Practical Stoicism
Practical Stoicism

Episode 30 · 2 months ago

Clean Your Windows


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In this week's episode we'll be reading and going over the eleventh meditation from Book Three of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.


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Hi there, welcome back to practical stoicism. My name is Tanner Campbell. Hasn't changed, and if you're hearing this message, it's because you're not subscribed to the premium, AD free preamble free version of this podcast. The premium version includes direct access to me via a new discord server, as well as an m a feature and straight to the point episodes that get well straight to the point. No ads, no Intros, no fluff, just the good stuff. It works through a platform called supercast, so when you sign up you get an email with links to all your favorite podcast players, apple podcast, spotify, podcast, overcast, etcetera, and it even gives you an RSS feed link to import to your APP. If your APP isn't listed in the email, you tapped the correct icon, your podcast APP opens and Presto Change. Oh, your premium feed is now accessible in the APP you already used, so there's no changes for you that you have to make, which...

I know can be annoying. Nobody wants to create a new account or download a new APP. It's obnoxious. And the thing is, I actually didn't think this would work with spotify, which was a real bummer. When I launched the offering because of you are on spotify. But it turns out when I was in Dallas, remember, in that hotel room where the air conditioner didn't work and I was about to die, I actually ran into Jason, who's the CEO and a friend of mine, at Super Cast, and he said no, actually you can. If you tap on the spotify icon and that welcome email, it opens up a page that links your spotify to your super cast. You enter in your email and password and then Bam, you can get this private feed inside of spotify as well. You have to do it on the mobile phone to set it up, but once you have it it's there wherever you use spotify. And I don't want to spend too much time shilling the premium feed here because that is obviously not while you show up, but I would love to see more of you sign up for it. A few dozen of you have and I appreciate that greatly. and to some of you who are considering it but haven't done it yet, I'm sure that... seems maybe like an unnecessary expenditure, especially if you're someone who can easily tolerate the ads in these opening preambles. But if I'm being honest and completely upfront with you. I want to write more. I want to spend more time focusing on stoicism. That's where I really want to invest, you know, fifty six of my time and focus. But in order to do that I have to replace day job income. You know, I'm a consultant in the podcasting space with creative income from this podcast. So if you can afford to part with six dollars of your well earned money each month and you'd like to see me write more in this space as well, I hope you'll consider becoming a premium subscriber. There's a link in the show notes to do that if I've convinced you, but if not, hey, maybe I'll get you next time. Today we're diving into the eleventh meditation from Book Three of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, which reads as follows. To this stand buys above...

...add this one, always to define whatever it is we perceive, to trace its outline so we can see what it really is, its substance stripped, bear as a whole UNMODIFIED, and to call it by its name, the thing itself and its components to which it will eventually return. Nothing is so conducive to spiritual growth, as this capacity for logical and accurate analysis of everything that happens to us, to look at it in such a way that we understand what need it fulfills and in what kind of world, and its value to that world as a whole and to man in particular, as a citizen of that higher city of which all other cities are mere households. What is it, this thing that now forces itself on my notice? What is it made up of? How long was it designed to last, and what qualities do I need to bring to bear on it? Tranquility, courage, honesty,...

...trustworthiness, straightforwardness, independence or what? So in each case you need to say this is due to God, or this is due to the interweavings and intertwinings of fate, to coincidence or chance, or this is due to a human being, someone of the same race, the same birth, the same society, but who doesn't know what nature requires of him. But I do, and so I'll treat them as the law that binds us, the law of nature requires, with kindness and with justice, and in inconsequential things, I'll do my best to treat them as they deserve let's focus on the aspect of this meditation that I think is most fit for practical use in today's world, and I will have to write more on this later. Those of you who are subscribed to the premium feed, I'll put something together in an email to expand on this meditation, because it's a long one and it's a lot to cover in a single episode. So I'll probably write additionally on this...

