Monday, June 13, 2011
Seeking Help - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VII.07
Meditation VII.07 - Seeking Help - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Be not ashamed to be helped; for it is your business to do your duty like a soldier in the assault on a town. How then, if being lame you can not mount up on the battlements alone, but with the help of another it is possible?(1)
(1) Pride prevents many of us from asking for help. We do not want to be seen as weak or disabled. But Marcus reminds us that this is self-regarding behavior. Human beings are not independent souls. Every step in life is made possible only through the assistance of others. When we are unable to do what we are meant to do - or have lost the ability to do what we once did - we not only should seek assistance, we are bound in duty to ask for help. Illness, injury, and age will eventually disable each of us. But these restrictions ought never prevent us from doing what is right. Refusing help by masking a disability - or attempting to shield our lack of knowledge about how to act - actually alienates us from nature. We not only feel unhappy, so also are those who are themselves abandoned by our isolation.
When we ask for a helping hand we are offering our neighbors an opportunity to do what is their duty - to work cooperatively with their communities. In the broadest sense, working cooperatively - and inversely giving others the opportunity to do the same when it is needed - is the essence of all political action. Stoicism is a social (political) philosophy. It recognizes that human beings are not disconnected from their various communities. Life is social because we share a common genesis, a common mind, and a common world soul through the Logos in each of us. In this sense when we ask for help in this spirit we are actually giving to others. Any "shame" we may feel in seeking help is misplaced and contrary to our nature as social and political actors.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.