Apr 6: Marcus Aurelius, smoker

That's how I came to think of him in today's excerpt, anyhow. I remember reading him in high school and really enjoying it, but the idea of fighting emotion is probably pretty appealing when you're an adolescent and that's something you have too much of:

What then art thou doing here, O imagination? go away, I entreat thee by the gods, as thou didst come, for I want thee not. But thou art come according to thy old fashion. I am not angry with thee: only go away.
Now, after decades of exhortation to become a better writer, person, etc. (has it been decades? Yep.) I feel like I see what Aurelius is up to. He's like a smoker -- if he just keeps heckling himself enough, all his dreams will come true:
It is in thy power to live free from all compulsion in the greatest tranquillity of mind, even if all the world cry out against thee as much as they choose, and even if wild beasts tear in pieces the members of this kneaded matter which has grown around thee...
And if he were doing all this stuff he's talking about, when would he have time to write to tell himself to do it?

The other thing that struck me about this passage is the sheer randomness of it. Apparently being Emperor really cuts into the organizing-your-material time. So you get juxtapositions like this:

59. Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig.
60. The body ought to be compact, and to show no irregularity either in motion or attitude.

It's like, "I should concentrate on the eternal truths. And, maybe grow a mustache." And there's also:
61. The art of life is more like the wrestler’s art than the dancer’s, in respect of this, that it should stand ready and firm to meet onsets which are sudden and unexpected.
Really? Or is it more like the bear-eater's art, in respect of this, that some days you eat the bear and some days the bear eats you. (Stoically, of course.)

No comments: