Practical Stoicism
Practical Stoicism

Episode 33 · 2 months ago

Throw Away Your Books

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

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Welcome back to practical stoicism. I'm Tanner Campbell and since I got two three star reviews complaining about my talking too much at the head of these episodes, I'm going to talk for thirty minutes and not even share a meditation today. I'm kidding, of course, not about the reviews, but about not sharing a meditation today. I would like to say, though, that I can't help it. I like to talk to you all. I like to let you in on what's going on in my life, and I hope that part of showing up here every Saturday, and soon every Wednesday as well, is getting to know each other a little bit. I rather like the idea that I'm not just being useful to you as an interpreter of stoic texts, but that I'm also someone trying to build a community among his listeners, and your daily emails, by the way, help me feel that those who dislike my preamble are at least among the minority. And not to be too cheeky about it, but if they dislike it that much much, they can always subscribe...

...to the premium ad free preamble free version of the podcast at stoicism dot supercast. Dot Com. I try to have options for everybody and if my options aren't suitable, well, I'm not forcing anyone to be here who doesn't want to be. And speaking of emails, please keep sending them. I honestly cannot tell you how rewarding it is for me personally to be trusted and given the opportunity to try to help you think through things, whether those are stoicism things or life things. It's also pretty amazing to see reviews for this podcast surpass five thousand on spotify. Amazing is maybe an understatement. It's actually unbelievable, and I've got half a mind to write spotify and ask if something's gone wrong with their platform. So thank you. That means a lot to me. Just two more things before we begin. The first Wednesday interview will Air October five and will feature a discussion with Kieran Setia, who is author of...

...the book's Midlife and life is hard, and he's also a philosophy professor at m I T. we're going to be talking about the benefits of Philosophy broadly and I know that many of you will get a lot out of it. And lastly, for those premium subscribers who have submitted questions through the a m a function. All of those questions are at this point answered and you can go and see my answers whenever you like. So let's get on to today's meditation, which, I'll admit, took more work than usual to find practicality in. It's very unlike any meditation we've come across thus far in as far as it is worded strangely, and I had to kick it around in my head for a bit to figure out how it's useful to US modern humans. It's a short one. Here it is. You're not going to reread your brief comments, your deeds of the ancient Greeks and Romans, the commonplace books you saved for your old age sprint for the finish. Right off your hope...

...and if you're well being matters to you, be your own savior while you can. I'M gonna go ahead and admit that I was properly triggered by this meditation because a fantasy of mine is to be old, probably living in Maine, likely alone, in front of a fireplace in a warm and quaint house, you know, reading my favorite copy of Don Quixote for the six time, and then shuffling about as a confirmed old bachelor in the middle of some pine clad wood in woolen slippers and a robe. So to hear Marcus tell me I won't be doing any such things was disconcerting, and that last bit was a little morbid. Right Sprint for the finish. Does Marcus want us to hurry up and die? That's a bit too much even for him. Whenever I have trouble getting anything out of the meditations, specifically because there's been so many translations of them over time, I run to other translations and try to piece things together. So here's Farquiston's translation of the same meditation. Do...

Not Wander from your path any longer, for you are not likely to read your notebooks or your deeds of ancient Roman Greece, or your extracts from their writings, which you laid up against old age. Hasten to the goal, lay idle hopes aside and come to your own help if you care at all for yourself. While still you May. This is a little better, a little clearer, but let's try another translation. This one is from Merrick Cassaban. Do not be deceived, for Thou Shalt never live to read thy moral commentaries, nor the acts of the famous Romans and Grecians, nor those Accerpta from several books, all which Thou haddest provided and laid up for thyself against thine old age. Hasten therefore to an end and, giving over all vain hopes, help thyself in time, if Thou carest for thyself, as Thou...

...oughtest to do. One of the key differences in that third translation is hastened therefore to an end, not the end, and maybe with that slight difference you might be getting what this meditation is getting at. This isn't about not reading books, it's not about not enjoying your old age. It is instead about not putting things off. Here we may be you and I, piling up tasks to do later. Will reread Don Quixote. One day, we'll take that trip that we want to go on so badly. One day we'll fix that thing about our personality that we don't really like and we think needs improvement. One day we'll get to it. Don't worry, we have time, but we don't do we we don't have any definite amount of time. We only know we had a few more seconds. With every few more seconds we live. The end could come now, right now. Are you still here? Well then, perhaps right now. Okay, looks like we're both...

...still here, surviving, making it to the next second, every second. But none of that is promised. None of those seconds are guaranteed, and we must know that. And if we do know it, why are we piling up books to read later? Why are we procrastinating? Marcus is telling us, through the combined translations of haze, Farquassin and Casabon, that we have got to stop screwing around. We've got to stop procrastinating and believing we have time. You want to reread that book, do it now. You want to take that trip, take it now. Do not let yourself be distracted from those things which are not central to your fulfillment, to your building of a good and useful life. Don't allow idle interests to cause a decade to pass before you take your next step long your path. What a waste...

...it is to throw away even a day, to throw away the opportunity to make progress, because you falsely believe that tomorrow is promised. It is not. We must help ourselves, we must come to our own aid. No one is going to accomplish our dreams for us. No one is going to make us who we want to be. No one is going to push us to be sure that the things we really want in this life are achieved or at the very least, strove, for we are alone, and we alone must remember that to get to where we're going, we must walk now, not later, lest we travel a shorter distance overall. So ask yourself today, right now, what you're piling up for later. What books, trips, experiences or accomplishments that will haunt you on your deathbed if not achieved, which, again, could come in your very next moment. Which of those,...

...which of these, are you allowing to build up to your ruin? Of course, I cannot answer that for you, but I know that you can so answer it and then act. Thanks for listening to this week's episode of practical stoicism. I hope you found it useful and that you'll act on whatever you've learned today. If you'd like to become a premium subscriber and skip the ADS and preamble at the start of this podcast so you can get straight to the point, go to Stoicism DOT SUPERCAST DOT COM and sign up. Thanks again for listening I appreciate you greatly and until next time, take care,.

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