Friday, September 15, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B5:17-18

To pursue the impossible is madness: and it is impossible for bad men not to act in character.

Nothing happens to any creature beyond its own natural endurance. Another has the same experience as you: either through failure to recognize what has happened to him, or in a display of courage, he remains calm and untroubled. Strange, then, that ignorance and pretension should be stronger than wisdom.

In the first passage, better said would be, "don't expect bad men to act good."  What bad men do is out of your control; and for you to expect them to act good will cause you to be "mad" (fearful, anxious, frustrated, etc).

On a related note, whether you are liberal or conservative, Massimo Pigliucci wrote a very good article that applies to everyone.  The United States had 8 years of Reagan (conservative), then 4 years of Bush (conservative), then 8 years of Clinton (liberal), then 8 years of Bush Jr. (conservative), then 8 years of Obama (liberal) and now we have Trump who is a Republican now (was a Democrat previously).  Generally speaking, a sizable chunk of the nation will be agreeable with the president while another sizable chunk of the nation will not be agreeable with the president.  In other words, a sizable chunk of the nation will think the current president is a "bad man".  So the advice Massimo gives is applicable all the time for some sizable chunk of the nation.

In the second passage, Marcus reminds us that we can accept our fate in our natural abilities to endure courageously.  Either you perish (mentally speaking) under the crushing weight of some event or you courageously endure it and become stronger.

I think it is good to note that even in extreme examples (concentration camp prisoner, child abuse, human trafficking, etc), technically speaking, a human can endure well those situations - think Viktor Frankl or James Stockdale or Elizabeth Smart.  Personally, I think the percentage of people forced into these situations may be relatively small today in the year 2017.  (link to /r/stoicism discussion on this topic).

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