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Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Meditations" and Mischa, the Wonder Kitty

Well, the weather decided to strike hard this week, and with luck on our side it struck on a Friday. The temperature was an incredible -32 degrees (wind chill), and practically every school closed in the entire region. So, what are we to do but read and enjoy a good cup of coffee? Here's the "distressful" day I spent in the company of my dear friend Mischa, the wonder kitty. I finished my re-read of "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius a couple of days ago. It strikes me that the best thing about this little volume is precisely what the modern world has decided to ignore. Simplicity of mind, heart and philosophy appears as such a healthier way to live, but how many of us practically ignore the idea. What makes us do so? Is it the struggle for survival? Is it the ever-evolving technology? Is is our seemingly insatiable thirst for money and social position? Of course, what critics have debated over the years (perhaps centuries) is whether or not Marcus Aurelius was a real stoic or not. As for me, I believe he was, and the fact that this re-read has actually changed my perception of what it means to be stoic confirms this interpretation. I believe after analyzing Marcus Aurelius deeper I realized that being stoic means more than just dispassionate and unfeeling; in fact, I believe now that the opposite is the case. Marcus Aurelius left some space for "feeling" deeply, at least for the things that meant a great deal to him. I guess the issue here is the fact that if something is important to you, say, a principle, a virtue, the empirical, etc., then it is perfectly fine to hold it in high esteem.

What was really interesting of this re-reading of the "Meditations" is the inclusion of an essay by Mathew Arnold on the value of the "Meditations" to the modern world. Since I had already read various biographies on Marcus Aurelius, it came as no surprise to me that he was pretty harsh with and critical of the early Christian movement. Arnold, however, goes a bit further when he seemingly uses what appears as "political correctness" language to somehow explain (read, defend) Marcus Aurelius on this account. The essay--at least for this part--turned into an apologia and proved that even in the 1700s people were ready to inflate and idealized antiquity without giving much thought to the impression this would make in posterity. At any rate, I can't even begin to enumerate the amount of insight this re-reading of Marcus Aurelius has given me. I hope I can continue to apply much of what I've learn to the rest of the year.

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At 4:34 AM, Blogger Catherine said...

Por fin me contestaron de Amazon que me lo tenían y me lo enviarían pero aun no lo he recibido. estoy deseosa de tenerlo y leerlo para poder intercambiar impresiones contigo. Me parece por lo que dices que me va a gustar.Hay una expresión que Mario siempre utilizaba y a mi me gustaba mucho y creo que se aplica muy bien a la filosofía de Marcus Aurelius, es la siguiente " Small is Beautiful"
Yo creo que se explica por si sola. Misha esta espectacular...
Cariños Cathy


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