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Showing posts from August, 2018

Leave All Behind

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"On a voyage, when the ship is anchored, if you go on shore to get water, you may gather a small shellfish or cuttlefish along the way as a side issue for yourself, but your thoughts must be directed at the ship and you must be constantly watchful if not the captain calls. And if he calls, leave all of it behind, so you won’t be thrown into the ship bound like cattle. It is the same in life: if instead of a small shellfish and cuttlefish, you are given a wife and child, there is nothing against that. But if the captain calls, rush towards the ship and leave all behind without looking back. And if you are old, don’t even go far from the ship, so you won’t default when you are called."  (Epictetus)

Save Yourself Some Pain

"You've endured countless troubles--all from not letting your ruling reason do the work it was made for--enough already!" (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9.26)

There's this funny little feature on my computer called, "stickies." A little program that allows me to put "sticky notes" on my screen to remind myself to do something. I also have a pile of sticky notes, but use them to leave side notes on documents, reminders for someone else, so to speak.

Over a thousand years ago, Emperor Marcus Aurelius left himself something like a sticky note in the above quote. He was able to recognize when he might very well have been the cause of problems he was experiencing, so he left a note to remind himself that enough is enough.

There's this thing called a brain and that brain uses a thing called "reason." Specifically, "ruling reason." In other words, a line has been drawn--that's the rule. We might call it "conscience" w…

Live Well Where You Live

Yesterday's blog post about Anne Frank felt incomplete and it finally occurred to me that I missed an important element. I was so focused on the freedom of writing (journaling, blogging, keeping a diary) that I overlooked another key lesson implied in her quote. Here's what helped me realize my oversight:

"Wherever a person can live, there one can also live well; life is also in the demands of court, there too one can live well." (Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.16)

The thought came to me that Anne lived where she lived. For two years she had no choice. She could never leave her hiding place in The Secret Annex except in her imagination or on paper. The only people she could talk with were others in hiding as well. If they got along, they got along--but when they didn't, they didn't. So who was left to talk to but her diary?

The point is this: "Wherever a person can live, there one can also live well." Do your part to love and respect those w…

Mozart's Momento Mori

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We are confused when it comes to the subject of death. When we receive word that an enemy has been killed or died, we are happy but when someone we know, like or love dies we are sad. So which is it? Are we happy or sad when it comes to the subject of death? 
We eat without giving thought about the plant or animal that dies to feed us. We thrive on death. Freezers full of meat harvested at our own hand bring us delight with a little BBQ sauce, but when the dog dies . . . 
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, after hearing his father was ill, penned the following in a letter written April 4, 1787:
“I have now made a habit of being prepared in all affairs of life for the worst. As death, when we come to consider it closely, is the true goal of our existence, I have formed during the last few years such close relationships with this best and truest friend of mankind that his image is not only no longer terrifying to me but is indeed very soothing and consoling, and I thank my God for graciously grant…

Check Yourself

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Grandpa dropped his glasses once in a pot of dye,
And when he put them on again he saw a purple sky.
Purple birds were rising up from a purple hill,
Men were grinding purple cider at a purple mill.
Purple Adeline was playing with a purple doll,
Little purple dragonflies were crawling up the wall.
And at the supper table he got crazy as a loon,
From eating purple apple dumplings with a purple spoon.


(Leroy F. Jackson)

It does not happen often but when it does, I try not to act surprised.  "Why do you wear glasses?" The answer is simple: so I can see. Without them, the world is a blur. 
"Why don't you wear contacts?" Because I wear tri-focals AND my glasses are treated as such that, when in the sun, the lenses darken, protecting my eyes from the glare. 
"Don't they bother you?" No. I forget they are there. 
In some ways, our thoughts are like grandpa's glasses. We view the world through a set of lenses, assuming everything has taken on a certain hue be…

Don't Complain About Annoyances

“The cucumber is bitter? Then throw it out. There are brambles in the path? Then go around. That’s all you need to know. Do not add, 'and why were such things made in the world?'" (Marcus Aurelius)
A rotten cucumber is no good to one preparing a delicious salad but to a gardener preparing his compost, a rotten cucumber may be very good. If something has gone bad, repair it whenever possible, but if not, throw it away. A rotten cucumber is without repair to the cook. He does not ponder the existence of the nuisance, so why should anyone ponder the existence of a difficulty?
The scientific mind wants to know and the philosophical mind wants to understand but good science already knows that all things break down and no combination of heat or chemical can make any good of a rotten cucumber if one intends to eat--unless one applies that rotten cucumber in another way. 
The philosophical mind already understands that nature has no need for a trashcan, so wisdom dictates conside…