Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Physical Fitness - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VII.60
Meditation VII.60 - Physical Fitness - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
The body ought to be compact, and to show no irregularity either in motion or attitude.(1) For what the mind shows in the face by maintaining in it the expression of intelligence and propriety, that ought to be required also in the whole body.(2) But all of these things should be observed without affectation.(3)
(1) This is an unusual meditation, and one of the few in which Marcus offers specific guidance on physical training. We ought to pay close attention to our bodies, and we ought to train our bodies to be nimble and swift. Although the Stoic places its first priority on the health of the soul, physical health is very important. We need healthy bodies to act in the world. We need to be flexible; we need endurance; and we need to be trim. Excess weight, poor coordination, stiffness, poor balance and physical weaknesses are preventable consequences of improper nutrition, and a lack of physical exercise and training.
(2) Marcus maintains that "intelligence and propriety" which are attributes of the mind, are reflected in the face. It is only sensible that what is mirrored in the face ought also be reflected in our physical demeanor: how we carry ourselves, how we move, and how we maneuver ourselves through the complexities of living. Not to develop and train our bodies to perform in the ways they were designed to do by nature reflects a fundamental ignorance of nature, and the first duty of all Stoics is to live "according to nature."
(3) While Marcus maintains that our bodies ought to be developed and maintained to the best of our potential, this ought never allow us to become arrogant or haughty. A good Stoic will be physically fit but ought never act like a bully, or otherwise take advantage of those who do not take care of themselves. The Stoic will be modest. The Stoic's attitude toward those who are not fit ought to be instructive.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.