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Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book 5, Verse 15

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  • James Mathews
    ... ôOne should pay no attention to any of those things which do not belong to manÆs portion incumbent on him as a human being. They are not demanded of a
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 13, 2014
      >>>> Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, Book 5, Verse 15 <<<<

      “One should pay no attention to any of those things which do not belong to man’s portion incumbent on him as a human being.  They are not demanded of a man; man’s nature does not proclaim them; they are not consummations of that nature.  Therefore they do not constitute man’s end either, nor yet any means to that end -- that is, good.  Further, if any of these things were incumbent on a man, then it would have been incumbent on him to distain or resist them; we would not commend the man who shows himself free from the need of them; if these things were truly ‘goods,’ a man who fails to press for his full share of any of them could not be a good man.  But in fact the more a man deprives himself of these or suchlike, or tolerates others depriving him, the better a man he is.”

      Notes from the author / trans. Arthur Hammond:

      Note 1.  For Marcus’ conception of man’s nature see note on 5.1;
      Note 2.  5.1-- What I was born for: Marcus often speaks of ‘man’s proper nature, or ‘constitution’ -- ‘the nature of a rational and social being’ (5.29: cf. 6.44.2) -- linking into the principal of universal nature (2.9, 5.3, 6.58, 7.55, 11.5).  He offers at least partial definitions in 4.49 (a list of virtues ‘whose combination is the fulfillment of man’s proper nature’: cf. 8.1), 7.55 (a set of principles), 8.26 (‘man’s proper work’): the simplest statement is in 9.42.4 (‘man was made to do good’).  See also 5.15, 5.25, 6.16.1, (analogy with crafts), 7.20, 7.53, 8.5, 9.31, 10.8.4, 10.33.

      There may be in Marcus’ mind also the consciousness of his specific duties as one ‘born into the purple’.  The Meditations are surprisingly reticent on the vocation or responsibilities of an emperor.  The strongest statements are in 1.17.3, 9.29 (see note), and 11.18.1 (‘. . .I was born to be their leader as a ram leads his flock, and the bull his herd’): passing references in 1.11, 1.14.1, 3.5, 4.12, 6.39, 7.36, 8.1, 11.7.  See notes on 5.16 and 6.2.

      Can you not see plants, birds, ants, spider, bees: ‘Go to the ant thou sluggard: consider her ways, and be wise’ (Proverbs 6:6).  Marcus is fond of drawing comparisons with, or lessons from, the ordered and instinctive world of insects and animals: see 5.6 (horse, dog, and bee), 6.54 (bee), 9.9.2 (hives, flocks, birds), 10.10 (spider), 11.18.9 (bees).

      Marcus Audens Notes:

      In this section Marcus seems to go ’round and round the bush,’ but never in it.  I had to read the notes and verse several times before I got the drift of it, and then I only think that I have a grasp on what he has said.  I assume that he means to maintain what is right as when your brain tells you what you are doing is right.  He talks of the ants and bees who are busy with their work tending the infants, gathering food, building as they advance, never stopping, always in action for the good of the ant mound or bee hive.  So his message, I believe, is to do good, work hard, and tolerate those who do not do these things.  In addition, to tolerate those who criticize your actions in doing good.  I should like to have your views of this set of meditations and notes.


      Marcus Audens          

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