Your Occasional Stoic — Freely Choose The Best, And Keep To It

If in the life of man you find anything better than justice, truth, sobriety, manliness; and, in sum, anything better than the satisfaction of your soul with itself and with fate in that which is determined beyond your control; if, I say, you find anything better than this, then turn to it with all your heart, and enjoy it as the best that is to be found.

But if nothing seems to you better than the divinity seated within you, which has conquered all your impulses, which sifts all your thoughts, which, as Socrates said, has detached itself from the promptings of sense, and devoted itself to God and to the love of mankind; if you find every other thing small and worthless compared with this, see that you give place to no other which might turn, divert, or distract you from holding in highest esteem the good which is especially and properly your own.

For it is not permitted to us to substitute for that which is good in reason or in fact anything not agreeable thereto, such as the praise of the many, power, riches, or the pursuit of pleasure. All these things may seem admissible for a moment; but presently they get the upper hand, and lead us astray. But do you, I say, frankly and freely choose the best, and keep to it. The best is what is for your advantage. If now you choose what is for your spiritual advantage, hold it fast; if what is for your bodily advantage, admit that it is so chosen, and keep your choice with all modesty. Only see that you make a sure discrimination.

Mediations 3:6

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If you can find something better truth, justice and sobriety, fine, go after it. But you’ll almost surely be wrong. For life doesn’t really produce more important values. Don’t be tricked by the side paths of life that take you away from these core values. Stay the course, and you’ll find the way.

Your Occasional Stoic –Let The God Within Direct You

In action be neither grudging, nor selfish, nor ill-advised, nor constrained. Do not let your thought be adorned with overwrought nicety. Don’t be a babbler or a busybody. Let the God within direct you as a manly being, as an elder, a statesman, a Roman, and a ruler, standing prepared like one who awaits the recall from life, in marching order; requiring neither an oath nor the testimony of any man. And with everything, be cheerful, and independent of the assistance and the peace that comes from others; for, it is a man’s duty to stand upright, self-supporting, not supported.

 Meditations 3:5

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One of the classic knocks on stoicism is that it is cold, detached, unemotional. The first part of this meditation seems to reinforce that – don’t be a busy body, act like a statesman. But let’s not forget the second part – with everything be cheerful. To take duty and life seriously does not mean one has to be some Cato like grump. Live this life with intention and purpose, but also with joy. As always with Marcus, an easy thing to write, a hard thing to live.

Your Occasional Stoic — Do Not Waste What Remains of Life On What Others Think of You

 

 

Do not waste what remains of life on what others think of you, when it makes not for the common good. You are surely neglecting other work if you busy yourself with what others are doing and why, with what they are saying, thinking, or scheming.

All such things do but divert you from the steadfast guardianship of your own soul. It behooves you, then, in every train of thought to shun all that is aimless or useless, and, above all, everything officious or malignant. Accustom yourself so, and only so, to think, that, if any one were suddenly to ask you, “Of what are you thinking-now?” you could answer frankly and at once, “Of so and so.” Then it will plainly appear that you are all simplicity and kindliness, as befits a social being who takes little thought for enjoyment or any phantom pleasure; who spurns contentiousness, envy, or suspicion; or any passion the harboring of which one would blush to own. For such a man, who has finally determined to be henceforth among the best, is, as it were, a priest and minister of the Gods, using the spirit within him, which preserves a man un-spotted from pleasure, un-wounded by any pain, inaccessible to all insult, innocent of all evil; a champion in the noblest of all contests—the contest for victory over every passion. He is penetrated with justice; he welcomes with all his heart whatever befalls, or is appointed by Providence. He troubles not often, or ever without pressing public need, to consider what another may say, or do, or design. Solely intent upon his own conduct, ever mindful of his own concurrent part in the destiny of the Universe, he orders his conduct well, persuaded that his part is good. For the lot appointed to every man is part of the law of all things as well as a law for him. He forgets not that all rational beings are akin, and that the love of all mankind is part of the nature of man; also that we must not think as all men think, but only as those who live a life accordant with nature. As for those who live otherwise, he remembers always how they act at home and abroad, by night and by day, and how and with whom they are found in company. And so he cannot esteem the praise of such, for they enjoy not their own approbation.

Meditations 3:4

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Do not trouble yourself with what others think of you. A simple admonition, but as we’ve said before, much harder to implement, and perhaps that is why it occurs so often in the meditations. Marcus isn’t just reminding us to stay focused on that which we can change – our actions – he is also reminding himself. Stay true to your life’s work. Ignore the haters.

Your Occasional Stoic — The Soul Is Intelligence and Deity, the Body Dust and Corruption

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Hippocrates, who had healed many diseases, himself fell sick, and died.