...just to let you know. But for now, Marcus wants us to look through our window pane to the world and be clear about what we're seeing, and that requires that we get a little glass cleaner and keep that window clean of smudges and that we take care of the glass so it doesn't have cracks in it that when it gets fogged up with our emotions, we wipe the fog away before we make judgments about what we're seeing on the other side. And there's this concept in stoicism that we have not really delved very much into, and that is the concept of assent, or assenting specifically of assenting to false opinions. As a common example everyone will be able to identify with. Imagine you're driving to work and someone rudely cuts you off in traffic. You swerve, nearly sideswiped the person next to you, get your car back under control and then think all sorts of terrible things about the person who nearly increased your insurance premium right and is now far ahead of you down the road, speeding away. You might think, what a jerk, what a monster,...

...what a total piece of human garbage. They have no regard for other people's safety. They're probably high on drugs or something, and I'll bet their satanists too. You're just thinking the worst things you can about this person, and maybe, maybe, everything you're thinking is true. But Imagine how lucky you'd have to be to assess someone accurately without ever knowing them, seeing them or interacting with them in any way. You have probably heard of OCKHAM's razor or OCKHAM's law. Right, the easiest explanation tends to be the correct one. Well, that's not actually what OCKHAM's razor says. Instead, it says the theory with the least number of assumptions is the theory most easily proven true and therefore more likely to be true. So look at how many assumptions we've made of our careless driver. A great many. So what are the chances that our theory is going to be proven correct all the way through? Pretty Low, I imagine. The reality could be that that person's daughter has just collapsed...

...a heat stroke on the playground at school, or that there's someone dying in a hospital and they're racing to get there, or that they've just lost their mother or father and they're driving but they're kind of spaced out. At the same time, they're actually a very nice person. In fact, they'd be mortified to know that they cause you to nearly crash, but they've just got a lot going on in their heads and they weren't paying attention. Now there are just as many assumptions in that line of reasoning, so to assent to it is no different than assenting to the less forgiving opinion you started with, though I would say with this new opinion it's easier for you to move on with your day. So there's that benefit. But that's kind of the point. You don't know the truth, you can't prove the truth, and so to assent to forming an opinion of the person in that car is in no real service to you because it is not likely to be the truth. Regardless of which direction you choose to go in, the positive outlook or the negative one. And a STOIC wants to keep his or her ass clear. Remember,...

...we want to see what's true about a person or a situation. We don't want to fog up our windows with false opinions or emotional reactions. We want to see things clearly and as they really are. Some of this is very Christian in tradition. Right, you could probably get something like turn the other cheek out of this meditation, and some of it is very Buddhist. I imagine you could get something like give them the benefit of the doubt, and I would agree that both of these concepts are contained within this meditation. But in my opinion, both of those takes are different forms of incorrect assense. Turn the other cheek suggests that the person did an unkind or bad thing intentionally, and granting the benefit of the doubt suggests exactly the opposite. So these are, if you will, opposite ends of the same spectrum. A STOIC doesn't want to grant the benefit of the doubt, nor does he or she want to assume ill intent they cannot be sure of. Instead, the STOIC wants to know and if they cannot know, then they want to let... go and refrain from judging it at all. This, of course, is anything but easy. Take a look at our current political and social climate. Do you know anyone today who doesn't snap to a sort of preset judgmental position on nearly every topic people care to talk about? How many people are dug deep into their ideology, unwilling to move, unwilling to see anything other than what they've decided they see? How many people are looking through fogged up, cracked, smudged and dirty windows, so that what they see of the world isn't the world at all, but blurry, undefined figures that they have to define with their own opinions and experiences, instead of actually knowing what's out there in the world, what's really going on, who people really are. This meditation is extremely topical, I think, and I hope you'll read it a few times and keep it close to your heart and mind as you move forward in your day, your week and, frankly, the rest of your... Your mind is a storyteller and if you do not do the work of reining it in and becoming the master of it rather than the other way around. It will tell you a story that isn't real but that you will live and die by. So be awake, be forthright and pay attention. Thanks for listening to this episode of practical stoicism. I hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like to support what I do here, it will cost you six dollars a month, and there's a link in the show notes to do that. And if you click that link you'll also find a way to provide a one time donation for my work. So if you're someone who's just against the idea of recurring monthly charges, there's still a way to be supportive. Thanks again for being here, for listening, thanks for enjoying and sharing my work, and until next time, take care.

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