Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Wages of Stoic "Sin" - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VIII.22
Meditation VIII.22 - The Wages of Stoic "Sin" - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Attend to the matter which is before you, whether it is an opinion or an act or a word.
You suffer this justly: for you choose rather to become good to-morrow than to be good to-day.1,2
(1) This meditation has a unique and chilling structure. Although these two ideas appear distinct, they are linked. There is nothing provisional about Stoicism. If you do not "attend to the matter which is before you," you will suffer, and you will suffer "justly" because you choose to put off until to-morrow what you ought to have done today. Stoicism requires that we act rationally and intelligently in all matters of significance. And what is significant is our relationship with other human beings. This is our primary duty in life. Nothing self-serving should ever take precedence over this duty. If it does, we will suffer. How will we suffer? This will depend on the manner by which we abandon our duty toward others. There are five ways this can occur. (1) Loneliness: Stoicism requires that we genuinely care about the welfare of others. If we do not care, we will not be cared for. We will be alone. (2) Abandonment: Stoicism requires that we not be overpowered by pleasure or pain. If we are overpowered by pleasure or pain, we will never experience the joy of being loved. (3) Contempt: Stoicism requires that we never express anger or hostility toward others. If we do, we will be blinded and unable to see or receive the compassion we deserve. (4) Invisibility: Stoicism demands that we must be relentlessly genuine and authentic in all of our endeavors. If we are not, our humanity and beauty will be hidden from others. (5) Alienation: Stoicism demands that we use reason in all of our actions. If we do not think well and with due diligence to all matters before us, we risk alienation and censure from our friends, family and community.
(2) Image from Danteworlds (University of Texas, Austin).
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.