“Your principles can’t be extinguished unless you snuff out the thoughts that feed them, for it’s continually in your power to reignite new ones…It’s possible to start living again! See things anew as you once did – that is how to restart life!” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.2
Yesterday’s meditation was about focusing on what we can control. We control where we go. We do not control the road, and we do not control the obstacles/challenges/experiences we meet along the way. We control how we perceive them, how we let them affect us and how we respond to them.
Today we meditate on our principles. What is a principle? It has many definitions, but for our purposes let’s define it as something that is a foundational belief. Who we are, and how we act, grows from our principles. An example from Socrates:
“One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him.”
Socrates mirrors what Marcus Aurelius is asking us to do: In spite of outside influences only we have the ability to remain consistent by living consistently with those principles we value. Yet Bruce Lee tells us to consider our principles as things which are not fixed.
“Obey the principles without being bound by them.”
As I watch, and read, the responses to our incoming president in light of his inauguration I have to wonder if some people are proud of how they are presenting themselves? Do they value the principles of civility, patience and compassion? If they do, what will they think of themselves upon reviewing how they reacted?
Two points of focus. First, our principles do not disappear. We can act in a way inconsistent with who we want to be, but as Marcus Aurelius reminds us we can reset ourselves. Second, our principles are not absolute laws that bind us. As Bruce Lee reminds us, our principles can grow as we do, and as we redefine them we are also resetting ourselves.
Some time ago I was someone who battled with road rage. At times I would follow someone who I felt had done me an injustice. What changed me was being one of the carpool parents who drove our group of children to school. I had to reevaluate this principle of justice for the sake of being a safer driver. Was this concept of justice a valid principle? This change in responsibility ignited new thoughts, allowing me to become a person more consistent with my higher principle of mindfulness.
We will make poor decisions. We will allow the actions and/or words of others to act in contrast to who we want to be. Politics is one of those subjects where at times we lose our balance, quit thinking and let our emotions dictate more than they should. No matter how we may have acted, or what we may have said, we always have the ability to change our thinking in order to “start living again”. Clarity is just a thought away.