Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Commentary on Meditations: B10:6

Whether atoms or a natural order, the first premise must be that I am part of the Whole which is governed by nature: the second, that I have some close relationship with the other kindred parts. With these premises in mind, in so far as I am a part I shall not resent anything assigned by the Whole. Nothing which benefits the Whole can be harmful to the part, and the Whole contains nothing which is not to its benefit. All organic natures have this in common, but the nature of the universe has this additional attribute, that no external cause can force it to create anything harmful to itself.

So remembering that I am part of a Whole so constituted will leave me happy with all that happens to me. And in so far as I have some close relationship with the other kindred parts, I shall do nothing unsocial, but rather look to the good of my kin and have every impulse directed to the common benefit and diverted from its opposite. All this in operation guarantees that life will flow well, just as you would judge a citizen's life in proper flow when he moves on through acts which benefit his fellow citizens, and welcomes all that his city assigns him.

Two absolutes exist.

First, that we are part of the whole Universe (regardless of whether you believe there is a God or Gods or if all of it is just a random conflagration of atoms bouncing around in a constant flux).  There is no denying that there are some things ultimately out of your control and no matter how much you love it or how much you complain about it, whatever "it" is, will not change.  You simply must accept it.  Stated differently, amor fati.  In Stoic terms, this falls under the discipline of desire.

Second, we must recognize that humans are different than the vast majority of other living organisms.  What makes humans unique is our ability to reason coupled with our ability to be social. To a large degree, we have a duty to be social - to help others where we can.  This duty to help others falls under the Stoic discipline of action.

In my opinion, these two core ideas and disciplines are akin to the two great commandments in Christianity: 1) love God and 2) love neighbor.  And as long as we can keep these two ideas in the forefront of our minds and attempt to live accordingly, our "life will flow well" as Marcus states above.

(see also Citadel p. 43-44, 241) 

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