Monday, November 02, 2015

Modern Stoic Meditations #1 - Stoic Compassion


This week as part of Stoic Week I'm going to be writing my own set of Stoic Mediations, one meditation per day.  Each day I will begin with a Stoic quote, and then reflect on how it can help us all  live wisely and happily.

 I'm starting today with a famous quote from Marcus Aurelius

Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away. 

Marcus Aurelius Meditations, Book 2 


So we should all  remind ourselves that, like Marcus, we will encounter all sorts of people today.  On our way to work, we are quite likely to come across unthoughtful drivers or inconsiderate commuters. We can't control them. But we can control our response to them. If we manage our response to us well, then they don't have the power to make us behave like them. They don't have the power to make us not be anything but the best versions of ourselves.

Yet we know that unless we are on guard, the rude driver or the inconsiderate person we come across in our work may  upset us.  Help is at hand. We can remind ourselves that they do not mean to be like this. It is because they know no better. Like us, they are struggling, fallible human beings.   

When I think of everyone I encounter as a fellow  fallible human beings - a  brother or a  sister - I feel more compassionate. I could well be behaving like them if I had their genes, or their parents, or their education. 

A negative visualisation can help Marcus and the rest of us  here. So let's spend a few moments imagining things going wrong today. Let's imagine in our mind's eye people not behaving how we wish them to behave. Then imagine ourselves dealing  well with the situation, remembering that like us they  are struggling fallible human beings. 

Today I will  focus on what I can control. I can't control other people or their behaviour but I can exercise my capacity to be wise and virtuous.

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