The Meditation for May is good advice for everyone regarding being a decent human, leader and friend.
This is Book One, Number Fourteen.
The Maxwell Stanisforth translation in full:
From my brother Severus I learnt to love my relations, to love the truth, and to love justice. Through him I came to know of Thrasea, Cato, Helvidius, Dion, and Brutus, and became acquainted with the conception of a community based on equality and freedom of speech for all, and a monarchy concerned primarily to uphold the liberty of the subject. He showed me the need for a fair and dispassionate appreciation of philosophy, an addiction to good works, open-handedness, a sanguine temper, and confidence in the affection of my friends. I remember, too, his forthrightness with those who came under his censure, and his way of leaving his friends in no doubt of his likes and dislikes, but of telling them plainly.
There’s a lot going on this time out, so let’s break it down a little.
From my brother Severus I learnt to love my relations, to love the truth, and to love justice.
Severus was neither Marcus’ birth nor adoptive brother, so he must mean spiritual brother.
I’m fully in favour of loving and respecting people who’ve earned it, though, whether they’re related to you or not. I’m sure Severus was wise indeed, but not all relations deserve your time and energy.
Truth and justice—yes and yes. The truth may make you miserable, but it’s better than a happy lie. Children are placated with happy lies.
Through him I came to know of [many fun names to say, but people we don’t really need to concern ourselves with*] and became acquainted with the conception of a community based on equality and freedom of speech for all…
We’re all still on board for this, right?
…and a monarchy concerned primarily to uphold the liberty of the subject.
And we were sailing along so smoothly. Marcus was co-Emperor of Rome a couple of times and he believed in civic responsibility and doing the right thing for the people. This statement calls back to that—if a person has absolute power they should use it to ensure the well-being and freedom of the people they have power over.
Considering we can’t seem to reach that ideal with democracy I’m going to side with Marcus on this.
Fire and blood, friend. Fire and blood.
He showed me the need for a fair and dispassionate appreciation of philosophy…
Whether or not a person would like to study philosophy is up to each individual. Learning to think and examine one’s own thoughts and how other people think is highly useful, but it can also be taken to an extreme that’s unproductive.
Stoicism was revolutionary because it was the first (or one of the first, though I believe the actual first) philosophy that could be lived. Meaning, people could base their lives and conduct on the philosophy, rather than sitting around yakking about something that wasn’t going to affect their behaviour or the world around them all day.
I’m on the side of doing something productive rather than pondering infinite hypotheticals to no good end, so, while it’s interesting to learn about other philosophical schools (just as it’s interesting to learn about anything in the world), at a certain point I feel like: AND?
…an addiction to good works, open-handedness, a sanguine temper, and confidence in the affection of my friends.
Sevvy…Russ? Marcus’ brother was big on helping people out and being useful, being generous, not flipping out about everything little thing and knowing your friends had your back.
This is the only section of this piece that would apply specifically to s-types. Being of service, being generous and maintaining an even temper.
He sounds all right to me, really. The sort of person you’d enjoy spending time with who’d make you want to be a better person. I still wouldn’t name my kid after him. It’s an awkward name. (Though it was one of Marcus’ names at birth.)
I remember, too, his forthrightness with those who came under his censure, and his way of leaving his friends in no doubt of his likes and dislikes, but of telling them plainly.
Severus was also a straightforward person. The stoics valued straightforwardness in general and this guy had it in spades. If he rebuked you he told you exactly why and if you were friends you knew where he stood on all things. He was confident in his opinions and shared them easily.
*I say we don’t need to concern ourselves with the people Marcus mentions, because Meditations was written for himself—it was called To Myself—and wasn’t intended for public consumption. When he included names, it would have been to remind himself of connections between people like a diary—an audience wouldn’t be expected to know who those mentioned were.
Also, many of these people have been lost to antiquity and we wouldn’t know who they were anyway. (Not that I wouldn’t love a deluxe edition of this book with links to everyone they could find information on.)
For more information on this series, please see this post.