Friday, January 26, 2018

Commentary on Meditations: B10:26-29

A man deposits his sperm in a womb and goes away. Thereafter another cause takes over, does its work, and produces a baby. What a result from what a beginning! Then again. The child takes food down its throat, and now another causal sequence takes over, creating sensation and impulse, the whole of life and strength, and all manner of other wonderful things. Look, then, at what happens in such mystery, and see the power at work, just as we see the force which weighs things down or carries them up - not with our eyes, but no less clearly.

Constantly reflect that all the things which happen now have happened before: reflect too that they will happen again in the future. Have in your mind's eye whole dramas with similar settings, all that you know of from your own experience or earlier history - for example, the whole court of Hadrian, the whole court of Antoninus, the whole court of Philip, Alexander, Croesus. All the same as now: just a different cast.

Picture everyone voicing pain or discontent at anything, as like a pig at a sacrifice, kicking and squealing. Just the same is the man who keeps it to himself, silently resentful on his bed. Think of all the threads that bind us, and how only rational creatures are given the choice of submitting willingly to events: pure submission is forced on all.

Consider each individual thing you do and ask yourself whether to lose it through death makes death itself any cause for fear.

Marcus takes a deep dive into the human life with regard to the subject of change.  Think of the many changes each individual human goes through.  And Marcus is only talking about the physical changes.  On top of the physical are the mental and intellectual changes we all go through.  One of my favorite things to say whenever one of my kids does something not so great, I tell myself and my wife, "this is not the final version of <insert name of kid>."  Each of us goes through a change every day and we really only see the change after weeks, months and years pass.

We need to think about this change; we need to think about it constantly.  And if we widen the scope a bit and observe the change in the whole world, we begin to get a sense of the complex depth of human history.  It boggles my mind to think of all that can happen in a decade, let alone a century, let alone an epoch.  This exercise helps us to put things in the proper perspective.  Today's mountains are tomorrow's molehills.

Chapter 28 of Book 10 is all about attitude.  Two extremes - one, you complain so much you squeal like a stuck pig; two, you inwardly complain and resent your lot in life.  Now, think of all the creatures in the world, how few have the ability to control their attitude whether in pain or in pleasure, they can arrive to a mental point of not only not complaining, but loving their fate.  I used to carry a quote around with me all the time.  It's by Charles Swindoll on the subject of attitude:
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company ... a church ... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude ... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you ... we are in charge of our Attitudes.
In the last part, Marcus revisits death.  Really, fear of death is only fear of not being able to do what you are doing today.  Maybe its work, manual labor, school, playing games or something else.  If you were ill and could not do those things, no different than death.

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