Your Occasional Stoic – Wearing Learning Lightly

From Sextus: A kindly disposition, and the pattern of a household governed by the paterfamilias; the concept of life lived according to nature; an unaffected dignity; intuitive concern for his friends; tolerance both of ordinary people and of the emptily opinionated; an agreeable manner with all, so that the pleasure of his conversation was greater than any flattery, and his very presence brought him the highest respect from all the company; certainty of grasp and method in the discovery and organization of the essential principles of life; never to give the impression of anger or any other passion, but to combine complete freedom from passion with the greatest human affection; to praise without fanfare, and to wear great learning lightly.

–          1.9

Sextus was a philosopher and nephew of Plutrach, the historian.  From Marcus’s description, and all around pretty great guy (except for the whole paterfamilias governing bit).  Marcus asked a lot of himself, and did not tolerant his own weaknesses. The reminder to be tolerant of those who were not as thoughtful as he, and to wear his learning lightly, are telling and good advice for those of us who have trouble suffering fools.

Life lived “according to nature” is a lynchpin of the stoic philosophy, but a difficult aphorism to understand.  Here, Marcus gives some guidance.  Avoid pride.  Be tolerant.  Do not let your passions rule you. All appear to be very basic things until you try to live them.

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