Saturday, September 06, 2003

Meditations on Aurelius' Meditations (2)

Book 2, 5

From the Hays translation: "Concentrate every minute like a Roman - like a man - on doing what's in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. An on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can - if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what you mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable."

This directness is so close to what I'm taking from taosism right now. Look at the moment; try to see how everything is connected; I am one of those things. As my mother admonished me this morning, "Being, not doing!" It's an anti-dote to self-centeredness and self-pity - with the bonus that it makes me feel good. "The thousand things" (a common locution for "the world" in old Chinese, I gather) is so much more interesting than just the small subset inside my head. Everybody enjoys nature, sunsets, flowers.

I'm touched by the implication in Aurelius' exhortation: "Concentrate, yes you can!" Since he was writing this to and for himself, it means that he, himself, was unable to concentrate, and felt bound up in distractions. He felt himself to be hypocritical, self-centered, and irritable. The fact that his diary survived means that many thousands of people through the centuries were touched, too. It reassures me that there is no alternative to constantly repeating these platitudes. We will always fail - oh, what a boon to the self-appointed soul savers! - but we also all always dream to do better.

The autumn sun is slanting across the tree across the street, and a breeze moves the branches.
My new hard disk's whiny hum, the PC's fan, the roar from the freeway.

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