Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Commentary on Meditations: B11:10-11

'No nature is inferior to art': in fact the arts imitate the variety of natures. If that is so, then the most perfect and comprehensive of all natures could not be surpassed by any artistic invention. Now all arts create the lower in the interests of the higher: so this is the way of universal nature too. And indeed here is the origin of justice, from which all other virtues take their being, since there will be no preservation of justice if we are concerned with indifferent things, or gullible and quick to chop and change.

The external things whose pursuit or avoidance troubles you do not force themselves on you, but in a way you yourself go out to them. However that may be, keep your judgement of them calm and they too will stay still - then you will not be seen either to pursue or to avoid.

The arts (movies, drama, books, etc), attempt to mimic life.  If they are true to their intent, the arts help us to be better (morally, virtuously).  But the arts can never surpass real life.  The ultimate "stage" is life itself.  The amazing stories of courage and temperance and justice and wisdom are found in real people doing real things - no acting.  Indeed, we can all be inspired by both fiction and recreations of real-life events.  But the real "stuff" is out in the world - on the streets, in communities, in the office, at school.  And no real inspiration comes from stories of people chasing indifferents.  We are inspired by Herman Boone, Winston Churchill, and Condoleezza Rice; but not so much by a Kardashian.

Again, indifferents are external things (you don't have control over them).  Seeking riches, fame or pleasures or trying to avoid pain or sickness are dependent on so many other factors.  These things aren't so much forced on you, rather you extend your mind to desire and seek them (or to avoid them).  Treat these things indifferently - with contempt even.  And spend your focus and effort on living a moral and virtuous (temperance, courage, justice, wisdom) life.

(see also Citadel p. 41)

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