Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. X.13a
Meditation X.13a - Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Inquire of yourself as soon as you wake from sleep, whether it will make any difference to you, if another does what is just and right. It will make no difference.1
(1) Human beings are social. The welfare of the community takes precedence over the welfare of the individual. This central Stoic assertion is inferred from observations of nature. The supremacy of the community is a law of nature, and as such has moral ramifications. Our moral actions must always consider the primacy of the community irrespective of personal consequence. What is just and right in Stoicism is what is just and right for all - even if the just action means the extinction of the individual. Stated in the negative, "What is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee." The attitude that each individual must take toward justice is one in which all vestiges of personal interest are submerged. There can be no sense that an action will confer good reputation, or personal gain on the actor. Our actions, wherever possible, ought never bring attention to ourselves. We simply must act justly. It makes no difference therefore who does it - only that it is done in the best interests of the community or country. In the spirit of John F. Kennedy's 1960 inaugural Presidential address, you must always first ask, 'what you can do for your country.'
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.