‘Marcus Aurelius distributing bread to the People’ 1765, by Joseph-Marie Vien, in Musée de Picardie, Amiens.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is an excerpt from Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus’ ‘Thoughts’ (Meditations), chapter V, paragraph 8 to 9 included. English translation from the original Greek by Christopher Gill, Oxford University Press, 2013.
V-8. (1) Just as people say, ‘Asclepius prescribed for someone horse- riding or cold baths or walking barefoot’, so we could say this: ‘The nature of the whole has prescribed for him sickness or disability or loss or something else of that kind.’ (2) In the first case, ‘prescribed’ means something like ‘ordered this for him as appropriate for his health’, and in the second too what happens to each person has been ordered as being in some sense appropriate for his destiny. (3) When we say that these happenings ‘fit’ us, we are talking like builders when they say that squared blocks ‘fit’ in walls or pyramids, because they join up with each other in a particular structured arrangement. (4) In general, there is one harmony; and just as all bodies combine to make up one body, the universe, so all causes combine to make up the one cause that is fate. (5) Even completely un- philosophical people understand what I mean; they say, ‘that was sent to him’; (6) what was sent to him was also prescribed for him. (7) So we should accept these things just as we accept what Asclepius prescribes. (8) Many of these too are harsh, but we welcome them, in the hope of health.
(9) You should regard the realization and fulfilment of what seems good to nature as a whole in the same way as you view your own health, (10) and so welcome everything that happens, even if it seems rather cruel, because it leads in that direction, towards the health of the universe and the wellbeing and success of Zeus. (11) He would not have sent this to anyone, if it did not benefit the whole, any more than any nature you can mention sends anything which is not appropriate for what is governed by that nature. (12) So there are two reasons why you should accept what happens to you: one is that it occurred to you, and was prescribed for you, and stands in a special relation to you, as a thread of destiny spun from the first from the most ancient of causes. Another is that what comes to each of us individually is a cause of the well- being and perfection and, by Zeus, the very continuation of that which governs the whole. (13) Just as the completeness of the whole is mutilated, if you cut off even a fraction of the connection and the continuity of its parts, so too for its causes. And you do cut it off, as far as you can, when you are discontented and in a certain sense you destroy it.
V-9. (1) Don’t be disgusted, or give up, or be impatient if acting according to right principles in all you do is not completely consolidated. After a fall, come back again and be glad if most of your actions are more worthy of a human being. Love what you go back to; and do not go back to philosophy like a schoolboy to his teacher, but as someone with sore eyes turns to the sponge and eye- cup, another to the bandages or lotion. (2) In that way, you won’t make a show of obeying reason but will fi nd it a source of relief. (3) Remember too that philosophy wants only what your nature wants, whereas you wanted something else, not in line with nature. (4) What could be more attractive than this? Does not pleasure trip us up by its attractiveness? But see if it is more attractive than generosity of spirit, freedom, simplicity, kindness, holiness. What is more attractive than wisdom itself—when you consider how secure and how smoothly flowing in all situations is understanding and knowledge.
