Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Commentary on Meditations: B10:36

No one is so fortunate as not to have standing round his death- bed some people who welcome the fate coming on him. Was he the earnest sage? Then maybe there will be someone at his final moment saying to himself: 'We can breathe again now, rid of this schoolmaster. He was not hard on any one of us, but I could feel his silent criticism of us all.' So much for the earnest sage: but in our own case how many other reasons are there for a general wish to be rid of us? You will think of this when you are dying, and your departure will be the easier if you reason to yourself: 'I am leaving the sort of life in which even my colleagues - on whose behalf I have expended so much effort, prayer, and thought - even they want me out of the way, doubtless hoping for some relief from my death.' So why should anyone cling to a longer stay here on earth?

Do not, though, for that reason feel any less warmth for them as you depart this life, but keep true to your own character friendly, kind, generous. Again, your leaving of them should not be any wrench from life, but rather that easy slipping of the soul from the body's carapace experienced by those dying at peace. Nature bound you to them and made them your colleagues, but is now releasing you. My release is like parting from kinsmen, but I do not resist or need to be forced. This too is one of the ways to follow nature.

Chapter 36 of Book 10 is a deep dive into Marcus' thoughts specific to his death.  There seems to be a lot of loaded ideas in this meditation of his.  He seems to want to be called a sage, but yet, if people are grateful that he is now dead, perhaps he did not quite pull off the feat of becoming a sage since he was not able to successfully persuade people to be better.  In which case, he is simply grateful he is leaving this sort of life, despite giving it his best effort to help those around him.

In the second part, he still reminds himself to continue to help and "feel warmth" for them even as he is preparing to die.  He wants to life life fully to the end - being friendly, kind and generous all the way to the end.  He does not want to die bitterly.

Pierre Hadot takes 3 to 4 pages to decompose this passage and it is well worth the read.

(see also Citadel p. 30, 228, 293-295)

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