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Thoughts on books I'm reading and occasionally poems or other writings

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Book II

Section 14

Marcus: Even were you about to live three thousand years or thrice ten thousand, nevertheless remember this, that no one loses any other life than this which he is living, nor lives any other than this which he is losing. Thus the longest and the shortest come to the same thing. For the present is equal for all, and what is passing is therefore equal: thus what is being lost is proved to be barely a moment. For a man could lose neither past nor future; how can one rob him of what he has not got? Always remember, then, these two things: one, that all things from everlasting are of the same kind, and are in rotation; and it matters nothing whether it be for a hundred years or for two hundred or for an infinite time that a man shall behold the same spectacle; the other, that the longest-lived and the soonest to die have an equal loss; for it is the present alone of which either will be deprived, since (as we saw) this is all he has and a man does not lose what he has not got.

Me: It seems like it matters how long we get to live even though it

Book II

Section 12

Marcus: How all things are vanishing swiftly, bodies themselves in the Universe and the memorials of them in Time; what is the character of all things of sense, and most of all those which attract by the bait of pleasure or terrify by the threat of pain or are shouted abroad by vanity, how cheap, contemptible, soiled, corruptible, and mortal: these are for the faculty of mind to consider. To consider too what kind of men those are whose judgements and voices confer honour and dishonour; what it is to die, and that if a man looks at it by itself and by the separating activity of thought strips off all the images associated with death, he will come to judge it to be nothing else but Nature

Book II

Section 11

Marcus: In the conviction that it is possible you may depart from life at once, act and speak and think in every case accordingly. But to leave the company of men is nothing to fear, if gods exist; for they would not involve you in ill. If, however, they do not exist or if they take no care for man

Book II

Section 10

Marcus: Like a true philosopher Theophrastus says, when comparing, as men commonly do compare, various faults, that errors of appetite are graver than errors of temper. For clearly one who loses his temper is turning away from Reason with a kind of pain and inward spasm; whereas he who offends through appetite is the victim of pleasure and is clearly more vicious in a way and more effeminate in his wrong-doing. Rightly then and in a truly philosophic spirit Theophrastus said that an offence attended with pleasure involves greater censure than one attended with pain. And, generally, the latter resembles more a man who was originally wronged and so is forced by pain to lose his temper; the other has begun it himself and has been impelled to do wrong, carried away by appetite to do what he does.

Me: The heart of this section is the statement, "errors of appetite are graver than errors of temper." Marcus characterizes those who indulge in errors of appetite as vicious and effeminate, carried away by their own lack of self control into harming themselves and others. He has more respect for those who lose their temper. He says that losing one

Book II

Section 9

Marcus: Always remember the following: what the nature of the Whole is; what my own nature; the relation of this nature to that; what kind of part it is of what kind of Whole; and that no man can hinder your saying and doing at all times what is in accordance with that Nature whereof you are a part.

Me: I'm not rewriting this one. Instead I'm relating it to the discussion in the Guidelines thread in Academia, specifically to parts of one of Parody's posts:

"And, to try to add to the purpose of this thread, what has helped me is in reminding myself that it actually doesn't matter what you guys think, even if I might respect you, nor my own beliefs, no matter how vigilantly I cling to them. Looking at the big picture, from the perspective of eternity, our current beliefs and estimations of ourselves are nothing more than comical, and only have value to the extent that they are usurped and replaced by something of greater value.

***

If someone doesn't follow your reasoning, then it is time to walk separate paths."

Marcus and Parody are thinking along similar lines, although Parody's outlook is more complex and more humorous: Take the long view, think about your place in the universe (but don't take it too seriously, per PoL), and don't worry about other people's views - they won't bother you if you don't let them. You can always walk away.

These are timely reminders. Eternity is always with us. Thanks, Parody and Marcus. I see the pair of you walking off into eternity together...

Book II

Section 7

Marcus: Do things from outside break in to distract you? Give yourself a time of quiet to learn some new good thing and cease to wander out of your course. But, when you have done that, be on your guard against a second kind of wandering. For those who are sick to death in life, with no mark on which they direct every impulse or in general every imagination, are triflers, not in words only but also in their deeds.

Me: If you can

Book II

Section 8

Marcus: Men are not easily seen to be brought into evil case by failure to consider what passes in another's soul; but they who do not read aright the motions of their own soul are bound to be in evil case.

Me: Know thyself.

***

This is a bit of a cheat on my part, but that's what he's saying here. Anything more would be superfluous.

Book II

Section 6

Marcus: You are doing yourself violence, violence, my soul; and you will have no second occasion to do yourself honour. Brief is the life of each of us, and this of yours is nearly ended, and yet you do not reverence yourself, but commit your well-being to the charge of other men's souls.

