What does it mean to hold yourself accountable?
I know I’m late to the party, but I’ve been reading up on Marcus Aurelius. It never ceases to amaze me how little people have changed over time in terms of our demons and innermost desires. I find myself sometimes reading a bit of history or something, but viewing the people of the past with a simplistic, skewed scope. That view is flawed, though. To quote the Talking Heads, everything is essentially the same as it ever was.
Consider the comparison for a moment. People were just as awful then as they are now even if there is the illusory semblance of order, but why? Many have tried to answer this question, and many appear to fall in love with the process of attempting to answer this question or resolve this issue. How do you fix the innate wrong inside of all of us? How do you fix society? Carl Jung suggests we look with in, but how do you look within? Stoics believed the best course of action was to gain control of oneself, but how do you gain control, and how do you know if you are out of control?
Something about Meditations and Marcus Aurelius resonated with me. I find it interesting Meditations was never written for publication or with the intention anyone else should read it aside from Mr. Aurelius himself. May he rest in peace. Here we are, though, with the ability to read his personal suggestions to himself in effort to be a man accountable unto himself.
We are told absolute power corrupts absolutely, and yet, Marcus Aurelius did not appear corrupt. He had the power to obtain anything he wanted whenever he wanted, as he was emperor of the perceived “world” at the time but elected to use power for good. For all intents and purposes, Marcus Aurelius was a good man, and it just so happens he wrote down the process. Lucky us! It might not be the correct way to go about living a happier life, but it does encourage one to think for himself or herself. Is it or is it not our life’s task to pursue for verifiable truth by thinking it through until one is able to live it unconsciously? Isn’t that true freedom?
In pursuit of truth, I’m going to write out a few of his meditations for you to think over for yourself while also explaining my own thoughts.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
Suffering is a part of life. It will come, and there is nothing any of us can do about it. What good does it do to avoid it? No one gets out alive, and that is our God-given right. It is one of the truest things we know as individuals, and yet we refuse to acknowledge it. It does not do any good running from it, ignoring it, or denying it will happen. It’s most definitely going to happen. What would we be capable of if we realized just how finite our existence in this life was, and given the temporary nature of all of it, would you not want to control the only thing you can? Yourself? If we are temporary, our personal pain is temporary also. It is every man and woman’s lot in life to die, but does it have to be every man and woman’s lot in life to whine about it the whole time? Accept it, and use that knowledge to create the best version of yourself while you can. What could you be if you only tried?
“That which is not good for the swarm, neither is it good for the bee.”
Society and the individual are mirrors of each other. An illness in one can only be due to illness in the other and vice versa, but there is only so much within your control. If this is true, the only logical way to repair the cracks in society is by curing oneself; fixing the proverbial log in your own eye. By that reasoning, it is good for society IF it is good for you.
“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”
There is way too much traffic on the low road, so why not take the high road? It is tempting, and I like to joke I was forged in the fires of Mount Petty. Would it not be better to compose oneself and gain control of your own mind to end that vicious cycle? Evil and malevolence is contagious, and we are all guilty of spreading it in some way. Does it have to be this way, or should we strive to dispose of the malevolence hurled at us where we stand without retaliation? Is this not also temporary?
“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”
It seems Dita Von Teese understood this deeply when she said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” You will encounter tension and confrontation many times, and you cannot run from it. You’ll have to thicken up your skin and accept the inalienable truth that you will cross and be crossed, so why does the thought of not being accepted at all times feel frightening? Should it not worry you more when you have a low opinion of yourself? Sure, it is nice to be liked, but you will be with you until the day you die. You can rarely if ever say that about anyone else on Earth. You can get married, have children, have a huge circle of friends, and be the office star, but you will spend every waking and unconscious moment with you for the next imaginable future. What would and could you need to do or say to mend the relationship to what is inside? There is nothing outside of you that will feel the holes inside of you, so I’m sorry to tell you this will be an inside job.
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
Instead of encouraging constant strive and struggle through a bogus authority to force some form of control, we should pursue truth as our universal language. That opens a whole other can of worms, because what is truth? How do you define it? How do you know if you have it? You test it.
The truth is the truth is the truth, and it withstands. It does not matter where, what time, or who. The truth is the same. Prosperity gospel always comes to mind. You notice Joel O’Steen isn’t going to Rwanda to preach prosperity through tithing to the church and earn wealth in return to better their plight, because it is a sham only the willfully ignorant and spoiled eat up. The scam does not work there.
If you’ve somehow made it to this dark recess in the internets, you’re fortunate. Oh no, you’re not fortunate to have read this rambling piece, but you obviously have an internet provider capable of providing you with enough searching capability to find this piece of trash. Don’t forget electricity. How many have neither, because I’m almost certain there are more that do not have either.
But everything you’ve read is just my opinion, and all I have is perspective. You probably shouldn’t take me seriously anyway.