Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Find Your Nature - Marcus Aurelius

Another theme that runs through 'Meditations' is that of one's own nature.
Why should any of these things that happen externally, so much distract thee? Give thyself leisure to learn some good thing, and cease roving and wandering to and fro. Thou must also take heed of another kind of wander, for they are idle in their actions, who toil and labor, in this life, and have no certain scope to which to direct all their motions, and desires.
I love the idea to 'give leisure to learn some good thing'.  One problem that I've had all of my life is that I'm torn between half a dozen good ideas and have trouble committing to any of them.  If I'd followed this advice, I would have settled on something early and driven towards it.  I can only imagine this would have made me happier.  (Yes, I still can follow this advice, and will!, but it looks different when one is nearly forty.)
These things thou must always have in mind: What is the nature of the universe, and what is mine - in particular: This unto that what relation it hath: what kind of part, of what kind of universe it is: And that there is nobdy that can hinder thee, but that thou mayest always both do and speak those things which are agreeable to that nature, whereof thou art a part.
What is your nature?  Once you find that, you can find how it relates to the nature of the universe and then you're all set.  But be careful out there:
Never esteem of anything as profitable, which shall ever constrain thee either to break thy faith, or to lose thy modesty; to hate any man, to suspect, to curse, to dessemble, to lust after anything, that requireth the secret of walls or veils.
Stay true to your nature!  Don't sacrifice your morals for a quick buck.  And don't do anything that you'd be ashamed to talk about in public.  And keep the proper attitude towards death:
Let death surprise rue when it will, and where it will, I maybe a happy man, nevertheless. For he is a happy man, who in his lifetime dealeth unto himself a happy lot and portion. A happy lot and portion is, good inclinations of the soul, good desires, good actions.
Oh, and one more related quote.  Seriously, a page a day calendar for Marcus Aurelius is a no brainer.  If I did needlepoint, I'd make a wall hanging of this next one for my kids.
The art of true living in this world is more like a wrestler's, than a dancer's practice. For in this they both agree, to teach a man whatsoever falls upon him, that he may be ready for it, and that nothing may cast him down.
Marcus Aurelius (and the stoics) had a certain and firm view of how to live.  It's not an easy path, but it's respectable.  Find your nature, keep things in perspective and be ready for the falls.

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