Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Today's semi-random thoughts from Marcus Aurelius

'People seek out retreats for themselves in the country, by the seaside, on the mountains, and you, too, are wont to long above all for such things. But all this is unphilosophical to the nth degree, when you can at a moment's notice retire into yourself. For nowhere can we find a retreat more full of peace, or more free from care, than our own souls, above all if...More......

...we have peace within us, a steadfast look at which and we at once are at ease, and by "ease" I mean nothing other than order. Make use, then, of this retirement continually, and regenerate yourself....

Why with what are you discontented? The wickedness of others? Take this conclusion to heart, that rational creatures have been made for one another, that forbearance is part of justice, that wrong-doing is involuntary, and think how many before now, after passing their lives in implacable enmity, suspicion, hatred, and at daggers drawn with one another, have been buried. Think of this, I say, and stop fretting.

But are you discontented with your share in the whole? Recall the alternatives: either heavenly intervention, or just atoms, and the abundant proofs that the universe is one state....

But will that paltry thing, Fame, distract you? Look at the swift approach of complete forgetfulness, and the void of infinite time on this side of us and on that, and the empty echo of acclamation, and the fickleness and uncritical judgment of those who claim to speak well of us, and the narrowness of the arena to which all this is confined. For the whole of earth is but a point, and how tiny a corner of it is this the place of our sojourning, and how many therein and of what sort are those who will praise you.

From now on, therefore, remember to retreat into this little plot that is you, yourself. Above all, don't distract yourself, don't be too eager, but be your own master, and look upon life as one possessed of high values, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal creature.

Among the principles close at hand upon which you concentrate, let there be these two. One, that objective things do not lay hold of your soul, but stand quietly outside of it, while disturbances are but the outcome of that opinion that is within us. Second, that all this visible world changes in a moment, and will be no more, and continually remember the changes of how many things that you have witnessed.

"The Universe: change. Life: opinion".(*)'

Dear Marcus usually isn't so long-winded, but much of the essence of his helpful and comforting thought, expressed in his jottings to self that we now call his Meditations, is distilled into this somewhat paraphrased passage (IV:3).

Perfect for remembering, for today and for my dear dear Mario, whose passing away two years ago took the light from my life.

Contemplate. Contemplate again. And again. Draw comfort from wisdom.

(*Here, Marcus is quoting Mundi lex seu Natura, according to my Loeb version.)

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