Monday, July 6, 2009
What, me Worry? - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. IX.11
Meditation IX.11 - What, me Worry? - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
If you are able, correct by teaching those who do wrong;1 but if you can not, remember that indulgence is given to you for this purpose.2 And the gods, too, are indulgent to such persons; and for some purposes they even help them to get health, wealth, reputation; so kind they are.3 And it is in your power also; or say, who hinders you?4
(1) Those who "do wrong" live in opposition to nature. Stoics live in conformity with nature and have a duty to direct others to do so. Teaching, in Stoic terms, must of course be measured and tailored to fit each situation. Stoics must love their enemies (and mandated this long before Christians were so directed) but (unlike Christians) Stoics are not constrained from making war on their enemies if the state is threatened (please see Chapter 9, "Society and Government in Stoicism," p. 209). War, in Stoic tradition, is truly tough love. The Crusades were political wars waged in the name of Christianity and were inconsistent with fundamental Gospel directives. The same may be said about the 9/11 initiated Islamic Jihad, which is inconsistent with fundamental Koranic values. These wars are rooted in hate. They oppose the solidarity of the human community. They abuse Christian and Islamic values. And as such these movements fit the Stoic definition of evil. For a thorough discussion of the position of Stoicism on the nature of evil, please see The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained, Chapter 3, "Stoicism and Vice," p. 56 ff.
(2) Stoics recognize human limitation. Simply do your best. If you are unable to teach those who do wrong, find someone who can teach, or refer the wrong to the community.
(3) Stoics do not believe in gods - although Marcus will wave a flag toward the gods when necessary. As emperor he is so bound, but for a Stoic the gods are always euphemisms for nature and her laws. "Health, wealth, [and] reputation" are matters of complete indifference to Stoics who can care less about these things. But in bestowing these narcotic benefits on our enemies, the gods - in a sense - deflect the damage done by those who live in opposition to nature. The gods are kind, but not in the way a casual reader might interpret this passage. The kindness is directed toward those who live outside the addictive demands of wealth, health and reputation.
(4) What is also in your power? The only real power you as a human being have is in your opinion. No one can alter your orientation to nature or to what is right. This is Stoicism's "what, me worry" clause. Stoics are invulnerable in this regard. No wrong can be suffered by those who live in opposition to nature. The only wrong that is done by evil doers is to themselves.
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.