Μάρκος Αυρήλιος-Τα εις εαυτόν/V-8,9
8.Ὁποῖόν τί ἐστι τὸ λεγόμενον, ὅτι˙ συνέταξεν ὁ Ἀσκληπιὸς τούτῳ ἱππασίαν ἢ ψυχρολουσίαν ἢ ἀνυποδησίαν, τοιοῦτόν ἐστι καὶ τό˙ συνέταξε τούτῳ ἡ τῶν ὅλων φύσις νόσον ἢ πήρωσιν ἢ ἀποβολὴν ἢ ἄλλο τι τῶν τοιούτων. καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖ τὸ συνέταξε τοιοῦτόν τι σημαίνει˙ ἔταξε τούτῳ τοῦτο ὡς κατάλληλον εἰς ὑγίειαν, καὶ ἐνταῦθα τὸ συμβαῖνον ἑκάστῳ τέτακταί πως αὐτῷ ‹ὡς› κατάλληλον εἰς τὴν εἱμαρμένην. οὕτως γὰρ καὶ συμβαίνειν αὐτὰ ἡμῖν λέγομεν ὡς καὶ τοὺς τετραγώνους λίθους ἐν τοῖς τείχεσιν ἢ ἐν ταῖς πυραμίσι συμβαίνειν οἱ τεχνῖται λέγουσι, συναρμόζοντας ἀλλήλοις τῇ ποιᾷ συνθέσει. ὅλως γὰρ ἁρμονία ἐστὶ μία καὶ ὥσπερ ἐκ πάντων τῶν σωμάτων ὁ κόσμος τοιοῦτον σῶμα συμπληροῦται, οὕτως ἐκ πάντων τῶν αἰτίων ἡ εἱμαρμένη τοιαύτη αἰτία συμπληροῦται. νοοῦσι δὲ ὃ λέγω καὶ οἱ τέλεον ἰδιῶται˙ φασὶ γάρ˙ “τοῦτο ἔφερεν αὐτ”. οὐκοῦν τοῦτο τούτῳ ἐφέρετο καὶ τοῦτο τούτῳ συνετάττετο˙ δεχώμεθα οὖν αὐτὰ ὡς ἐκεῖνα ‹ἃ› ὁ Ἀσκληπιὸς συντάττει. πολλὰ γοῦν καὶ ἐν ἐκείνοις ἐστὶ τραχέα, ἀλλὰ ἀσπαζόμεθα τῇ ἐλπίδι τῆς ὑγιείας. τοιοῦτόν τί σοι δοκείτω ἄνυσις καὶ συντέλεια τῶν τῇ κοινῇ φύσει δοκούντων, οἷον ἡ σὴ ὑγίεια, καὶ οὕτως ἀσπάζου πᾶν τὸ γινόμενον, κἂν ἀπηνέστερον δοκῇ, διὰ τὸ ἐκεῖσε ἄγειν, ἐπὶ τὴν τοῦ κόσμου ὑγίειαν καὶ τὴν τοῦ Διὸς εὐοδίαν καὶ εὐπραγίαν. οὐ γὰρ ἂν τοῦτό τινι ἔφερεν, εἰ μὴ τῷ ὅλῳ συνέφερεν˙ οὐδὲ γὰρ ἡ τυχοῦσα φύσις φέρει τι, ὃ μὴ τῷ διοικουμένῳ ὑπ αὐτῆς κατάλληλόν ἐστιν. οὐκοῦν κατὰ δύο λόγους στέργειν χρὴ τὸ συμβαῖνόν σοι˙ καθ ἕνα μέν, ὅτι σοὶ ἐγίνετο καὶ σοὶ συνετάττετο καὶ πρὸς σέ πως εἶχεν, ἄνωθεν ἐκ τῶν πρεσβυτάτων αἰτίων συγκλωθόμενον˙ καθ ἕτερον δέ, ὅτι τῷ τὸ ὅλον διοικοῦντι τῆς εὐοδίας καὶ τῆς συντελείας καὶ νὴ Δία τῆς συμμονῆς αὐτῆς καὶ τὸ ἰδίᾳ εἰς ἕκαστον ἧκον αἴτιόν ἐστι. πηροῦται γὰρ τὸ ὁλόκληρον, ἐὰν καὶ ὁτιοῦν διακόψῃ ς τῆς συναφείας καὶ συνεχείας ὥσπερ τῶν μορίων, οὕτω δὴ καὶ τῶν αἰτίων˙ διακόπτεις δέ, ὅσον ἐπὶ σοί, ὅταν δυσαρεστῇς, καὶ τρόπον τινὰ ἀναιρεῖς.
9.Μὴ σικχαίνειν μηδὲ ἀπαυδᾶν μηδὲ ἀποδυσπετεῖν, εἰ μὴ καταπυκνοῦταί σοι τὸ ἀπὸ δογμάτων ὀρθῶν ἕκαστα πράσσειν, ἀλλὰ ἐκκρουσθέντα πάλιν ἐπανιέναι καὶ ἀσμενίζειν, εἰ ‹σοὶ› τὰ πλείω ἀνθρωπικώτερα, καὶ φιλεῖν τοῦτο, ἐφ ὃ ἐπανέρχῃ, καὶ μὴ ὡς πρὸς παιδαγωγὸν τὴν φιλοσοφίαν ἐπανιέναι, ἀλλ ὡς οἱ ὀφθαλμιῶντες πρὸς τὸ σπογγάριον καὶ τὸ ᾠόν, ὡς ἄλλος πρὸς κατάπλασμα, ὡς πρὸς καταιόνησιν. οὕτως γὰρ οὐδὲν ἐπιδείξῃ τὸ πειθαρχεῖν τῷ λόγῳ, ἀλλὰ προσαναπαύσῃ αὐτῷ. μέμνησο δὲ ὅτι φιλοσοφία μόνα, ἃ θέλει ἡ φύσις σου, θέλει˙ σὺ δὲ ἄλλο ἤθελες οὐ κατὰ φύσιν. τί γὰρ τούτων προσηνέστερον; ἡ γὰρ ἡδονὴ οὐχὶ διὰ τοῦτο σφάλλει; ἀλλὰ θέασαι, εἰ προσηνέστερον μεγαλοψυχία, ἐλευθερία, ἁπλότης, εὐγνωμοσύνη, ὁσιότης. αὐτῆς γὰρ φρονήσεως τί προσηνέστερον, ὅταν τὸ ἄπταιστον καὶ εὔρουν ἐν πᾶσι τῆς παρακολουθητικῆς καὶ ἐπιστημονικῆς δυνάμεως ἐνθυμηθῇς;
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