Saturday, March 21, 2009
Nature is Just - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. XII.36
Meditation XII.36 - Nature is Just - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
You have been a citizen in this great state [the world]: what difference does it make to you whether for five years [or three]? for that which is conformable to the laws is just for all.1 Where is the hardship then, if no tyrant nor yet an unjust judge sends you away from the state, but nature who brought you into it?2 the same as if a director who has employed an actor dismisses her from the stage. “But I have not finished the five acts, but only three of them.”—You say well, but in life the three acts are the whole drama; for what shall be a complete drama is determined by she who was once the cause of its composition, and now of its dissolution: but you are the cause of neither. Depart then satisfied, for she also who releases you is satisfied.3
(1) The true measure of life satisfaction is its quality and never its length. Whether we live ninety or nineteen years, value and happiness are determined by living those years in conformity with the Law of nature.
(2) Nature is perfect and so too is her Law. It matters little how long we live, or what our role may be, or how successful we are in material terms. These things are all as they should have been and what was intended for us by Nature. What is important however is what we do with our years and with the roles (or talents) we have acquired.
(3) Nature is satisfied with the outcome. At the end of the day we have performed our roles, either in conformity with nature's Law, or in opposition to nature's Law. If we acted in accordance with the Law we have experienced the joy of living a life of virtue, and nature is satisfied. If we lived contrary to the Law we have experienced the misery of alienation and despair and at the end of life we are dissolved, but nature is satisfied because all deviations from the will of nature are subsumed by nature as we are extinguished.
Russell McNeil, PhD, is the author of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained by Skylight Paths Publishing. The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book. The published selections are referenced in this Blog by page number and section.