MMRP: Book IV, Chapters 45-51

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“[Typically we wail] ‘How unlucky I am, that this should have happened to me!’ By no means; say rather, ‘How lucky I am, that it has left me with no bitterness; unshaken by the present, and undismayed by the future.’”

— 49


This section has two main themes as I see it.  The first, being on the shortness of life, that no matter the trial or efforts spent in extending it, it is always blazingly short.  The second, on which I would like to focus today, is on that the suffering of life occurs as judgments, and not as facts of themselves.  The quote I pulled for today leans us that way.

This has been one of those tenets of Stoicism that has been gathering rust on my tool bench.  It’s a strange one, because from the outside it seems impossible.  But, once you take up the lens, and begin to examine in the world, it sees self-evident.  “Why is this physical affliction happening to me?  Woe is me!” is so entirely different from “this body falls apart, but nothing eternal has been lost.”  It could be, that in looking at my Stoic tools, since I’m sliding into something akin to a well worn pair of shoes, they fit.  I don’t remember finding this as simple a chance in the past as it seems today.

Every being on this planet, and likely in the cosmos, suffers.  Or so it seems to me.  All life requires death, and so far as we know, only humanity has the meta-awareness to observe this.  And so the suffering *means* something to us.  You can see pain in a dog, and you can see learned behaviors of avoidance, anxiety, etc.  This is often heartbreaking to many of us.  Yet, that same dog sets those signals of emotion aside when his favorite human enters the room.  He’s not plagued by the thing once it has left, or been replaced by something else.

That seems to be a human characteristic.

Yet, we too can set those aside, especially when they have been incorrectly assented to.  Is this pain of the leg an evil?  No, it’s a pain of the leg.  The fact that I cannot walk well today means I’ll be a bit slower.  I no longer hear well, so I ask for some help, I use tools to aid me, I learn a new language, and make new friends as well.

That’s been something I haven’t discussed on the blog much at all, but I’ve been having some changes in my hearing as a result of childhood and genetic issues.  As such, I’ve been wearing amplifiers, learning American Sign Language, and making new friends in the Deaf community.  Such is life, it sometimes takes us down unexpected paths.

I mourned the loss of my hearing for some time, quite a while actually.  I quit going out to see friends, I got angry and bitter.  Now I have some projects to work on, increasing my proficiency with ASL, meeting new people, and learning to navigate what is becoming to me, a new normal.

Hopefully I can be the rock Marcus wishes for himself, while the waves crash around it only to fall still once more.  And all of us making progress can pick back up a tool we’ve laid aside.


This post is part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Marcus’Meditations.

MMRP: Book IV, Chapters 32-44

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“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.”

— 37.

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.”

— 42.


This post is part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Marcus’Meditations.

Mountain Stoic has zero readers from Svalbard…

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Conclusion:  bears are just not that into Stoicism.

* Pink shaded are locations of readers’ traffic to this blog. This is pretty neat, to see the wide variety of interested parties, or at least the preference for VPN traffic.

This blog has been running for about five years now, which is quite some time.  It saw the beginning of the Great Popularization of Stoicism, the peak, and what I suspect now is a sort of decline and probably a ground floating point.  I’ve seen the signal to noise ratio fluctuate dramatically, and I think we’re actually at a low point of that, currently.  I hope to see it get a bit better in the coming years.

This blog’s function has fluctuated in that time, also.  Its level of discourse has risen and fallen, as has my activity here.  But stats like the ones represented by the map above are pretty humbling.

Thanks for a half-decade of readership.

Cora Lutz’s translation of Musonius to be reprinted

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If you are interested in a pre-order, the Cora Lutz translation of Musonius Rufus’ Lectures and Sayings is going to be back in print for the first time in a long time.  This edition will be bilingual, with Koine Greek and English.

For US-folks, it should be available in mid-February, and my understanding is that it will be available in April in Europe and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, there is no cover art available yet.

If you are interested, you can use this link, and I may get a small commission.  I’ve already pre-ordered it, as I’ve wanted a physical, bilingual version for some time.  The US version is $22, which seems like a deal to me.  When I was searching for print versions of 1947 translations, the cost was significantly higher.

Here’s the link:

That One Should Disdain Hardships: The Teachings of a Roman Stoic

A quote by way of Hadot.

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“To take flight every day! At least for a moment, which may be brief, as long as it is intense.  A “spiritual exercise” every day – either alone, or in the company of someone who also wishes to better himself.  Spiritual exercises.  Step out of duration … try to get rid of your own passions, vanities, and the itch for talk about your own name, which sometimes burns you like a chronic disease.  Avoid backbiting.  Get rid of pity and hatred.  Love all free human beings.  Become eternal by transcending yourself.

This work on yourself is necessary; this ambition justified.  Lots of people let themselves be wholly absorbed my militant politics and the preparation for social revolution.  Rare, much more rare, are they who, in order to prepare for the revolution, are willing to make themselves worthy of it.”

— George Friedmann, La Puissance et la Sagesse

Jocko (not really) on Stoicism.

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I’ve read a good bit by Jocko Willink, I own one or two of his books.  Recently he was asked about Stoicism, and I’m always leery when I see questions about our school, since almost invariably they’re talking about little-s stoicism, rather than our School as it was or is today.

However, in this video, Jocko begins by saying he’s not well read on these topics. I appreciate this. He notes that the distinction between ivory tower academics and the kinds of people he respected. A younger version of him set that aside, he had nothing to learn from them.

An older, wiser Jocko has changed his mind somewhat on that, but still hasn’t waded into it as deeply as most readers of this blog. While he may have come to some similar conclusions, his course room was the battlefield, and a hard life.

That leads to an interesting observation: that the sorts of things we’re discussing are perennial, and a true human universal. They are tested outside the ivory tower by many, daily.

So while slightly tangential to the tone this blog usually takes, it was nice to see someone speak near our topics of interest respectfully and with self-awareness.

Working on the next project: Patreon goals

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Some weeks ago, I set a goal for Patreon subscriptions.  Since that time, there have been calls and boycotts of the service in regards to de-platforming and free speech.  I thought the best thing to do would be to delay judgement until I could collect more information.

While I do not agree with the speech of the person who prompted this scandal (?), it does seems strange that Patreon would ban someone for actions taken elsewhere.  However, as a private entity, it seems to me that have the right to do just that, even though the rules governing this seem to me to be poorly written.

I believe that my choice to suspend judgment is the correct one for the time, and would solicit readers’ opinions on this issue of free speech, de-platforming, and the like.  If you’re not totally familiar with the issue, several high profile folks on Patreon have very publically left the platform after one person in particular said something distasteful on another platform.  This became a free speech issue in the minds of some, and thus the shakeup.  Thoughts?  Should MountainStoic continue to use such a platform, are the claims with or without merit?  Let me know where the readers are at either by commenting below, or by private message if you’d prefer.

In the mean time, I’m working on those goals.
Here’s a snippet of a draft version of the Musonius Course: