Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Commentary on Meditations: B7:35-37

'So, to a man endowed with noble intelligence and a vision of all time and all being, do you think that this human life will seem of great importance? "Impossible," he said. So such a man will not think there is anything fearful in death either? "Certainly not".'

'A king's lot: to do good and be damned.'

It is shameful that the face should be so obedient, shaping and ordering its expression as the mind dictates, when the mind cannot impose its own shape and order on itself.

Marcus quotes people who he has read.  Per The Inner Citadel (Hadot), passage 35 comes from Plato.

Anyone with intelligence who grasps the vastness of time and space, will agree that our life is extremely small.  Therefore, this same person ought not to fear death.

Regarding the second passage here, I think a similar phrase is used today: damned if you do; damned if you don't.  Therefore, act with reason and justice and accept the results.

Kronk being persuaded by two parts of his mind.
Our mind ought to be guided by our most noble guiding principle much like the face obeys the emotions our mind produces.  This is a fascinating notion when one truly thinks about it.  It is almost as if there are two parts of our mind.  The part that knows better and what ought to be done and then there is the part of the mind that gives in too early or is not disciplined.  The thought is so cliche, that cartoons even represent the notion via a little devil and angel sitting on one's shoulders.  The most recent, popular version of this coming from Disney's The Emperor's New Groove via the character Kronk.

Marcus' whole mindset around his Meditations is the angel or better part of us, speaking to the lesser part of us.  By constant remembering and writing and reading and meditating, our directing mind and our acting mind come into harmony.  But it starts with the directing mind.  This is why philosophy and practicing philosophy is so important.  Our directing mind needs to take some unchanging marching orders and then tell the acting mind, over and over again to be better.  Don't misunderstand - this practice is not self-nagging, rather it is self-improvement.  It is a little spice and seasoning added to our character that brings out the better nature of ourselves.

One of the key practices of Stoicism is daily meditation and reflection.  In the morning, reflect on the day ahead of you.  Pick a thought, teaching or positive phrase and try to make it a part of your mindset.  Act virtuously (wisdom, justice, courage, temperance) as best as you can during the day.  Then before you go to sleep, review the days events.  Give yourself praise for virtuous acts.  Then find ways you could have improved or done something differently.  This small daily practice will go a long way to improving your character.

(see also Citadel p. 269)

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