Monday, April 3, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B1:17

i will use a slightly different format for this passage, due to the length.  also, this one 'verse' will suffice for the entire week.  next update will be monday april 10.

From the gods: to have had good grandparents, good parents, a good sister, good teachers, good family, relatives, and friends - almost everything; and that I did not blunder into offending any of them, even though I had the sort of disposition which might indeed have resulted in some such offence, given the occasion - it was the grace of the gods that no set of circumstances likely to show me up ever arose.  - aurelius was grateful for the fate he was born into.  i can only imagine that had he been born into a less prosperous fate, and had he come to learn of stoicism, he would have been grateful for his unique set of circumstances.  he loved his fate.

That I was not brought up any longer than I was with my grandfather's mistress, and that I kept my innocence, leaving sexual experience to the proper time and indeed somewhat beyond it. - he learned temperance and self-discipline.

That I came under a ruler and a father who was to strip me of all conceit and bring me to realize that it is possible to live in a palace without feeling the need for bodyguards or fancy uniforms, candelabra, statues, or the other trappings of suchlike pomp, but that one can reduce oneself very close to the station of a private citizen and not thereby lose any dignity or vigour in the conduct of a ruler's responsibility for the common good. - this is what makes stoicism special.  some philosophies would have you meditate on a mountain, but stoicism would have you meditate in a palace or a forest.  your inner citadel is where you are, regardless of circumstance or position in life.

That I was blessed with a brother whose character could spur me to care for myself, and whose respect and affection were likewise a source of joy to me. - to me, this speaks of other people helping us become better than who we currently are.

That my children were not born short of intelligence or physically deformed. - he was grateful for the good health of his children.

That I did not make further progress in rhetoric, poetry, and the other pursuits in which I could well have been absorbed, if I had felt this my right path. - he could have easily gone down a path that would have caused him to be lost (unable to help others; be a service to humankind.)

That I was quick to raise my tutors to the public office which I thought they desired and did not put them off, in view of their youth, with promises for the future. - he was not stingy with his power; he remembered those who helped him.

That I came to know Apollonius, Rusticus, Maximus. - he was grateful for friendships and relationships that were put in his path.  what can we learn from this?  we may occasionally wonder why we have to even be in the same room as so-and-so.  but have we asked the question: what can i learn from them?  we may be surprised by the friends we find in the course of our life.

That I acquired a clear and constant picture of what is meant by the life according to nature, so that, with regard to the gods, their communications from that world, their help and their inspiration, nothing now prevents me living the life of nature: my falling somewhat short, still, is due to my own fault and my failure to observe the promptings, not to say the instructions, of the gods. - he learned early that humans are endowed with reason and logic and that we are to live according to this gift from god.  the dumb animals of the field know nothing but to eat, drink, defecate and procreate.  but humans nature is to learn, to grow, to find the best in life, to serve others.  when humans live according to nature, they serve others; they think; they question; they learn and grow.

That my body has held out so far in a life such as mine. That I never touched Benedicta or Theodotus, and that later experience of sexual passion left me cured. - again, gratitude for good health and self-discipline.

That, though I was often angry with Rusticus, my behaviour never went to the point of regret. - the theme of self-control, again.

That my mother, fated to die young, nevertheless lived her last years with me. - showing his gratitude

That whenever I wanted to help someone in poverty or some other need I was never told that there was no source of affordable money: and that I myself never fell into similar want of financial assistance from another. - him displaying the desire to help others financially and being grateful that he was in a position to help others in that regard.

That my wife is as she is, so submissive, loving, and unaffected: and that I found no lack of suitable tutors for my children. That I was given help through dreams, especially how to avoid spitting blood and bouts of dizziness: and the response of the oracle at Caieta, 'Just as you use yourself.' - more gratitude on his part.

That, for all my love of philosophy, I did not fall in with any sophist, or devote my time to the analysis of literature or logic, or busy myself with cosmic speculation. All these things need 'the help of gods and Fortune's favour'. - each of our daily choices could lead us down a very different path in life.  small deviations today, turn into chasms in later years.  - aurelius notes that these small choices he made earlier in life lead him to a course for which he is currently grateful.  hindsight shows him the wisdom of his earlier choices.

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