Today’s wisdom is from Marcus Aurelius and Meditations. I’ve been delving into this book lately, and it’s been delivering in spades: the advice a sage, transported to the postmodern world. The following quote is relevant to all of us:
The art of true living is more like a wrestler’s, than a dancer’s practice.
So very true.
You’re fighting a war. The sooner you realize this, the better. And you’re surrounded by people that want to destroy you…to see your happiness lying in waste. They despise your happy wife, your sexual pleasure, and your healthy children.
Who are these people? A miserable lot, one and all. They stare at you from the television screen, watching your every move. They wait for you in the pages of a newspaper, or the darkness of a movie theater. They hang a seditious bait in front of your face, hoping that you’ll grab it. They can only be satisfied when your life is living hell…much like theirs.
So you must rise, my soldier. Kick out of the chokehold! Break free of the leg lock! You’re a wrestler…a grappler in the game of life. You strive for a championship belt? Then make it a reality today! Know every moment is a battle…every second a firefight.
Good singers fall into two camps: those with a 10 pm voice and those with a 7 am voice.
The 10 pm singer is in tune. When the band changes key, he changes with them. He might apply a bit of vibrato to the end of note for effect. And he knows the words to the song well enough. The audience continues to drink, because his voice is not disjointing or alarming. The final conclusion? He can sing.
The 7 am singer is great…on a recording! On a recording, all the nuances of a person’s voice are captured. If the voice has a glitch, it’s amplified tenfold. A 7 am voice is amazing or it isn’t. It’s legendary or its boring. It gives you goosebumps or it doesn’t. It’s a winner or a loser.
We have many examples on this point. Take Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia. Hunter had great lyrics and a decent voice…but Garcia had a wonderful voice. Take Dean Del Ray and George Strait; Del Ray has a decent voice, but Strait has a special one. These are but two examples. And from these comparisons there comes an important lesson. If you’re a great songwriter, but an average singer, it’s better to let somebody else sing your songs.
What is sophistry? In short, it’s a theory that’s plausible but fallacious. In ancient times, there was actually a school of thinkers called the Sophists. Great thinkers have warned us about sophistry, urging us to avoid the trap.
What’s a modern example of a Sophist? Well, we have so many. For starters, the conspiracy fanatic is a sophist – he’s married to ideas that are partially true, but wholly incorrect.
So proceed with caution, my friends. Life is short and your time is valuable. Therefore, you should implement a strategy:
Do not continually engage with a sophist.
He’s not interested in exchanging ideas. He doesn’t care about intellectual inquiry, historical observation, or philosophical analysis. He’s using the conversation as a front, covering up his true aim.
In short, the sophist is looking to weaken you as a man. By undercutting your knowledge, he can bring you down to his broken level. He’s a half-man, incapable of scaling the ladders of greatness. So he tries to push over your ladder.
Stay on guard, my fellow Majors. Your time is valuable…your bank of knowledge must be protected with armed guards. The sophist would like to rob your mental bank account and leave you on the side of the road: a destitute man without a dollar of wisdom.
You’ve studied the work of ancient minds. You’ve read about the achievements of GREAT MEN. Now hold fast….don’t let the charlatans of sophistry deter you.
Today we continue with the wisdom of ages. A favorite quote of mine from Marcus Aurelius in Meditations…one that I’ve shared with others for two decades:
Where does the common man go? Where does he live?
They [the common men] seek for themselves private retiring places, as country villages, the sea-shore, mountains; yea thou thyself art wont to long much after such places.
Yes, so true. We think that the mansion on the hill will make us happy. We believe that the Time Share in the Tropics will bring us inner peace. We seek the “country village, the sea-shore, mountains” and so forth. The more things change, the more they stay the same. In Ancient Rome, many thought that they could buy their way into happiness.
And he continues…
But all this thou must know proceeds from simplicity in the highest degree. At what time soever thou wilt, it is in thy power to retire into thyself, and to be at rest, and free from all businesses. A man cannot any whither retire better than to his own soul;
Retire into thyself and be at rest.
The mansion is lying within your breastplate…the stairwell to Xanadu, leading into your consciousness. We turn on the television, hoping for answers. We thumb the pages of a periodical, praying for solace. Yet so much is futile. The search will always lead to a mirror.
The greatest mansion you have is lying within your soul.
More wisdom from Marcus Aurelius. A few days ago, I shared for you a quote of his regarding reading and writing. Well today, I want to share another one of his ideas – on the composition of a man: how he walks…how he speaks.
What kind of man is he?
“…a wrestler of the best sort, and for the highest prize, that he may not be cast down by any passion or affection of his own; deeply dyed and drenched in righteousness, embracing and accepting with his whole heart whatsoever either happeneth or is allotted unto him.”
Wonderful words from the wisdom of yesterday.
Stand up straight. Live the Golden Rule and be a man of action. Avoid the gossip of old wives and weak-minded men. Remove wasteful thoughts from your mind. Set a lofty goal for yourself and attack it with diligence. Know that your victories are seen by others and that your ACTIONS say the most about you.
And moreover, be a fair man. Treat others with charity, even when some might not deserve it. Speak with honesty and passion to the people around you. Avoid the hedge maze of sophistry. In short…
Marcus Aurelius was a sage. He gave advice on many practical matters, including composition. Here’s one of my favorites:
That I did not use to walk about the house in my long robe, nor to do any such things. Moreover I learned of him to write letters without any affectation, or curiosity; such as that was, which by him was written to my mother from Sinuessa: and to be easy and ready to be reconciled, and well pleased again with them that had offended me, as soon as any of them would be content to seek unto me again. To read with diligence; not to rest satisfied with a light and superficial knowledge, nor quickly to assent to things commonly spoken of. (from Meditations).
Finding a writing style is difficult. We’re surrounded by some many voices in this regard. And it’s easy to lose our path…to mimic the phrasing or wording of others. So what’s the solution?
Be direct and to the point: i.e. write without affectation. By doing so, you’ll capture the normal pattern of speech. You’ll directly address the reader (as opposed to having your literary representative speak to them).
And when it comes to reading…do it with diligence! Another nice reminder. It’s so easy to skim, to skip, etc. As the modern acronym goes, TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read). But what do we gain, really? It’s better to read five pages with passion than fifty with ambivalence.
Meditations is a book for all times. It’s a Bible of practical philosophy. And it becomes more relevant with each passing day…
The media lambasted Donald Trump’s comments after Charlottesville. In short, the president implied that there were two factions involved. The first was a white supremacist, the other was a left-wing faction.
Since then, the media has called the President a white supremacist. How could he say there are two sides to the issue? How could he imply that his detractors were capable of violence? Everybody knows that the left has no extreme side!!!
And now we have this…50 dead in Las Vegas. The killer on the Anti-Trump bandwagon.
Ironically, this will cause a spike in Trump’s approval ratings. The killer will have accomplished the exact opposite of what he hoping for.