October 13: Marcus Aurelius Forgets To Thank His Agent

This is the third Aurelius excerpt of the year, but, owing to the weird way the Daily Reading Guide decided to choose the readings, it's the beginning of the book. And what book worth its salt -- if indeed you paid for books in salt -- doesn't begin with acknowledgments? Although it's more fun, because so against the temperment of Aurelius, to think of it as his Oscar speech:

1. FROM my grandfather Verus [I learned] good morals and the government of my temper.
2. From the reputation and remembrance of my father, modesty and a manly character.
3. From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.
4. From my great-grandfather, not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things a man should spend liberally.
Liberally. Maybe it is an Oscar speech! Note also his dislike of public schools -- proper L.A. showbiz parenting there. Less snarkily, I like his pointing out that his mother abstained from evil thoughts. It's not in this excerpt so much, but I have always liked the Stoic emphasis on how much you creates your own mental weather. I guess I have this dude to thank:
From Maximus I learned self-government, and not to be led aside by anything; and cheerfulness in all circumstances, as well as in illness; and a just admixture in the moral character of sweetness and dignity, and to do what was set before me without complaining.
It occurs to me that, if Maximus was good at the self-government quality, maybe he was bad at the other qualities that Aurelius had to find in other people. Like, Maximus may have been the king at being cheerful during illness, but he was a fanatic for the public schools. You can't have everything. Aurelius himself seems to have a bee in his bonnet against literature: "From Rusticus I learned...to abstain from rhetoric, and poetry, and fine writing," he says, and then, later, he's thankful "that I did not make more proficiency in rhetoric, poetry, and the other studies, in which I should perhaps have been completely engaged, if I had seen that I was making progress in them." We can all agree that self-expression is odious, but I think he takes it a little far here, especially since he turned out to be famous as an author.

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