January 25, 2017 – The Only Prize

“What’s left to be prized? This, I think – to limit our action or inaction to only what’s in keeping with the needs of our own preparation . . . it’s what the exertions of education and teaching are all about – here is the thing to be prized! If you hold this firmly, you’ll stop trying to get yourself all the other things . . . If you don’t, you won’t be free, self-sufficient, or liberated from passion, but necessarily full of envy, jealousy, and suspicion for any who have the power to take them, and you’ll plot against those who do have what you prize . . . But by having some self-respect for your own mind and prizing it, you will please yourself and be in better harmony with your fellow human beings, and more in tune with the gods – praising everything they have set in order and allotted you.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.16.2b-4a

Rather than pull out some personal experiences to elaborate on today’s meditation I will invoke the inspirational words of three men whom I admire.

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

“The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defying though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own.”

“There are other measures of self-respect for a man, than the number of clean shirts he puts on every day.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Research the things you love. Gain knowledge. It’s valuable.”

“Be kind. Be courteous. Love others and be happy. It’s that simple.”

“Where else can you be as free as by yourself in the middle of nowhere, or in the middle of the ocean, or on the peak of a mountain. Adventure is freedom.

~ Daniel Norris

Daniel Norris is a major league baseball pitcher. He presently plays for the Detroit Tigers, and may be most famous for how he decided to live after getting signed. He bought a 1978 Westfalia camper for $10,000 and lived out of it during spring training. Known as “Van Man” who lives in a vehicle he named “Shaggy”, what he determined as important were things he decided to focus on. Surfing. Hiking. Baseball. He opts to live simply, but pursue the sport he loves. May we all have the clarity to know our prize.

January 13, 2017 – Circle of Control

“We control our reasoned choice and all acts that depend on that moral will. What’s not under our control are the body and any of its parts, our posessions, parents, siblings, children, or country – anything with which we might associate.”- Epictetus, Discourses, 1.22.10

I failed to qualify these meditations in a specific way. If you’ve been following from day one you are very aware of a pattern, that being finding clarity. Well, January is the month of “Clarity”. It sits under the first of three parts called “The Discipline of Perception”. As a teaser, February will be “Passions and Emotions”, with part two being “The Discipline in Action”, and this starts in May.

It is important to note this because…well…I don’t want anyone to lose interest. I could see myself following these posts, eventually thinking, “I get it! My mind is what I control!”. What I’m hoping will happen is a habit of being aware of how we think on a more regular basis. It is one thing to know, and it is another to practice.

The example of “parents” hits home with me. As someone who works in the technology field, my mother is constantly asking me for assistance with her devices. I’m more than happy to oblige, but when the same questions are asked repeatedly I get irritated. It’s a pet peeve of mine. So how should I respond? The easy answer is with infinite love and understanding. But is that realistic? What of the virtue that is self-reliance?

In his work Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:

“Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long that they have come to esteem the religious, learned and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is.”

In would be a fools platform to entertain the idea that we could know everything, or that we could even know to a level that learning would become unnecessary. If I do value self-reliance, and I admit to the fact that we are always learning, then what does it say of me that I would be bothered by those who seek knowledge? What must I be imposing upon them, and how they retain this knowledge, that my patience is predicated on the number of times they may ask the same question?

If repetition is critical to retaining knowledge, then it is reasonable that someone who does not use, for example, a technical device in a certain way might continue the need of repeated assistance. If I’m being honest with myself it would serve me to correlate what my mother is asking me with my repeated need to recall whether a book title receives quotations or italics.

Today’s meditation puts it very simply: “There is clarity in simplicity.” How much time is wasted being frustrated? How much energy is expended bring one’s self back from frustration? In my example, and in most all situations, the simple solution is to help. Whether that is direct assistance, or pointing my mother to a complimentary resource. To approach the problem this way admits that I might not understand why this question is being asked. The person asking is not under my control so rather than think about why they are asking it seems better to help.

Consider the words of Lao Tzu:

Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”