Thursday, January 19, 2017

Vox Popoli: Musing on meditations

Musing on meditations
Someone on Gab asked me if I would write a book of philosophy, and suggested something similar to one written by one of my intellectual heroes, Marcus Aurelius. His Meditations have been a significant influence on my thinking since high school, particularly this deeply meaningful piece of advice, with which he began Book Two in the Staniforth translation:

Begin each day by telling yourself: today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness—all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow-creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading.

Those who have read Meditations can probably see how the very way I live has been influenced by them; it was somewhat startling to listen to a song recently and realize that I'd written these words with my friend Paul more than 20 years ago. Much to my surprise, it's become one of my favorites in retrospect.

Over sea, under stone
I will find myself alone
All I've seen and all I've known
In a dream far from home
I still find myself alone

In this place there's nobody inside

In this place there's nobody outside
I find myself alone

It seems we really do shape our future through our imaginations. Of course, what the non-reader of Meditations might fail to understand is that this is not a mournful song about loneliness, but rather a contemplative one about the need to abandon the world and its deafening, disharmonious distractions in order to find oneself, or rather, to honestly face the truth about oneself and one's place in Creation.

A man must be able to look honestly inside before he can look accurately outside.

I don't think I am ready yet to take on the task of writing my own Meditations. But I do have the sense that one day, I will be able to do so, though whether it will be before or after I attempt my magnum opus of economics philosophy written in the Aquinan form, I cannot say. In the meantime, perhaps the following ten aphorisms may be of some utility to a reader or two.
  • Tell yourself the unvarnished truth, even if you cannot bring yourself to admit it to anyone else.
  • We are all being deceived, in some matters, by someone, at all times.
  • An unsound foundation will never produce a sound conclusion. When a conclusion strikes you as dubious, look hard at the underlying assumptions supporting it.
  • Evil existed in the past. It will exist in the future. You are not going to eliminate it. You are not even going to eliminate it in yourself.
  • No amount of pleasure will ever satisfy a man. No amount of comfort will ever satisfy a woman.
  • Status is a dangerous and addictive psychological drug. Be deeply wary of it.
  • Leadership requires a surfeit of ego, because the good leader must be able to sacrifice his own for the benefit of his subordinates when need be.
  • Never trust an insecure man. Sooner or later, his fears will cause him to turn on those to whom he is closest.
  • The weak will always attempt to outlaw the strong.
  • Never stay down. Even the dead can haunt their killers.