“But what folly it is, when the beginnings of certain things are situated outside our control, to believe that their endings are within our control! How have I the power to bring something to a close, when I have not had the power to check it at the beginning? For it is easier to keep a thing out than to keep it under after you have let it in.”
This is an interesting thought. My first take on it, is that while we do not choose the impression which are presented to the mind, we might also be presented with a mood, impressions or beliefs which “stick around.” I’ve tried to treat moods like weather, something not in my control, and my first reading of the above is similar.
However, upon further review, the last sentence sticks out more to me. Rather than simply accepting that an internal state is what it is, should we seek to change or alter them at the outset, we might be better off than trying to undo a long established habit.
“[A]nger, once admitted into the mind, will alter the earlier habit of a mind that was formerly free from anger.”
Ah, indeed. I’ve seen this in my life. It is easy to fall into the habit of angry thoughts, jealous thoughts, and ingratitude. Our character is constantly effected by the quality of our thoughts, as Marcus says, dyed in them.
We color the soul with each assent. And whether we assent intentionally or not, assent we do. We are constantly training ourselves in some fashion.
Children are an excellent case in point: they are always learning, even if their parents are not intending to teach. Does the example set by them teach self-control, courage, wisdom, gentleness of disposition, freedom, and magnanimity? Or does it rather teach vindictiveness, judgmental superiority, cruelty, and worse?
In this same way, the ψυχή is taught by our assents.
What are we teaching ourselves today?