“You shouldn’t give any circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.38
This meditation leverages a quote from a lost play by Euripides, from which only a few quotes remain. Bellerophon, the hero of this play, has reached a position of doubt regarding the existence of the gods. As the indifferent gods do not respond to humans, so do circumstances.
When was the last time a situation that made you angry or sad apologized for what it did? Do you recall times in which you moved from angry or sad, to happy or sublime? Situations can change with efficient immediacy, and when they do our impression of the world shifts.
I refuse to believe anyone can exist in such a perfect state so that they are immune from passions that distract them from the reality that the world is simply impressive itself upon us, and we own how we interpret those impressions. If true this would be infinitely frustration. We must remember that every day is a meditation. Every day we should look to words, such as Marcus’, to remind us how to live well. When we get angry we can think of this quote and be reminded the anger serves no purpose. Our target of anger is a circumstance that warrants nothing more than our thoughts on how to move beyond it.
If you are a Rush fan you are familiar with their song “Circumstances” from the album Hemispheres. Part of the chorus:
All the same we take our chances
Laughed at by time
Tricked by circumstances
Don’t be tricked.