Saturday, February 17, 2018

Commentary on Meditations: B12:1

All that you pray to reach at some point in the circuit of your life can be yours now - if you are generous to yourself. That is, if you leave all the past behind, entrust the future to Providence, and direct the present solely to reverence and justice. To reverence, so that you come to love your given lot: it was Nature that brought it to you and you to it. To justice, so that you are open and direct in word and action, speaking the truth, observing law and proportion in all you do. You should let nothing stand in your way - not the iniquity of others, not what anyone else thinks or says, still less any sensation of this poor flesh that has accreted round you: the afflicted part must see to its own concern.

If, then, when you finally come close to your exit, you have left all else behind and value only your directing mind and the divinity within you, if your fear is not that you will cease to live, but that you never started a life in accordance with nature, then you will be a man worthy of the universe that gave you birth. You will no longer be a stranger in your own country, no longer meet the day's events as if bemused by the unexpected, no longer hang on this or that.

If you are reading this commentary, pause and really take the time to read chapter 1 of Book 12; read it again and again if you have to.  Marcus gets to the heart of the matter of philosophy and Stoicism in this chapter.  He talks of all three disciplines and he even gives you a measuring stick to see if you've been "worthy" of living or not.

He first focuses on the past, the present and the future.  Leave the past behind.  There is nothing that can be done to change it.  The past is out of your control.  Therefore, leave it where is remains forever.  No anxiety or worry or anger or happiness or love.  It is gone.  Similarly, the future is out of our control.  We are blind to it.  We cannot know whether we will be rich or poor, alive or dead, healthy or ill.  The future is a bridge we have not yet encountered and we only waste time by thinking about it.  Indeed do all you can to plan, but ultimately, don't hinge your contentment on the future.

This leaves the present: the one point in time, out of the infinite number of points in time, over which we have control.  How do we best use this gift?  We live it justly (discipline of action) by doing right; living right; living with integrity; helping others; by being open and direct with all people.  We live the present moment reverently (discipline of desire) - which means we love our lot in life.  This is as close as Marcus comes to saying amor fati.  Love this unique-crafted-especially-for-you moment.  It is yours and no one else's.  And if you focus on the one thing you can control (your attitude) in this moment that belongs to you, you will find contentment.

Don't let all those other things stand in your way of having a positive, learning, fulfilling experience now.  Don't let others' iniquity, or thoughts or opinions or words stand in your way.  Don't let your body, which is little more than gelatinous mass, stand in your way of having a good attitude.

If you are able to accomplish all this, and, when you near your death, the only thing you value is your hegemonikon's ability to stay true to the divine, then you will have lived a good life.  Also, if you get to the point of not fearing death, but rather, your greatest fear is that you never were able to start living a life according to nature, then you will be worthy of your existence - you will have found your home - your country.  You will no longer be surprised by anything, you will no longer care about this indifferent thing or that indifferent thing.  You will have transcended all of it.

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