Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Seeing Green - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. X.35
Meditation X.35 - Seeing Green - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
The healthy eye ought to see all visible things and not to say, I wish for green things; for this is the condition of a diseased eye.1 And the healthy hearing and smelling ought to be ready to perceive all that can be heard and smelled. And the healthy stomach ought to be with respect to all food just as the mill with respect to all things which it is formed to grind. And accordingly the healthy understanding ought to be prepared for everything which happens; but that which says, Let my dear children live, and let all men praise whatever I may do, is an eye which seeks for green things, or teeth which seek for soft things.2
(1) While Marcus is sympathetic to environmental issues (The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained, Chapter 7, "Stoicism and the Environment" p. 151), this allusion to "green things" is a reference to a symptom of eye disease, possibly macular degeneration or a nutrition-related green color blindness.
(2) It is irrational to expect that all things will always go well for our children, or that we will be praised in all that we do. This meditation is reflected in his tenth and final step on anger management in the book (Chapter 9, "The Practice of Stoicism," Meditation XI.18k, p. 187). There Marcus says that we ought always to expect bad persons to do wrong - not to is madness. This advice is consistent with the rational program of Stoicism. Stoics ought not wear rose-colored glasses. In matters of the world, a Stoic is neither an optimist nor pessimist, but rather a realist. We need to see the world as it is, and be prepared to act rightly in all situations.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.