Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B3:2

We should also attend to things like these, observing that even the incidental effects of the processes of Nature have their own charm and attraction. Take the baking of bread. The loaf splits open here and there, and those very cracks, in one way a failure of the baker's profession, somehow catch the eye and give particular stimulus to our appetite. Figs likewise burst open at full maturity: and in olives ripened on the tree the very proximity of decay lends a special beauty to the fruit. Similarly the ears of corn nodding down to the ground, the lion's puckered brow, the foam gushing from the boar's mouth, and much else besides - looked at in isolation these things are far from lovely, but their consequence on the processes of Nature enhances them and gives them attraction. So any man with a feeling and deeper insight for the workings of the Whole will find some pleasure in almost every aspect of their disposition, including the incidental consequences. Such a man will take no less delight in the living snarl of wild animals than in all the imitative representations of painters and sculptors; he will see a kind of bloom and fresh beauty in an old woman or an old man; and he will be able to look with sober eyes on the seductive charm of his own slave boys. Not all can share this conviction - only one who has developed a genuine affinity for Nature and her works. For him there will be many such perceptions.

Book 3, passage 2 is classic Aurelius waxing strong in the discipline of desire.

Everything which ordinary people might consider undesirable, Marcus tries to see the beauty.  He loves natural processes and sees bloom and delight.

I love this passage from Hadot, who describes the purpose of the discipline of desire:
Humans are unhappy because they desire things which they consider good, but which they may either fail to obtain or else lose; and because they try to avoid things which they consider as evils, but which are often inevitable. The reason is that these apparent goods and evils-wealth and health, for example, or on the contrary poverty and sickness-do not depend on us. Thus, the exercise of the discipline of desire will consist in gradually renouncing these desires and aversions, so that we may finally desire only that which does depend on us-in other words, moral good-and may avoid only that which depends on us-in other words, moral evil. That which does not depend on us is to be considered as indifferent, which means that we are not to introduce any preferential order among such things, but accept them as willed by the will of universal Nature, which Epictetus sometimes designates by the term "gods" in general. To "follow the gods" means to accept their will, which is identical with the will of universal Nature (I, 12, 8; I, 20, I 5). The discipline of desire thus has as its object the passions (pathe), or the emotions which we feel when events present themselves to us. (Citadel p. 87)
Old age and death is nothing to fear.  A large portion of my life was lived in a bit of sadness because being the youngest in a large family, I knew my parents would be too old to travel and see my children grow up.  As a young child and teenager, I often went on trips with my parents to visit my siblings and their children, knowing full well that my parents would most likely not be able to do the same for my children.  Now that that day is here, I no longer am sad.  I take opportunities to visit them and we FaceTime with my parents so they can visit my kids.  I love my fate and try to see the beauty of my well-aged parents.  I know several people and close friends who lost their parents to death at a much younger age.  I simply try to be grateful now for what I can enjoy.

(See also Citadel p. 55,  168-169, 259)

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