Saturday, May 2, 2009
Nature is Harmless - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. XI.17
Meditation XI.17 - Nature is Harmless - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Consider where each thing comes from, and of what it consists, and into what it changes, and what kind of a thing it will be when it has changed,1 and that it will sustain no harm.2
(1) Stoic method requires both reduction and synthesis in its approach to the study of nature. The goal is to understand the underlying nature of the cosmos, the rules governing nature, and ultimately the moral template that governs our role in nature. This statement can be viewed as setting the scientific agenda for humankind - unprecedented when it was first articulated over two thousand years ago.
(2) The only harm that anything can experience devolves from resisting the law of nature. Inanimate matter and non-sentient life cannot resist those laws. Human beings can choose to oppose nature's plan, but such resistance is always futile and the only harm such resistance can exact is to deprive those actors from the peace, serenity and enlightenment that will come to those who live in accord with nature's design. But even in those cases, unhappy people will eventually die, and their substance will be reabsorbed back into the nature from which they came.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.