Your Occasional Stoic – Greeting the Morning

Begin the morning by saying “I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them. No one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him. We are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.

-Mediations 2,1

  • That’s a pretty long thing to say to yourself every morning.
  • But the idea of greeting the day with a reflection is a helpful. It reminds me of the prayer observant Jews say upon waking. Or the five-minute journal so popular with the hip self-improvement crowd.
  • But what is Marcus reminding himself of in the morning? That the unpleasant characters he will come in contract with are such not inherently, but because of their ignorance.
  • Stoicism is a philosophy which believes that virtue is knowledge of what is empirically good. To have knowledge of what is good is to do it. Vice, or ill-action (such as the busy-bodies here) is the result of a lack of knowledge. If the individuals were to know what was right, they would do it.
  • There’s a contradiction here though, isn’t there? The Mediations is largely comprised of exhortations to Marcus to do better, to live what he knows. Yet he often fails. Doesn’t poke a hole in Socrates famous line “no one willingly does wrong”?
  • Regardless of the contradictions, if we were to start the day aware that not only will we met challenging people, but that we will not allow them to affect us is surely helpful for the working stiff like me. Even more helpful, in fact, is the affirmation to one’s self that not only we will work with them, despite our views of their limitations, but we will overcome those limitations to produce something of value.
  • I need to remember all this when I’m getting ready for work on Monday.

marcus-aurelius

 

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About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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