Monday, March 13, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B1.1-4

Book 1 is Marcus' 'gratitude' book and how he has observed the life of others and their qualities.

These are qualities he tries to emulate.

1. From my grandfather Verus: decency and a mild temper.

2. From what they say and I remember of my natural father: integrity and manliness.

3. From my mother: piety, generosity, the avoidance of wrong-doing and even the thought of it; also simplicity of living, well clear of the habits of the rich.

4. From my great-grandfather: not to have attended schools for the public; to have had good teachers at home, and to realize that this is the sort of thing on which one should spend lavishly.

Definitions are in order ...

Decency - behavior that conforms to accepted standards of morality or respectability; modesty and propriety

Mild Temper - calm, forgiving, gentle, quiet, tolerant

Integrity - the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness; the state of being whole and undivided

Manliness -  Of, relating to, or characteristic of men, especially when considered traditionally masculine, as in being courageous or direct

Piety - the quality of being religious or reverent

Generous - (of a person) showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected; showing kindness to others

Wrong-doing - illegal or dishonest behavior

Simplicity of Living - minimalistic living; living with few needs or wants; avoidance of extravagance

right out of the gate, marcus aurelius gives us a lot to chew on and to ponder.

you could live your whole life following the first four "verses" of meditations and you will have lived a very good life.

all of these qualities fall under the umbrella of virtue.  in stoicism, virtue is the only good.  i would encourage you to spend some time on your own thinking about virtue (arete) which simply means "excellence of character."

the four major virtues are: wisdom, justice, courage, temperance.

you could even flip these virtues into questions to see where you stand in your development as a good human being.

  • am i a decent person?
  • do i have a mild temper or do i get angry and upset all the time?
  • am i honest?  do i demonstrate integrity?  or do i "divide" myself (am i two-faced?)
  • am i courageous and direct?  or do i sometimes waffle?
  • do i love God?  am i reverent?
  • am i generous with my time and money?  do i use my time, money and resources to help others?
  • do i live simply?  or do i spend too much time on things that don't really matter (material possessions)?

if you're doing good in a few of those areas, congratulations!  keep it up!

if you fall short, then make some plans to focus on becoming better.  use your daily reflection or personal journal to think about how you can improve.

lastly, marcus appreciated his grandfather and how he felt it important to spend "lavishly" on education - at least that is how i understand this.  we can't all afford Harvard, but the principal remains: do all in your power to get as much education as you can.

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