Sunday, March 4, 2018

Commentary on Meditations: B12:31-32

What more do you want? To live on? Or is it to continue sensation and impulse? To wax and then to wane? To make use of your voice, your mind? What in all this strikes you as good cause for regret? But if every one of these objects is contemptible, go on then to the final aim, which is to follow reason and to follow god. To value these other things, to fret at their loss which death will bring, militates against this aim.

What a tiny part of the boundless abyss of time has been allotted to each of us - and this is soon vanished in eternity; what a tiny part of the universal substance and the universal soul; how tiny in the whole earth the mere clod on which you creep. Reflecting on all this, think nothing important other than active pursuit where your own nature leads and passive acceptance of what universal nature brings.

What is it you want out of life?  To go from one pleasure to the next; from one pain avoidance act to the next; to give into one impulse after another?  Is that what life is really all about?  Or maybe there is something more meaningful?  Could you make use of your voice and mind?  Could you aim at something higher or better?  What is that "final aim"?  For the Stoics, the final aim was living according to Nature.  And the nature of humans is to use reason to live; to accept our fate (follow god) and to no fret or worry about things that are truly out of our control.

What truly matters in life?  To live it according to nature.  And if you need a reminder about how meaningless a lot of things are, consider how small, tiny and minute this moment is; this piece of land you are sitting on - how small it is.  Therefore, in this small fragment of time and space you occupy, accept it and make the most of it.

A quote by the reverend Martin Luther King Jr. reflects this sentiment of acceptance and opinion:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

(see also Citadel p. 128-129, 173, 180, 184, 267)

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