Roman Calendar

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Stoic Week 2015 Saturday Morning Reflection

Text for Morning Reflection: "Be like the headland on which the waves break constantly, which still stands firm while the foaming waters are put to rest around it. ‘It is my bad luck that this has happened to me!’ On the contrary, say, ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without getting upset, neither crushed by the present nor afraid of the future'."
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.49

Friday, November 6, 2015

Stoic Week 2015 Friday Evening Reflection

Text for Evening Reflection: "One type of person, whenever he does someone else a good turn, is quick in calculating the favour done to him. Another is not so quick to do this; but in himself he thinks about the other person as owing him something and is conscious of what he has done. A third is in a sense not even conscious of what he has done, but is like a vine which has produced grapes and looks for nothing more once it has produced its own fruit, like a horse which has run a race, a dog which has followed the scent, or a bee which has made its honey. A person who has done something good does not make a big fuss about it, but goes on to the next action, as a vine goes on to produce grapes again in season. So you should be one of those who do this without in a sense being aware of doing so.
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.6

Stoic Week 2015 Friday Morning Reflection

Text for Morning Reflection: "Say to yourself first thing in the morning: I shall meet with people who are meddling, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, and unsociable. They are subject to these faults because of their ignorance of what is good and bad. But I have recognized the nature of the good and seen that it is the right, and the nature of the bad and seen that it is the wrong, and the nature of the wrongdoer himself, and seen that he is related to me, not because he has the same blood or seed, but because he shares in the same mind and portion of divinity. So I cannot be harmed by any of them, as no one will involve me in what is wrong. Nor can I be angry with my relative or hate him. We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. So to work against each other is contrary to nature; and resentment and rejection count as working against someone."

 — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.1

Anyone who knows me well has probably heard me recite at least part of this passage before; it is one of my favorite passages in the whole of the Meditations, and has been the only thing that seemed to help me get through some days that seemed hard because my perception of indifferents was flawed!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Stoic Week 2015 Thursday Evening Reflection

Text for Evening Reflection: "Every habit and faculty is formed or strengthened by the corresponding act — walking makes you walk better, running makes you a better runner. If you want to be literate, read, if you want to be a painter, paint. Go a month without reading, occupied with something else, and you’ll see what the result is. And if you’re laid up a mere ten days, when you get up and try to talk any distance, you’ll find your legs barely able to support you. So if you like doing something, do it regularly; if you don’t like doing something, make a habit of doing something different. The same goes for the affairs of the mind… So if you don’t want to be hot-tempered, don’t feed your temper, or multiply incidents of anger. Suppress the first impulse to be angry, then begin to count the days on which you don’t get angry. ‘I used to be angry every day, then only every other day, then every third…’ If you resist it a whole month, offer God a sacrifice, because the vice begins to weaken from day one, until it is wiped out altogether. ‘I didn’t lose my temper this day, or the next, and not for two, then three months in succession.’ If you can say that, you are now in excellent health, believe me."

 — Epictetus, Discourses, 2.18

Stoic Week 2015 Thursday Morning Reflection

Text for Morning Reflection: "If you find anything in human life better than justice, truthfulness, self-control, courage… turn to it with all your heart and enjoy the supreme good that you have found… but if you find all other things to be trivial and valueless in comparison with virtue give no room to anything else, since once you turn towards that and divert from your proper path, you will no longer be able without inner conflict to give the highest honour to that which is properly good. It is not right to set up as a rival to the rational and social good [virtue] anything alien its nature, such as the praise of the many or positions of power, wealth or enjoyment of pleasures."

 — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 3.6

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Stoic Week 2015 Wednesday Evening Reflection

Texts for Evening Reflection: "Get rid of the judgement and you have got rid of the idea. ‘I have been harmed’; get rid of the idea, ‘I have been harmed’, and you have got rid of the harm itself."
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.7

"All turns on judgement, and that is up to you. So when you want to do this, get rid of the judgement, and then, as though you had passed the headland, the sea will be calm and all will be still, and there won’t be a wave in the bay."
 — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.22

