Tuesday, December 06, 2005

One road leads to serenity—keep this thought before you morning, noon, and night—and that is to stand aloof from things that lie outside the sphere of choice, to regard none of these things as your own, to surrender all of them to the divine and to fortune, to allow those persons to watch over these things whom God himself has allowed to do so. And then you must devote yourself to just one thing: that which is your own and which is free from all hindrance... [ Discourses IV. 4. 39-40 ]

Inspiring words, are they not? But reflect on their message. Do you believe that the only goods are right desire and right choice and right judgment? Would that they were perhaps, and that their opposites were the only evils, but as it is, do you think that what you want and believe and choose will guarantee you even a livable life, much less a good and happy one?

Some externals seem to be essential. Their presence in our life indisputable goods and their absence grave evils. It seems that I must assiduously pursue some of these things as the necessities of life. And that I must tiredlessly avoid others, things like illness and disability and real poverty. If I have no resources, if I am too ill or unfit to do anything worth doing, if I must live in hunger in bad places among bad people, I have no choices, or if you insist, only greater & lesser evils to choose between. Should I choose to die now or suffer another day? Is this a choice on the road to serenity?

I wish that a philosopher who tell us to stand aloof from externals had actually first done what he preaches. I wish he had lived the life he recommends. If he survives this experiment in living, let him come back and report to us on the quality of the life he has experienced. Let him tell me then that the hunger and poverty and illness that he suffered were not evils, and I shall listen to him more earnestly.

As Bertrand Russell once confessed, "Blinded by theory, I did not realize how foolishly I spoke and acted".

4 Comments:

Blogger Odon said...

I like it. What I got out of it is to remember to question what you're told. Good advice no matter whom you're listening too.

1:04 AM  
Blogger robfal said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:20 AM  
Blogger robfal said...

There is a story in the discourses... can't recall the book or chapter at the moment, about a spy who is sent to the capital and comes rushing back to report how terrible things are. He is quickly sent back with his tale between his legs with a simple message, 'we know how bad things are now go and make the best of it', which many stoics have done by holding important political office. Stoicism is not about becoming a hermit and renouncing all externals but rather about being prepared to walk away from them, leave you rucksack, leave your cloths, leave even your life if the government desires it because the only thing that really matter are your thoughts and choices. But, if such sacrifices are not demanded of you there is nothing in stoic thought that says you ought not get what you can. Just hold on to all externals as you would a ray of sunshine and you will never be unhappy. That is my basic understanding at any rate and if I am mis-informed I would be happy to be corrected.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Macuquinas d' Oro said...

Dear Robfal:

Thank you for your interesting posts. I will visit your site.
( Mine is "not responding" today )You refer in this one to Discourses I.24, a very good chapter in the first Book of the Discourses.
I don't find anything to disagree with in your comments.

Phil

9:41 AM  

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