Sunday, February 4, 2018

Commentary on Meditations: B11:7-8

How clearly it strikes you that there is no other walk of life so conducive to the exercise of philosophy as this in which you now find yourself!

A branch cut from its neighbouring branch is necessarily cut away from the whole tree. In the same way a human being severed from just one other human has dropped from the whole community. Now the branch is cut off by someone else, but a man separates himself from his neighbour by his own hatred or rejection, not realizing that he has thereby severed himself from the wider society of fellow citizens. Only there is this gift we have from Zeus who brought together the human community: we can grow back again to our neighbour and resume our place in the complement of the whole. Too often repeated, though, such separation makes it harder to unite and restore the divided part. In sum, the branch which stays with the tree from the beginning of its growth and shares its transpiration is not the same as the branch which is cut off and then regrafted, whatever the gardeners say. Share their stock, but not their doctrines.

Chapter 7 of Book 11 seems to say that he (Marcus) is in a great position as Roman Emperor to practice his Stoic philosophy.

Humans have a unique opportunity to rejoin the community if they self-separate.  Unlike many appendages which, if cut off, cannot be re-joined, humans can be rejoined to the community.  And then there is another dimension of this chapter.  In the very last part of this chapter, Marcus closes with "share their stock, but not their doctrines."  Here, he clearly states that we must be a part of the tree (the community), but we don't have to partake in the mindlessness of society.  Be engaged, but also be mindful not to imitate the less philosophical aspects of society.  To cite an example from the modern-day, there is a major movement that counters consumerism.  The minimalist movement seeks to educate people to not make life about buying things, but rather to find a life of meaning.  Joshua Becker does not separate himself from society (i.e. live on mountain or remote ranch), rather he engages and attempts to educate and truly help others.  And how interesting I come across this section on today, Super Bowl Sunday.  The Super Bowl is almost as famous for its halftime commercials as it is for the actual game.  If there were a holiday that celebrate consumerism, it would be Super Bowl Sunday.  Feel free to attend and engage with friends and family in Super Bowl parties, but be mindful not to be all caught up in the philosophy of seeking happiness in owning and consuming things.  Be a part of the stock of the tree, but don't embrace or share the doctrines.

(see also Citadel p. 49, 258, 292)

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