Saturday, April 16, 2011
Personal Peace - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VII.26
Meditation VII.26 - Personal Peace - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
When someone wrongs you, immediately consider with what opinion about good or evil this individual has wronged you. For when you see this, you will pity that person, and will no longer wonder or be angry.(1) For either you yourself think the same thing to be good that this person does or another thing of the same kind.(2) It is your duty then to pardon this person. But if you do not think such things to be good or evil, you will more readily be well disposed to those who are in error.(3)
(1) Invariably a so-called "wrong" that you experience will arise from some disturbance in one of these three areas: a) in your perceived power (for example being passed over unfairly at work), or b) the removal or theft of property or money that is yours, or, c) your status or reputation (for example, by being shamed or humiliated). But, as a Stoic, power, money and fame, are matters of indifference to you. The loss of power, possessions or reputation are to you at most inconveniences, and certainly will never be perceived as wrongs. In fact, you will actually pity the perpetrator of these "wrongs," because you recognize with true compassion that these persons have missed the point of their lives by identifying the good in life not with virtue and the happiness that virtue brings, but with those things that will at most bring them temporary physical pleasures.
(2) If you even feel a sense of being wronged when you lose some, or even all of your power, wealth, or reputation, then clearly you - just like the perpetrators of these actions - must also believe that these same things are good.
(3) Whenever you are "wronged" - in this conventional sense - as a Stoic, you will not only not feel wronged, you will be moved to pardon whoever has wronged you, and bound by duty to do whatever is in your power to reform the person who has tried to harm you. Please notice that this Stoic attitude does not mean that you are expected to be lax around issues of power, money or reputation. The care and attention you give around these matters will be no different from anyone else. You will care for these things because they have important bearings on your life as a member of community and the role you have in that community. So, you ought to be cautious in all of these areas. But when you lose these - and we all will along with our health and eventually life itself - the attitude of both inevitability and indifference that Stoicism provides us allows us to endure these things with equanimity and permits us to remain at peace with ourselves in all of our days.
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.