Saturday, May 16, 2009

Transforming Vice into Virtue - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. X.30

Meditation X.30 - Transforming Vice into Virtue - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil

When you are offended at any person's fault, forthwith turn to yourself and reflect in what like manner you do err yourself;1 for example, in thinking that money is a good thing, or pleasure, or a bit of reputation, and the like.2 For by attending to this you will quickly forget your anger, if this consideration also is added, that these persons are compelled: for what else could they do? or, if you are able, take away from them the compulsion.3


(1) Stoic psychology is infused into many common popular ideas. In part, this idea transforms readily into. "people who live in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones." But this meditation goes further in offering us a modality for turning a vice (jealousy) into a virtue (compassion).

(2) The Stoic takes the idea a step further by asking us to reflect on the authenticity of the area where we may find fault. In this case it may be a jealousy arising from a neighbor's wealth, or material pleasures, or reputation.

(3) Marcus draws on the idea of compulsion, or addiction, to characterize those who require money, possessions or fame to make them happy. He then asks us to reflect on our own compulsions, and to identify ways in which both we, and our neighbors, are in the grip of false choices. By learning to recognize a compulsion in our own behavior as a false choice, one that confers no benefit in our own lives, what we see as a fault in others begins to appear to us not as a source of envy, but as a correctable disability that we may be able to influence. How we influence or correct those things first in ourselves - and then in our neighbor - requires keen judgment and right motivation. But, as a Stoic we truly do want our neighbor to be happy, and this situation affords us an opportunity to exercise virtue toward our neighbor.

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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.

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