Stoic Week 2015 Wednesday Morning Reflection

Text for Morning Reflection: "People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills; and you too are especially inclined to feel this desire. But this is altogether unphilosophical, when it is possible for you to retreat into yourself at any time you want. There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind, especially if he has within himself the kind of thoughts that let him dip into them and so at once gain complete ease of mind; and by ease of mind, I mean nothing but having one’s own mind in good order. So constantly give yourself this retreat and renew yourself. You should have to hand concise and fundamental principles, which will be enough, as soon as you encounter them, to cleanse you from all distress and send you back without resentment at the activities to which you return. "

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 1.3.1-3

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Stoic Week 2015 Tuesday Evening Reflection

Text for Evening Reflection:  "Try to persuade them; and act even against their will, whenever the principle of justice leads you to do so. But if someone uses force to resist you, change your approach to accepting it and not being hurt, and use the setback to express another virtue. Remember too that your motive was formed with reservation and that you were not aiming at the impossible. At what then? A motive formed with reservation. But you have achieved this; what we proposed to ourselves is actually happening."

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.50

Stoic Week 2015 Tuesday Morning Reflection

Text for Morning Reflection: "Early in the morning, when you are finding it hard to wake up, hold this thought in your mind: ‘I am getting up to do the work of a human being. Do I still resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for and for which I was brought into the world? Or was I framed for this, to lie under the bedclothes and keep myself warm?’ ‘But this is more pleasant’. So were you born for pleasure: in general were you born for feeling or for affection? Don’t you see the plants, the little sparrows, the ants, the spiders, the bees doing their own work, and playing their part in making up an ordered world. And then are you unwilling to do the work of a human being? Won’t you run to do what is in line with your nature?"

 — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.1

Monday, November 2, 2015

Stoic Week 2015 Monday Evening Reflection

Text for Evening Reflection: "Let us go to our sleep with joy and gladness; let us say ‘I have lived; the course which Fortune set for me is finished.’ And if God is pleased to add another day, we should welcome it with glad hearts. That man is happiest, and is secure in his own possession of himself, who can await the morrow without apprehension. When a man has said: ‘I have lived!’, every morning he arises he receives a bonus."

— Seneca, Letters, 12.9

Stoic Week 2015 Monday Morning Reflection

"From Maximus [I have learnt the importance of these things]: to be master of oneself and not carried this way and that; to be cheerful under all circumstances, including illness; a character with a harmonious blend of gentleness and dignity; readiness to tackle the task in hand without complaint; the confidence everyone had
that whatever he said he meant and whatever he did was not done with bad intent; never to be astonished or panic-stricken, and never to be hurried or to hang back or be at a loss or downcast or cringing or on the other hand angry or suspicious; to be ready to help or forgive, and to be truthful; to give the impression of someone whose character is naturally upright rather than having undergone correction; the fact that no-one could have thought that Maximus looked down on him, or could have presumed to suppose that he was better than Maximus; and to have great personal

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 1.14

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"Living in the Here and Now" (Chapter 7 of "Everything Had Two Handles")

From "Living in the Here and Now" (Chapter 7 of Pies' Everything Has Two Handles):

     "Leave the past to itself, entrust the future to providence, and content yourself with bringing holiness and justice to the present"
~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (modified slightly from Long, Book XII, Chap.1)

     Pies writes, "One of the great liberating ideas of Stoic philosophy is the concept of 'present contentment.' In effect, the Stoic says, 'I can't change the past; I can't really determine or control the future; so the best I can do is live a life of decency and integrity - right here, right now'."

     "Let not the future trouble you; for you will come to it, if come you must, bearing with you the same reason which you are now using to meet the present."
~ Marcus Aurelius (Farquharson, 44)

      "What does Marcus mean by 'bearing with you the same reason which you are using now to meet the present'? I believe he is saying, 'Trust yourself to be a person of strength and reason, just as you are this very moment.' Of course, you might reply, 'But at this very moment, I'm a complete basket case!' Well, maybe so. But most people can point to many difficult situations they have faced, and faced down - whether the loss of a loved one, handling the breakup of a relationship, or dealing with a painful physical problem. It's helpful, in fact, to look back on such examples of one/s self-mastery and to say, in effect, 'If I could handle all that, I can handle whatever comes down the road.' And for now - your responsibility is simply to 'do the right thing': to bring 'holiness and justice' to the present."

