Friday, December 4, 2009

Feeling no Pain - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VII.58

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Meditation VII.58 - Feeling no Pain - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil

In everything which happens keep before your eyes those to whom the same things happened, and how they were vexed, and treated them as strange things, and found fault with them: and now where are they? Nowhere.(1) Why then do you too choose to act in the same way?(2) And why do you not leave these agitations which are foreign to nature, to those who cause them and those who are moved by them?(3) And why are you not altogether intent upon the right way of making use of the things which happen to you?(4) For then you will use them well, and they will be a material for you to work on.(5) Only attend to yourself, and resolve to be a good person in every act which you do: and remember...(6)


(1) The meditation reminds us that misfortune can be handled in one of two ways. We can respond with distress or we can transform misfortune into opportunity. Those who react with anger, disappointment or surprise clearly get nothing in return - other than anxiety or depression.

(2) As reasoning human beings why then would we follow a path that has clearly failed for others?

(3) Transformation, mutation, death, and decay are intrinsic properties of nature. These things are all necessary, and seen from the perspective of natural law, are expressions of divine will - and as such inherently beautiful operations of nature. These things must happen to us all. We ought to welcome change. Rather than being "moved by them," we need to embrace these changes and move with them. This is where peace lies. To be "agitated" by change is to be ignorant of the Law.

(4) The "right way" to use the things which happen to us is to welcome and expect change in all of its manifestations. All change brings knowledge and understanding - and with it wisdom and peace.

(5) For the Stoic, pain and suffering (both physical and psychological) are "unpleasant" experiences. But pleasures and pains are - after all - nothing more than sensations. The key to living well for the Stoic is to regard all physical sensation with indifference. This is a matter of choice. It is also a matter of logic. If I choose to regard pain and suffering as the end of the world, I will feel anger, fear, distress, and unhappiness. Why do that? It achieves nothing - as we have all seen in those who have taken this path. Indifference is the key to happiness.

(6) It is impossible to be good when we are unhappy. This is a law of nature. These two forces oppose each other. Embrace the changes that living must bring ... and remember ...

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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