rules that we never deviate from.  We can change our perspective regardless of circumstances, events and other peoples' actions and attitudes.

As Hadot quotes Seneca in The Inner Citadel, he says, "A good person dyes events with his own color ... and turns whatever happens to his own benefit." (p. 199).

I used to be ticked off whenever my manager or leadership would talk about challenges as opportunities.  I used to think it was just spin.  Well, it is spin, but also more - it is an attitude adjustment; it's a way to look at all events as opportunities to grow.

The other concept to remember about turning obstacles into opportunities is to view everything as practice.  Earthquakes, bad presentations, little sleep, a car wreck, health problems ... all can be seen as opportunities to improve your resiliency - opportunities to show your mettle.

To conclude, let me share a favorite movie scene from Batman Begins.  Bruce Wayne is in a foreign prison and is about to be beat up.  The big dude about to bust his chops threatens him, to which Bruce responds, "you're not the devil, you're practice."



(see also Citadel p. 198)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B3:15-16

They do not know all the meanings of theft, of sowing, of buying, of keeping at rest, of seeing what needs to be done - this is not for the eye, but for a different sort of vision.

Body, soul, mind. To the body belong sense perceptions, to the soul impulses, to the mind judgements. The receipt of sense impressions is shared with cattle; response to the puppet-strings of impulse is shared with wild beasts, with catamites, with a Phalaris or a Nero; having the mind as guide to what appears appropriate action is shared with those who do not believe in the gods, those who betray their country, those who get up to anything behind closed doors.

So if all else is held in common with the categories mentioned above, it follows that the defining characteristic of the good person is to love and embrace whatever happens to him along his thread of fate; and not to pollute the divinity which is seated within his breast, or trouble it with a welter of confused impressions, but to preserve its constant favour, in proper allegiance to god, saying only what is true, doing only what is just.

And if all people mistrust him, for living a simple, decent, and cheerful life, he has no quarrel with any of them, and no diversion from the road which leads to the final goal of his life: to this he must come pure, at peace, ready to depart, in unforced harmony with his fate.

The ability to separate impression from reaction is a uniquely human trait.  Dumb animals cannot do this.  Humans can experience an impression, but they can also pause and think about something before deciding to react to an impression.  This is what a human was designed to do - to think about things and take appropriate action.  And not only can a human do this, but they can truly love the fate directed at them - the fate from ancient time woven to this moment in time.

And a person who does this well (the disciplines of assent, desire and action) will live a fulfilling and simple life and will enjoy contentment.

(see also Citadel p. 113, 123, 138)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B3:14

No more wandering. You are not likely to read your own jottings, your histories of the ancient Greeks and Romans, your extracts from their literature laid up for your old age. Hurry then to the end, abandon vain hopes, rescue yourself, if you have any care for yourself, while the opportunity is still there.

Good advice for someone trying to learn Stoicism.  Too much reading and not enough action and practice.  How much time do you spend reading The Inner Citadel or Meditations or Seneca or Facebook and Reddit?  Read daily, then put it in practice.  Ensure the balance is tipped to action and practice and not reading and learning.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B3:13

Just as doctors always have their instruments and knives at hand for any emergency treatment, so you should have your doctrines ready for the recognition of the divine and the human, and the performance of every action, even the smallest, in consciousness of the bond which unites the two. No action in the human context will succeed without reference to the divine, nor vice versa.

Simply put, study philosophy and be ready to re-act to life's events.  Accept and love the bond you have with the universe.  Your job is to live life well.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B3:12

If you set yourself to your present task along the path of true reason, with all determination, vigour, and good will: if you admit no distraction, but keep your own divinity pure and standing strong, as if you had to surrender it right now; if you grapple this to you, expecting nothing, shirking nothing, but self-content with each present action taken in accordance with nature and a heroic truthfulness in all that you say and mean then you will lead a good life. And nobody is able to stop you.

Focus on the now.  You have a task to do now; so give it 100% of your attention.  If you are distracted with a hundred other things, make a list.  And once you've made a list, direct all your attention to the task at hand.

(see also Citadel p. 123 and this tweet)