“Keep a list before your mind of those who burned with anger and resentment about something, of even the most renowned for success, misfortune, evil deeds, or any special distinction. Then ask yourself, how did that work out? Smoke and dust, the stuff of simple myth trying to be legend . . .” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.27
I needed to reset. I needed to take a break from my daily Stoic meditations. I needed to rethink habits. I needed to look back on what I’ve read and written, and determine where I stood.
When considering the meditation on February the 24th, “The Real Source of Harm”, I took a good long look at myself. Were these meditations making a difference? If not, why? Some situations, which I do not want to share, presented themselves and I did not approach them with a Stoic mind.
I had imprinted a habit of reading and writing, but not consuming. When I returned to the meditations, before me sat these beautiful words. What do I want to be known for? Anger? Impatience? Antagonism?
My good friend Brian Niece suggested ashes can represent two things:
Ashes symbolize the ultimate in futility. Everything will end. Death will happen. Things turn to dust every single day.
Ashes also inherently hold an impossible promise. From death, life will grow. From ruin, rebirth will form. From nothing, something will rise.
Look at these ashes of death; new life will grow from this!
I like this because it takes a different spin on Marcus’ meditation. I do, in fact, burn myself through, for example, anger. What is left are the remnants of the person I wanted to be. Yet I can still build from the ruins. It may take some time and effort, but there is not absence. The ash serves as a reminder to us of how not to do things. The ash also allows us something within which to grow anew.