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Journal of No. 118

March 4th, 2011

Meditations on Meditations @ 03:09 pm

I finished reading the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius on the kindle [a few OCR problems, with "he" and "be" being often interchanged - and any use of the original Greek was converted into gibberish - but hey, it was free.]. Anyway, dude was not content to be the emperor of Rome, but managed to write one of the major epitomes of Stoic philosophy while simultaneously smiting the Germanic tribes. The Meditations range from mere sentences, to much lengthier passages, all apparently written as part of Aurelius' personal diary and not really intended for wider consumption.
I'm not ready to sign on as a Stoic, but plenty of wisdom is to be found here. I used the highlight feature of the kindle to grab a few passages. Sillily, you can only post them one at a time to your facebook page. Should be able to email them all to yourself or something. Anyway, if you hardwire it to the puter, you can download the snippet file. So here's a few things I found interesting.

Aurelius starts by thanking various people, and listing the virtues he learned from them. Among them, skepticism:
Of Diognetus, not to busy myself about vain things, and not easily to believe those things, which are commonly spoken, by such as take upon them to work wonders, and by sorcerers, or prestidigitators, and impostors; concerning the power of charms, and their driving out of demons, or evil spirits; and the like.

Curiously, I found some of his advice highly germane to internet flame wars:
and not reproachfully to reprehend any man for a barbarism, or a solecism, or any false pronunciation, but dextrously by way of answer, or testimony, ... to utter it as it should have been spoken; or by some other such close and indirect admonition, handsomely and civilly to tell him of it.

As a spelling/grammar Nazi, I find this sometimes hard, but I've managed to teach myself to do no more than wince imperceptibly when I see the 'tenants' of a religion, or such-like.

A well-phrased expression of the brotherhood of man (er, siblinghood of human) united by reason: "If reason is general, then is that reason also, which prescribeth what is to be done and what not, common unto all. If that, then law. If law, then are we fellow-citizens. If so, then are we partners in some one commonweal. If so, then the world is as it were a city. For which other commonweal is it, that all men can be said to be members of?"

Similarly, "And my nature is, to be rational in all my actions and as a good, and natural member of a city and commonwealth, towards my fellow members ever to be sociably and kindly disposed and affected. My city and country as I am Antoninus, is Rome; as a man, the whole world."

"The best kind of revenge is, not to become like unto them."

"If anybody shall reprove me, and shall make it apparent unto me, that in any either opinion or action of mine I do err, I will most gladly retract. For it is the truth that I seek after, by which I am sure that never any man was hurt; and as sure, that he is hurt that continueth in any error, or ignorance whatsoever."

"All men are made one for another: either then teach them better, or bear with them."

And finally, the epitome of the epitome:
Herein doth consist happiness of life, for a man to know thoroughly the true nature of everything; what is the matter, and what is the form of it: with all his heart and soul, ever to do that which is just, and to speak the truth. What then remaineth but to enjoy thy life in a course and coherence of good actions, one upon another immediately succeeding, and never interrupted, though for never so little a while?
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Date:March 6th, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)

FYI, I don't have a Kindle, but I happened upon this tip online. Highlight the passage. Hit sync. Go to kindle.amazon.com. Copy and paste.

And that Marcus Aurelius character seems interesting too! ;-) Seriously, that last excerpt sounds akin to the "serenity prayer."

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Date:March 6th, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC)
W00t. Thanks. Of course -- I had forgotten that Big Brother Amazon was always reading over my shoulder.

Ha, good call... the Stoics would certainly be big on 'accepting the things I cannot change'.
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Date:March 7th, 2011 05:39 am (UTC)

After rereading this (because I'm kinda OCD like that), I realized it wasn't the last I excerpt that I was thinking of, but the second to last (teach him better, or bear with him). :-)

Journal of No. 118