Monday, January 18, 2010

I found myself within a forest dark - Anticipating Dante - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VII.46

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Meditation VII.46 - I found myself within a forest dark - Anticipating Dante - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil

But, my good friend, reflect whether that which is noble and good is not something different from saving and being saved;(1) for as to a man living such or such a time, at least one who is really a man, consider if this is not a thing to be dismissed from the thoughts: and there must be no love of life: but as to these matters a man must intrust them to the deity and believe what the women say, that no man can escape his destiny,(2) the next inquiry being how he may best live the time that he has to live.(3)


(1) The Stoic project is about virtue, and virtue is about being noble and good - an activity that begins with self knowledge (being saved) and ends with outreach toward others (saving).

(2) Virtue is not specific to a particular time or circumstance. It is human destiny to be noble and good. There is no other path to happiness such as self absorbed life (love of life).

(3) The meditation is designed to reach those who are not noble and good because they may be self-absorbed in the pleasures of the world. Whatever path we find ourselves on it is in our reach to renew our mission, recover our lives, and become what were were born to be. The message is reminescent of Dante's existential questioning arising from the opening lines of his Inferno.
Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.
So bitter is it, death is little more;
But of the good to treat, which there I found,
Speak will I of the other things I saw there.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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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