Monday, May 11, 2009
Temperance - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. X.37
Meditation X.37 - Temperance - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Accustom yourself as much as possible on the occasion of anything being done by any person to inquire with yourself, For what object is this person doing this? But begin with yourself, and examine yourself first.1
(1) The generalized structure of this meditation operates as an algebraic expression with a dependent variable (y = the doing by others) and an independent variable (x = the examination of the self). The outcome in this situation is what happens to you after a rigorous self-examination. This is something which is completely in your purview. You have the power to access your attitude toward any situation. You can be assured that in this you are totally sovereign. You have no independent power over the acts of others. But, as a result of your independent will - formed through this self-examination - you can influence the direction of others. Marcus asks us to begin with a self examination in order to eliminate the possibility that our reactions toward the actions of others are not guided by irrational or emotional responses. This very demand that we look to ourselves first allows us - in effect - to temper our animal instincts in any critical situation. Once we are thinking rationally - and only then - are we in a position to assess the reasons, or motivations, or "object[s]" underlying the actions of others. In simple terms Marcus counsels us to take stock of our own mental state, before reacting to a crisis - however small. The name given to this process is temperance, which is - of course - a virtue.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.