Wednesday, June 24, 2009
For Neda - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. IX.12
Meditation IX.12 - For Neda - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Labor not as one who is wretched, nor yet as one who would be pitied or admired:1 but direct your will to one thing only, to put yourself in motion and to check yourself, as the social reason requires.2
(1) Anyone who labors "as one who is wretched" is discontented with their personal situation. This is unacceptable in Stoicism because, however unfortunate, all oppressive situations present us with opportunities to bring justice to the community. Rather than feeling wretched, Marcus commands us to work to remedy harsh or unfair social situations. These responses ought also be directed toward the welfare of the social group. One classic way this plays out in communities of oppressed is through the peaceful demonstration in which hundreds of thousands are willing to march against their oppressors in solidarity. This needs to be done for the benefit of the community. To seek pity or to expect acclaim is self-centered and not acceptable.
(2) "To put yourself in motion" means to act wisely toward a just resolution of whatever unfair situation you encounter. The approach you must take requires savvy, guts, and patience - in other words, wisdom, courage and temperance. The overarching goal must be justice for all. You must be prepared to suffer. You must be prepared and willing to die. This ideal accords with the universal order of things, and is in harmony with the Law of nature. As such, it is not only right, it is beautiful, and it is good. Any effort you take to move toward this goal will bring inner peace around your struggles. It will most assuredly remove any sense of discontent from your soul.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.