“Very soon you will be dead; but even yet you are not single-minded, nor above disquiet; not yet unapprehensive of harm from without; not yet charitable to all men, not persuaded that to do justly is the only wisdom.”
Frequently, in this section I think sarcastically, “Jeeze, Marcus, just @ me already…” I’ve been in a weird spot lately, and for some reason I haven’t been using the tools I developed through my Stoic practice to handle them. I have start over. I’m fairly aware that progress is a thing that slips if we’re not careful, and I more fully understand Hadot’s description of it as tension. I let loose of it, and it’s slipped away.
It’s possible that such a phase was needed, required for what comes next. I will take it as such.
In these sections, Marcus admonishes himself and then offers the solution. The turmoil and lack of progress that we often see in our lives is accepted, and then he moves on with a Stoic therapy. I see hints of Heraclitus’ river, and Marcus’ own View from Above. He describes the machinations and activities of generations, each arising, and then falling away, to leave only fossils in the minds of men.
Yet he takes solace in the connection that he has with the cosmos, with God, if you will. His part to play, his duties, his chance for virtue; these bring some comfort in the face of an eternity which quickly wipes clean the slate of our lives.
It’s probably because Marcus was an emperor, and I am not, but I do not take the same comfort in the yoking of duties as Marcus does. Oftentimes, those seem to me to be just another, more complicated form of distraction or preoccupation. Maybe if I had the fate of the west on my shoulders, I’d feel differently.
But I don’t.
We know a lot about Diogenes, who made himself a paragon example, that some fraction of it might take root in the minds of his fellows. But we (or at least I) know less of the Cynics which came after, those who are often described as fashionable non-conformists, watered down, and haranguing the citizens. Do they know they were watered down? Was it a ploy? A way out? Or did they think they were doing their best, or even to improve?
Ah, yes. Well, those questions are not answerable, but their parallel can be seen in our School, too. Are we watered down? If we veer, have we improved or faltered? Are we brave enough to ask? Hard to tell until we get there. I might veer a bit, we’ll see.
“To be in the process of change is not an evil, any more than to be in the product of change is a good.”
This post is part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Marcus’Meditations.