Thursday, April 2, 2009
Human Power - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. XII.11
Meditation XII.11 – Human Power - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
What power you have to do nothing except what nature approves,1 and to accept all that nature may give you.2
(1) Marcus means nature in the broadest sense. Nature is identified with the active and divine, and often referred to as reason writ large or the universal intelligence. The approval of nature is not whimsical. Nature is the governor of the universe. Nature expresses herself, and acts according to her unwavering law. That law is also within each of us, because we too are interwoven into the fabric of nature. In knowing ourselves we can come to understand this law. The power Marcus identifies is unequivocal. We can act according to nature without the approval of others. All other human powers require assent from others.
(2) This comment alludes to the idea of free will. We have the freedom to refuse what nature gives us, or to act contrary to nature. But once we have refused nature, we become subject to the whims of the body, or to the control of others. In effect we lose the freedom and power that accepting nature confers. In accepting what nature gives us, we accept our role and status in life – as humble or as exalted as it may be - as something that is intended and right.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.