 

The Chaldeans foretold the fatal hours of multitudes, and afterwards fate carried themselves away.

Alexander, Pompey, and Gaius Caesar, who so often razed whole cities, and cut off in battle so many myriads of horse and foot, at last departed from this life themselves.

Heraclitus, after his many speculations on the conflagration of the world, died, swollen with water and plastered with cow-dung.

Vermin destroyed Democritus; Socrates was killed by vermin of another sort.

What of all this? You have gone aboard, made your voyage, come to harbor. Disembark: if into another life, there will God be also; if into nothingness, at least you will have done with bearing pain and pleasure, and with your slavery to this vessel so much meaner than its slave. For the soul is intelligence and deity, the body dust and corruption.

 

Mediations 3:3

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Hippocrates, the father of western medicine. The Chaldeans, an ancient people, disappeared into assimilation. Alexander the Great, Pompey, and Gaius Caesar, all three among the greatest generals of the ancient world. Heraclitus, among the first and most compelling of the Greek philosophers. Socrates, perhaps the greatest. All of them dead. Remember if it comes for men of this stature, it is coming for you as well. What will you say when that day comes? Will you have lead a good life?

Your Occasional Stoic — Scarce anything connected with Nature will fail to give him pleasure

Observe what grace and charm appear even in the accidents that accompany Nature’s work. Some parts of a loaf crack and burst in the baking; and this cracking, though in a manner contrary to the design of the baker, looks beautiful and invites the appetite.

Figs, too, gape when at their ripest, and in ripe olives the very approach to rotting adds a special beauty to the fruit. The droop of ears of corn, the bent brows of the lion, the foam at a boar’s mouth, and many other things, are far from comely in themselves, yet, since they accompany the works of Nature, they make part of her adornment, and rejoice the beholder.

Thus, if a man be sensitive to such things, and have a more than common penetration into the constitution of the whole, scarce anything connected with Nature will fail to give him pleasure, as he comes to understand it. Such a man will contemplate in the real world the fierce jaws of wild beasts with no less delight than when sculptors or painters set forth for him their presentments. With like pleasure will his chaste eyes behold the maturity and grace of old age in man or woman, and the inviting charms of youth. Many such things will strike him, things not credible to the many, but which come to him alone who is truly familiar with the works of Nature and near to her own heart.

Meditations 3:2

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This mediation is a bit of an outlier, as thoughts on aesthetics don’t tend to figure large in the mediations. But here its aesthetics coupled with knowledge and appreciation of the natural world, something we know Marcus loved. We learn to see the beautify in even unpleasant aspects of nature but understanding nature deeply, and sitting with its awesome power. As I’ve written about before, this is something I’m personally looking to do more of. I crave the woods these days and a deeper understanding of natures beauty.

 

Your Occasional Stoic — Understanding and intelligence often leave us before we die.

Man must consider, not only that each day part of his life is spent, and that less and less remains to him, but also that, even if he live longer, it is very uncertain whether his intelligence will suffice as heretofore for the understanding of his affairs, and for grasping that knowledge which aims at comprehending things human and divine. When dotage begins, breath, nourishment, fancy, impulse, and so forth will not fail him. But self-command, accurate appreciation of duty, power to scrutinize what strikes his senses, or even to decide whether he should take his departure, all powers, indeed, which demand a well-trained understanding, must be extinguished in him. Let him be up and doing then, not only because death comes nearer every day, but because understanding and intelligence often leave us before we die.

Meditations 3:1

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Seize the day, not only because tomorrow you may die, but because even if you were to live, there is no guarantee that you will be as capable as you are today. Indeed, you certainly won’t for not only death, but old age, comes for all of us.

Your Occasional Stoic –To Worry About Any Particular Event is to Revolt Against the General Law of Nature

Man’s soul dishonors itself, when it does all it can to become an growth, a tumor as it were on the Universe. To worry about any particular event is to revolt against the general law of Nature, which comprehends the order of all events whatsoever.

Again it is dishonor for the soul when it has aversion to any man, and opposes him with intention to hurt him, as wrathful men do.

Thirdly, the soul affronts itself when conquered by pleasure or pain;

Fourthly, when it does or says anything hypocritically, feignedly or falsely;

Fifthly, when it does not direct to some proper end all its desires and actions, but exerts them inconsiderately and without understanding. For, even the smallest things should be referred to the end, and the end of rational beings is to follow the order and law of the venerable state and polity which comprehends them all.

Mediations 2:16

ROMAN ART

as part of collection, Roman Art from the Louvre, currently on display at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN ORG XMIT: KOD

A list of attributes described in the negative, as Marcus often does. Its fair to say he is more focused on what he should not do, then on what he should do. A helpful technique when you’re trying to coach yourself to better behavior.