Practical Stoicism
Practical Stoicism

Episode 19 · 4 months ago

Summarizing Human Life

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Today we'll work through the final meditation of Book 2 from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. After this, I will take a break until the middle of June when I will return with episodes to begin Book 3. -- If you'd like to get a free copy of the ebook, signup here: https://tannerhelps.formaloo.net/rg3ce Visit the Practical Stoicism website --> https://stoicismpod.com -- “Human Life. Duration: Momentary. Nature: Changeable. Perception: Dim. Condition of Body: Decaying. Soul: Spinning around. Fortune: Unpredictable. Lasting fame: Uncertain. Sum Up: The body and its parts are a river, the soul a dream and mist, life is warfare and a journey far from home, lasting reputation is oblivion. Then what can guide us? Only Philosophy. Which means making sure that the power within stays safe and free from assault, superior to pleasure and pain, doing nothing randomly or dishonestly with with imposture, not dependent on anyone else’s doing something or not doing it. And making sure that it accepts what happens and what it is dealt as coming from the same place it came from. And above all, that it accepts death in a cheerful spirit, as nothing but the dissolution of the elements from which each living thing is composed. If it doesn’t hurt the individual elements to change continually into one another, why are people afraid of all of them changing and separating? It’s a natural thing. And nothing natural is evil." -- Meditations: A New Translation (the book I read these meditations from) --> [link]

Well, we've made it. Today's meditation is the final of book to. It also marks the end of what I'm going to call season one of this podcast. At the end of this episode I'm going to be taking a break until June fifteen. In that time I'm going to be putting together the ebook which we've already talked about and which will be given for free to anyone who is signed up for it, and there's a link in the show notes of this episode to do that if you haven't done it already. I may also, in that time, choose to batch record book three, which contains sixteen meditations, just one less than book two, but those meditations are much longer than the ones featured in book two. Also, there's a new website at stoicism podcom. You can find, for the time being, transcripts there, as well as individual episode pages, so you can leave comments on previous episodes and ask questions, and it's just a new way to interact. Aside from...

...that, and for now there's not much going on there, but, as I said a few weeks ago, I have more things planned, so add it to your favorites and keep an eye on it. If you'd like to see more content from me in the future. As I said at the outset, today's meditation is the final of book two and it reads as follows human life, duration, momentary, nature, changeable, perception, dim condition of body, decaying, soul spinning around, fortune unpredictable, lasting fame uncertain. Summary, the body and its parts are a river, the soul a dream and missed life is warfare and a journey far from home. Lasting reputation is oblivion. Then what can guide us? Only philosophy, which means making sure that the power within stays safe and free from assault, superior to pleasure and pain, doing nothing randomly or dishonestly, or with imposture not dependent on anyone...

...else is doing something or not doing something, and making sure that it accepts what happens and what is dealt as coming from the same place it came from, and, above all, that it accepts death in a cheerful spirit, as nothing but the dissolution of the elements from which each living thing is composed. If it doesn't hurt the individual elements to change continually into one another, why are people afraid of them all changing and separating? It is a natural thing, and nothing natural is evil. I think it's important to remember that, though I do find a lot of value in this closing meditation from him. Marcus is on the battle field for nearly, or if not the entirety of book to. He is seeing things that are grim. He's seeing death and violence and unnatural struggle, as he would put it, and he's seeing all of this as he writes or the day leading up to him writing, or whatever it is, the night before, etcetera, etc. It's probably...

...also worth noting that the Romans and Marcus were almost overwhelmed and defeated by the quad. I remember, he's writing this during his time on the battlefield with the quad eye. That's the battle I'm referring to and, while you know this isn't a history podcast, it's worth noting that, philosopher king or not, Marcus would have been both under extreme stress and arrest during this time. I think, and this is just me opining, of course, that's why we see the meditations move from rather lighthearted at the outset to somewhat more pessimistic or dark in tone as we move through book to. You may have noticed that. Now. That said, let's look at what Marcus is telling us in the closing words of this book. They may be rather grim, but they're also rather correct, in my estimation. Speaking and almost curt language at the outset, Marcus gives us a kind of preflight checklist delivery of human life. It is momentary, it is changeable and subject to the winds of chaos. It's perception is poor, and here I think he uses perception as our individual perception as living humans, and not his perception of humanity. Necessarily,...

...our bodies are in a constant state of decaying. Our souls are wild and uncontrolled, flitting here and they're doing whatever they want, as we allow them to take the reins. Our fortune, good or bad, is unknowable and our ability to achieve any sort of lasting legacy is uncertain. Now, notwithstanding that, Marcus, in this final meditation, waits a little too boldly into the realm of science as a philosoph for for my taste, is he wrong about any of this? I don't think so. I think he's as close to absolutely correct as one can get. Our lives are momentary in the grand scheme of time. At that scale, our lives are shorter than the blink of an eye. But we forget that because we're busy being human, busy being focused on all the things we humans focus on daytoday marcus is reminding us that perhaps we should remember how little time we have and how insignificant we are...

...in that grand scheme of things. He's also reminding us that there are things we can't control, that we are subject to things outside of our control messing up our plans. For example, we think we're getting married next month, BUT OUR SOONTO be spouse is in a terrible accident a week before the wedding and dies. Terrible things like that, sure, but also red lights when we're in a hurry and bad weather when we've planned a picnic with the family. We have got to keep our heads in moments like these. We can allow our emotions to send us into a tailspin, causing us to then voluntarily give up control of the things we do have power and influence over, namely our decisions and our behaviors. And, lastly, what can guide us through a life that is so absolutely wild and untamed? Philosophy? Of course, choose your flavor. It doesn't need to be stoicism, though Marcus would have certainly thought most highly of his particular chosen philosophy, to be sure, but...

...any set of rules and guidelines which instruct you on how to act and behave during your life so that you can stay focused, stay useful and stay in alignment, let's say, with your personal values, are providing you with an incredibly important foundation and framework for life and living, and I bet, if we pressed him, Marcus would have agreed with that. Thank you for listening to this final episode of season one of practical stoicism. I'm going to take a one month break. I will be back in June. If you're listening to this later, you don't care about this break, becauess it's already passed. But I will be back in June for the rest of you and we will continue on to book three, and I'm looking forward to seeing you then. Until then, check out the new website, subscribe to get the free ebook links in the description and take care.

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