     "Do not dwell upon all the manifold troubles which have come to pass and will come to pass, but ask yourself in regard to every present piece of work: what is there here that can't be borne and can't be endured?"
~ Marcus Aurelius (Farquharson, 57).

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"Living in Harmony with the Universe" (Chapter 6 of "Everything Has Two Handles")

"Living in Harmony with the Universe" (from chapter 6 of Everything Has Two Handles)

     "Nothing will happen to me which is not conformable to the nature of the universe."
~ Marcus Aurelius (Long p.89)

     "Resent a thing by all means if it represents an injustice decreed against yourself personally; but if this same constraint is binding on the lowest and highest alike, then make your peace again with destiny."
~ Seneca, Letter XCI (Campbell, 182)

     Pies cites the book Infinite Life by Robert Thurman about Buddhism, and notes that although "the Buddhist tradition is quite distinct from Greco-Roman stoicism, the two systems have many elements in common. One error is to suppose that either tradition encourages us to be 'doormats' - to accept passively whatever evil befalls us. On the contrary, Thurman tells us, 'Don't think that the spiritual thing to do is to swallow your feelings and be a victim. Not at all. The point is not to allow injustice . . . to flourish. Doing nothing could not be more wrong. When something unjust happens, step in at once. Develop the ability to act forcefully without getting angry . . . Get help. Be assertive. Cheerful aggressiveness is the ticket here." (Thurman 167-70).

     "The Stoics distinguish time and again between those things that are within our power or control and those that are not. Epictetus tells us, 'Within our power are the Will, and all voluntary actions; out of our power are the body and its parts, property, relatives, country, and in short, all our fellow beings' (Bonforte, 22). Later, he reminds us, 'If you fulfill your duties, you have what belongs to you. For it is not the business of a philosopher to take care of mere externals - his wine, his oil, his body - but of his Reason' (73)."

Monday, April 6, 2015

"Perfectionism, Virtue, and Self-Acceptance" (from "Everything Has Two Handles")

From Chapter Five - "Perfectionism, Virtue, and Self-Acceptance" of Everything Has Two Handles:

     "Be not disgusted, nor discouraged, nor dissatisfied, if you do not succeed in doing everything according to right principles; but when you have failed, return back again . . ."
~ Marcus Aurelius (Long, 86)

     Much in the spirit of the Talmud's "It is not up to you to complete the task, but you are not free to desist from it" (Pirke Avot 2:21) (which is quoted in this chapter), the endeavor is important even if we fail. In theory, our Stoic practice should be on of the few things "under our control," but many of us find that in reality, circumstances and our flawed perception of them leads to failure there, as well. Unless you are the Sage, the legendary perfectly-wise person of Stoic lore, you will make mistakes. And when you do, the important thing is to return to your practice. When you fall, you pick yourself up again and carry on.

     "It is the action of an uninstructed person to reproach others for his own misfortune; of one entering upon instruction to reproach himself; and of one perfectly instructed, to reproach neither others nor himself."
~ Epictetus (Bonforte, 92)

     ". . . You might be objecting at this point that, without assigning blame, nothing would ever change or improve. But this highlights the difference between reproach - with its moral implications of rebuke and censure - and assigning responsibility . . . Of course, there are instances in which we justifiably find fault with ourselves and others - and the Stoic view of Epictetus should not be construed as license to 'do anything' without repercussion. Rather, the Stoic attitude tempers our moral judgments with the wisdom of the human condition and all its foibles - the knowledge that it is best to 'Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all' (Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part Two, III.iii.31) . . . "

     "Marcus Aurelius tells us, 'Little the life each lives, little the corner of the earth he lives in, little even the longest fame hereafter . . .' (Farquharson, 15). And he adds - in his usual unvarnished manner - 'in a little while, you will be no one and nowhere' (Farquharson, 53). These sentiments may be seen as a counterbalance to those of the preceding section, in which we are admonished to revere ourselves as aspects of the Divine. There is no contradiction between these contrasting views of man. We are irreducibly divided beings - at once eternal and evanescent, divinity and dust. Montaigne put all this more earthily, 'Upon the highest throne in the world, we are seated, still, upon our arses' (in de Botton, 126)."