Reflections on Aphorisms #64

Somewhat productive day today. I got to reading about scrolls. That’s not a typo. Scrolls. Like, medieval scrolls.

Did you know that when one dude died they sent a scroll around basically half of England and a good chunk of France in what is basically a medieval version of the condolence card?

Yeah, that’s kinda cool, I guess.

Aphorism 102

“Know thyself”? If I knew myself, I’d run away.

Goethe

Interpretation

Here we see that Goethe can match witticisms with Wilde.

Of course, the point of an aphorism is that there’s a compelling surface and deeper depths to think about.

In this case, Goethe hits on a few complex topics.

Yesterday I talked about self-deception, and I think that it’s perhaps no coincidence that there’s a little overlap between this and Wilde’s statements, so I’m not going to go into too much depth on it. It’s also no coincidence that one of the stories that shaped my first knowledge of self-deception was written by Goethe.

I think that one of the best ways to think about oneself is to reflect on one’s worst moments.

This may sound a little bit of a downer, but I view it as a sort of off-shoot of stoicism.

What the stoics would do is that they would take the worst possible event, look at the outcomes, and determine that they could still go on.

The thing with my reflection is that I look at my worst vices and then tell myself that I still have a chance to improve.

By looking at the weakness and imperfections within myself I force myself to move onward from where I currently am, because I don’t find myself particularly good. I’m sometimes a little disappointed when I take stock of my virtues, because a lot of them have reasons that are less than noble.

“Oh hey, I don’t drink. Right, because I hate the taste and the side-effects. Not a giant virtue there!”

The secret here is that you can build on that.

I tell myself each day that I’m going to do at least one thing, one virtuous thing, that isn’t something that should be taken for granted or that I already do regularly.

The scary thing there is that I don’t always succeed. The nice thing, however, is that there’s always room for improvement.

When you keep improving, eventually you’re bound to reach a better place.

Resolution

Do one thing each day that is better than its equivalent the prior day.

Confront my weaknesses.

Never be impatient with the progress of growth.

Reflections on Aphorisms #35

Yesterday’s reflections blew up, but today I didn’t feel like returning to my usual sources of aphorisms. Instead, I began reading the Meditations, and it is from them that I will draw today’s focus.

Aphorism 58

Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Photographic reproduction of a Roman coin. Left: Antonius Pius. Right: Marcus Aurelius, his adopted son. Image is in public domain.

Interpretation

I’ve heard this statement by Marcus Aurelius before, but I’d never seen it in the context of the work.

At first, this could look even to be a cynical statement, since there’s a definite negative tone to it.

However, it comes at the start of the second chapter of Meditations, and in context it takes on a different light:

The first chapter of Meditations is focused on thanksgiving and praise of others (as well as tracing the emperor’s personal development).

In this sense, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Marcus Aurelius is complaining here, he’s preparing himself.

I have to do a similar thing before going to the gym, especially if I’ve let myself get out of the habit. I’m not much for physical activity (I fight hard battles with inertia), and when I lost a lot of weight I had to do it by dieting and just not letting myself have access to things I shouldn’t have.

The power of a statement like this is that it’s a memento mori, a reminder of mortality. There will never be a perfect day, but nobody has ever had a perfect day. There will be a limitation or an obstacle or an inconvenience, or maybe even an actual threat or danger or serious loss.

That doesn’t mean that one forgets everything else.

The Stoics, of whom Marcus Aurelius is a leading figure, were philosophical thinkers who believed heavily in the role of contemplation and preparation.

By making oneself confront suffering and loss before it happens, one is able to bear it better when it occurs.

The positive element here is that one looks over everything that will occur, and in the end comes to the following conclusion:

Life will be full of pain. My goals may be impossible. My dreams may crumble. Those I love may be taken from me. But I can remain myself, and I can carry myself well under the weight. It is better to suffer nobly and live in reality than it is to flee to fantasy and escape.

Resolution

Do not overlook the importance of confronting suffering.

Remember that the goal is to be the best me, not someone impossibly great.

Make efforts to be grateful for that which rises above the dross.

Goals (April 2-April 8)

Last week was productive in the form of a series of articles on archetypes over on steemit, but many of my original goals were not met, in part because of that shifted focus. With that said, I feel good about the things I got done.

Here’s the new goals:

Continue reading “Goals (April 2-April 8)”