The term 'violence' here is explained later in Book II:

Section 16

Marcus: The soul of a man does violence to itself, first and foremost when it becomes so far as in it lies, a separate growth, a blain as it were upon the Universe. For to turn against anything that comes to pass is a separation from Nature, by which the natures of each of the rest are severally comprehended. Secondly, when it turns away from any human being or is swept counter to him, meaning to injure him, as is the case with the natures of those who are enraged. It violates itself, thirdly, when it is the victim of pleasure or pain; fourthly, when it acts a part, and says or does anything both feignedly and falsely. Fifthly, when, failing to direct any act or impulse of its own upon a mark, it behaves in any matter without a plan or conscious purpose, whereas even the smallest act ought to have a reference to the end. Now the end of reasonable creatures is this: to obey the rule and ordinance of the most venerable of all cities and governments.

***

In # 6, Marcus is scolding himself for doing violence to his own soul by straying from the Stoics' path. He explains this view of violence to the soul in #16 which I have reworked below. For clarity of meaning, I sometimes reworded a statement in the affirmative and sometimes kept the negative.:

Firstly: Take what comes, as it comes. In this way you will be one with Nature, able to understand the Universe, rather than to be separate from, and a detriment to, it.

Secondly: Violence to the soul also entails turning away from other human beings, or trying to hurt them, as do those who are enraged.

Thirdly: Don't allow yourself to become a victim, either of pleasure or of pain.

Fourthly: Don't be false or act a part.

Fifthly: Don't do anything thoughtlessly. Pay attention and be sure your actions are in accord with your purpose.

***

So in #6, Marcus is saying that he's been doing violence to his soul. He reminds himself again of the brevity of life, that there's little time left for him to do what's right, and admonishes himself for allowing others to have control over him.

Book II

Section 3

Marcus: The work of the gods is full of Providence: the work of Fortune is not divorced from Nature or the spinning and winding of the threads ordained by Providence. All flows from that other world; and there is, besides, necessity and the well-being of the whole universe, whereof you are a part. Now to every part of Nature, that is good which the nature of the Whole brings, and which preserves that nature; and the whole world is preserved as much by the changes of the compound bodies as by the changes of the elements which compose those bodies. Let this be sufficient for you, these be continually your doctrines. But put away your thirst for books, that so you may not die murmuring, but truly reconciled and grateful from your heart to the gods.

Me: Everything flows from the gods: fortune, necessity, and the unbroken fabric of the universe, which includes you. That universal wholeness is preserved by change both visible and invisible. These truths of the universe should be enough to satisfy you. Don

I thought I'd try, just with the 17 sections of Book II at this point, rewording them to see if I can hit all the central points economically, while trying not to lose all of the nuance of meaning (although I will lose some). I am working from the English translation so some of his original intent is already lost and this may be fruitless, but I wanted to try it. I also intend to go back and to think about and expand on each of these.

It's likely that he wrote these in his fifties, while on a campaign. Part of my interest in reading the Meditations is to see if I can concur with his assessments, if humans in such different circumstances can have learned anything similar about living by the time they reach their fifties.

Here are the first two sections of Book II.

Section 1

Marcus: Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill. But I, because I have seen that the nature of good is the right, and of ill the wrong, and that the nature of the man himself who does wrong is akin to my own (not of the same blood and seed, but partaking with me in mind, that is in a portion of divinity), I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. To work against one another therefore is to oppose Nature, and to be vexed with another or to turn away from him is to tend to antagonism.

Me: People behave badly through an ignorance of right and wrong. Since I have more experience and understanding of good

Marcus on Time

By AllBlue,

From Book II

A meditation using the fleetness of our experience of time to come to grips with death.

14. Even were you about to live three thousand years or thrice ten thousand, nevertheless remember this, that no one loses any other life than this which he is living, or lives any other than this which he is losing. Thus the longest and the shortest come to the same thing. For the present is equal for all, and what is passing is therefore equal: thus what is being lost is proved to be barely a moment. For a man could lose neither past nor future; how can one rob him of what he has not got? Always remember, then, these two things: one, that all things from everlasting are of the same kind, and are in rotation; and it matters nothing whether it be for a hundred years or for two hundred or for an infinite time that a man shall behold the same spectacle; the other, that the longest-lived and the soonest to die have an equal loss; for it is the present alone of which either will be deprived, since (as we saw) this is all he has and a man does not lose what he has not got.

Marcus is thinking about time, saying that all we have is the present moment. His contention is that when we die, we

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