Second Look…

“Stop whatever you’re doing for a moment and ask yourself: Am I afraid of death because I won’t be able to do this anymore?”

I wonder if there’s a correlation between how busy a person is, and how often they put thought into topics such as death, fear of death, or what they will miss when they die? It’s entirely possible I would spend more time contemplating such things, had I more time on my hands. It should also be noted that the only time I’ve stopped to think about this quote is when I’ve been doing homework. That’s probably not how Aurelius envisioned future readers reflecting on his work.

Or maybe it is.

I had initially interpreted this as a challenge to the reader; to let go of your mortal desires, and live life with the vigor of the gods. But perhaps Aurelius was actually referring to the mundane, and not the extraordinary. If this is the case, he makes an interesting underlying point: there’s a lot about life that you aren’t going to miss.

Am I Afraid of Death Because I Won’t Be Able to Do This Anymore?

“Stop whatever you’re doing for a moment and ask yourself: Am I afraid of death because I won’t be able to do this anymore?”

It’s an odd thing: to imagine Aurelius as he penned this thought, to know now that he would die later, to think that someone may read what I’m writing years after my eventual death, and wonder about me – or not wonder about me.

He poses a good question, though it does have one undeniable flaw: It assumes and insinuates that the reader is afraid of death. But I played the game, I asked myself the question. I thought about what I was doing prior: relaxing on the couch, enjoying a movie of high cinematic quality, indulging in a micro-brew, eating a delicious baked-chicken dinner.

I played the game knowing fully well the answer. This passage jumped out at me, but I’d already made up my mind on the answer to this question years ago. The answer is no. I am not afraid of never having this again. Because I’ve had a full life, I’ve experienced many different flavors, and after tasting much of what life has to offer, I’m happy to follow the path I’m on until it ends, and accept that end. I’ve had my turn on the rides and I’m happy to exit the fairgrounds when the security team thinks I’ve overstayed my welcome.

When I was younger, in my early teens, I was terrified of death. I couldn’t stand the thought of never being able to love someone intimately, or conquer my fears, or live in my own apartment, or go adventuring in a foreign country. Really I just wanted to know what it meant to be independent. And having already accomplished many of my goals – namely, being independent – I now feel that at no point did any single experience every make my life meaningful or fulfilled. I came to understand that for me, life is not about the this that makes one moment more enjoyable than another. This comes and this goes. Usually, money seems to play a part in how much of this is around at any given moment. But much like the this in life, I will also come and I will also go. Any impact I make in the sand will be carried away by the tide soon after. I am no more important than the chicken I ate earlier tonight.

So then – what matters? Well, as a matter of fact, I believe nothing really matters. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter to us. And that’s the tricky part, isn’t it? Once I no longer cared whether I ever experienced a this again, I was able to accept the fact that despite whether it matters to me or doesn’t matter to me, the universe is going to continue on it’s path, and I’m going to continue on mine. And maybe I’ll live another day to experience another this. And it will probably be very enjoyable. Or maybe it won’t be. Either way, I’ll look forward to the next this that happens. And when this ends, I hope the next person in line enjoys it as much as I have.

Everything that happens…Revisited

“Everything that happens is as simple and familiar as the rose to spring, the fruit in summer: disease, death, blasphemy, conspiracy…everything that makes stupid people happy or angry.”

Initially, I had placed most emphasis of my interpretation on the last section (see previous post). In short: the happenings of life and the inability of stupid people who are not mentally or emotionally equipped to react appropriately. After a short period of time between reflection, what immediately stood out in my second viewing were the words simple and familiar. Their use in this context did not completely make sense in the framework of my original analysis. Aurelius could have chosen to use other descriptors, such as brutal and violent. They would certainly be much closer in relation to disease, death, blasphemy, conspiracy! It’s easy to read this sentence and sense the negativity around what is being said. However, I believe there is a subtle beauty here, and it can be found in in the imagery he provides.

There are two instances to which Aurelius relates the simple and familiar proceeding of life: “the rose to spring,” and “the fruit in summer.” I interpret this to be the simplicity of nature, unbiased and uninterested in the desires of man, the continual occurrence of the seasons, always to be counted on. The simple joy of breathing in the perfumes of the rose in spring, picking a ripened apple in the heat of the afternoon sun, anticipating the effects of its rejuvenation.

I believe Aurelius purposefully used examples he knew would invoke a sense of calm and happiness in his readers. He then related this positive energy with “disease, death, blasphemy, conspiracy.” In doing so, he successfully juxtaposed the two energies and visually exemplifies the very meaning of what he is telling us. In short: the world is unbiased, seasonal, and continuous – life and death continue to happen regardless of our intentions and ambitions.

– Justin

Introductions to Meditations

Hello World –

Please allow a brief introduction:

I have bought into a contract of sorts, specifying that I will go above and beyond a required curriculum to produce a certain number of requisites. One of such – written by yours truly – states that I will contribute a blog post 3-4 times per week, discussing a passage of my choosing from a book of my choosing. The idea of this format is that in reconnecting with the same passage throughout the week, I will be able to view it with a slightly different lens.

Therefore, I will be using this blog as both a means of expressing myself through the work of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, as well as an attempt at achieving Grade-A Status in the Spirituality, Character, and Service class at Warner Pacific College – as per it’s syllabus stipulations. That being said, I’m excited to participate.

Let us begin.

“Everything that happens is as simple and familiar as the rose to spring, the fruit in summer: disease, death, blasphemy, conspiracy…everything that makes stupid people happy or angry.”

I remember the first time I was able to control my temper. I was around the age of 14 or 15, and had been struggling with anger problems for a number of years. In childish fits of rage, I would punch holes in the walls of my bedroom. I bought posters of tigers, baseball stars, movies – not because I wanted them, but to cover up the gaping displays of the shame I hoped to keep secret.

There came a turning point. One day I looked at myself in the mirror, looked at the perpetual wounds on my knuckles. I saw my shaking, bruised hands. I imagined a future version of myself, with a wife and sons and daughters. I wondered what kind of person would marry a man who beat the walls of his house because he couldn’t overcome his own inward struggles. I thought about a son watching the role model he called Dad lash out at invisible nothings. What kind of a man would he become?

It is important to not immediately react emotionally. Do not misunderstand me; one must be a good judge and steward of when the situation calls for immediate action, and when the situation calls for emotional reaction. Rarely does ones life benefit from the two occurring simultaneously.

When we let ourselves be overtaken by the torrent of our emotional current, the most insignificant slight can be all it takes to set us off. By leading with our emotions, we yield the ability to act with reason, and give ourselves willing to  “…everything that makes stupid people happy or angry.”

More to come.

– Justin