Nothing is more wretched than a man who is always out and about, running around in circles. As Pindar says, the poet says, “delving deep in the bowels of the earth” seeking by conjecture what is in the minds of his neighbors, without perceiving that it is sufficient to attend to the divinity within him. Reverence to the divine in himself consists in keeping it pure from passion and thoughtlessness, and dissatisfaction with what comes from gods and men. For the things from the gods merit veneration for their excellence; and the things from men should be dear to us by reason of kinship; and sometimes even, in a manner, they move our pity by reason of men’s ignorance of good and bad; this defect being not less than that which deprives us of the power of distinguishing things that are light and dark.
The Greek doesn’t actually name Pindar, it merely says the “poet” but the quopte is from a Pindar Fragment.
There’s a lot going on here – first the now standard cheerleading of Marcus to himself to be not like the gossiping neighbor, judging the motivations of his friends, but more like the stoic sage focused on his own, inner strength (and weaknesses).
Stay away from thoughtlessness, Marcus tells himself, again. Focus on facts. Don’t let you passions control your actions.
Still and also, pity the gossiping neighbor, the harm he does it not just to those he judges, but also to himself, moving farther from knowledge by failing to interrogate his own mind before worrying about the minds of others.
From my tutor: not to become a Green or Blue supporter at the races, or side with the Lights or Heavies in the amphitheater; to tolerate pain and feel few needs; to work with my own hands and mind my own business; to be deaf to malicious gossip.
We do not know who Marcus’s tutor was, but he was probably an educated slave.
He gave good advice.
Green and Blue were chariots racing teams; lights and heavies were types of gladiators. Marcus believed in physical fitness, but he didn’t have much time for spectator sports. Why watch what you should do?
From my mother: piety, generosity, the avoidance of wrong-doing and even the thought of it; also simplicity of living, well clear of the habits of the rich.
– Meditations 1:3
- After 1:2’s foray into “manliness” its nice to see Marcus honor his mother, though much of these attributes are stereotypically feminine, its good to see Marcus wanted to emulate his mother.
- After Marcus’s father died, his mother, Domitia Lucilla raised Marcus and his sister Annia as a widow. With the support of Marcus’s grandfather.
- “well clear of the habits of the rich” is a great phrase, probably even better in the original Greek. What this meant, specifically, in Marcus’s time, I’m not sure. But its stil solid advice today.
- Lucilla also raised another emperor, Dius Julianus, who bought the laurel from the Praetorian Guard and reigned for a mere three months until the Senate rose up against him, proclaimed Servus emperor, and had Julianus put to death.
“From what they say and I remember of my natural father: integrity and manliness”
– Marcus Aurelius, Mediations 1:2
- Marcus’s natural father was Marcus Annius Verus, a politician. He died when Marcus was three.
- “Manliness” — ugh. I don’t even know what that means. I think there’s a lot to learn from the meditations, but its important to always keep in mind that it was written by the emperor of a misogynistic, slave-owning society.