Monday, October 26, 2009
Grumble Not! - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VIII.09
Meditation VIII.09 - Grumble Not! - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Let no person any longer hear you finding fault with the court life or with your own.1
(1) Marcus addresses the issue here of "finding fault" in anything - be it in his administration of Rome or in the conduct of your own personal life. Marcus is not suggesting that his administration is flawless or above criticism. He is profoundly aware himself that this is not so. This meditation ought not be read as a warning to those who would criticize the court. Marcus was a staunch advocate of free speech. Nor is he recommending that we ought to adopt a Pollyanna philosophy of life by transforming every situation in life into one of unbridled optimism. Stoicism is grounded firmly in realism and truth. If anything, this meditation is as idiomatic as the expression people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. From a psychological perspective the act of finding fault in others is really one of projection. Because we are discontented with our own lives we tend to deflect our malaise and irritability onto others - generally with thoughtless criticisms of our governments, political leaders, and powerful institutions. In Meditation II.16 (published in the book) Marcus outlines what I have called the five Stoic commandments. The act of "finding fault" as described in this meditation touches on three of these - irritability, thoughtlessness, and the avoidance of excess passion. For the Stoic these generalized attitudes are problematic because they tear into our capacity for reasoned analysis and reflect more on our easy and reflexive capacity for emotional excess. The act of "finding fault" as intended here is really a form of thoughtless grumbling which while seemingly harmless is nothing more than an excess animal passion - something a Stoic seeks to avoid.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.