My thoughts about Donald Robertson’s thoughts about Marcus Aurelius’s book (about his thoughts). (Not about “meditation” meditation at all.)
Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations was a large part of my love of stoic philosophy, but it was actually Epictetus that really got me into it and who I resonated a lot more with.
Still I can see why Marcus Aurelius is the T Rex of stoic philosophy, it’s not just because he was the emperor of Rome it’s because of his quality of thought.
When I wanted to be a writer, at first I didn’t see the point of looking beyond that. Eventually I saw that thought matters more to me, and writing is secondary. I don’t want to say a lie in a beautiful, memorable, intoxicating way, I’d like to tell the truth (which means finding it) and becoming acquainted with it, taming it, then naming it.
I wouldn’t be against saying things well, as long as they are true and worth saying.
Today I found an article regarding rhetoric (how things are worded, explained, discussed) and philosophy (the truth of ideas of the universe).
Marcus Aurelius was a student of Fronto who was a Latin rhetoric tutor, but Marcus wrote his Meditations in Greek, he also had a Greek rhetoric tutor Herodes Atticus.
When Fronto discusses Cicero, he says Cicero is “the source of Roman eloquence” being that there are very have few words that are “unexpected and unlooked for,” meaning that the words used fit the meaning very well.
Donald J Robertson further describes:
“A great orator spends time finding the perfect word, or phrase, to express his meaning. He avoids cliché where possible. Fronto stresses that he doesn’t just mean using obscure words in a pretentious manner. He means taking more care than normal to express our ideas very clearly.– Donald J Robertson
In my modern life I have noticed another blogger, Nomzamo Madide, who’s posts really seem to have so many less words per post then I do and somehow ten times the condensed thought.
Fronto stresses that philosophers need to know how to express their ideas powerfully and clearly.– Donald J Robertson
You must turn the same maxim twice or thrice, just as you have done with that little one. And so turn longer ones two or three times diligently, boldly.– Fronto
That is exactly what I’ve been doing over the past 4 years since I started contemplating and also living with the stoic quote of the day, that became my stoic quote of the week and initiation into philosophy.
The term philosophy seems so… formal and stiff and perhaps elitist. So that some people say “thinker” instead of a philosopher. But a philosopher loves truth and wisdom vs everyone thinks, but perhaps without loving to do so.
I’ve done some oil changes, but I’m not a vehicle restoration expert, there is a certain quanta where you may not be a rare genius, but you know also that you have departed from average.
So, I know I’m more than a thinker, and a natural philosopher, yet I also am still uncomfortable with the term philosopher, though not the definition, so that I would still hope to fall upon another word.
Like Pluto was once a planet, but became a planetoid, because it orbits with 2-3,000 similarly sized objects it was remove Pluto or add the others and that would be a lot… I want to find something that indicates the quest for verisimilitude, yet a bit less imposingly than philosopher.
So, I’m less of a writer and more of a philosopher, yet somewhere in between. Perhaps a student of philosophy?
But not a student for a degree or because it seems so “popular and cool,” but because it’s part of my own nature, so undertaking the quest of knowing myself leads me to the temple of philosophy.
You had, [Marcus] Antoninus, but one danger to fear, and no one of outstanding ability can escape it — that you should limp in respect of copiousness and choiceness of words. For the greater the thoughts, the more difficult it is to clothe them in words, and no small labour is needed to prevent those stately thoughts being ill-clothed or unbecomingly draped or half-naked.– Fronto
I feel like these words were also meant for me, that though I’m different obviously, there is some part of my inner citadel that very much mirrors Marcus Aurelius, he had enough to do as emperor of Rome, yet he couldn’t not work on his philosophical meditations at night. Even though sleep was perhaps needed for his survival on the battle field.
There are there parts of our souls that are so essential that we can not shut them down for convenience, for popularity, for any reason.
I remember a Pope who was very much into Islamic mathematics at a time when it was the worst thing he could be into, but he couldn’t stop working on those math problems at night…
Some scientist who wanted to measure the wobble of the Earth to see if time space was warped by gravity, and as it kept taking all their money and more and more time, they couldn’t stop.
I remember a lot of people being on trial for knowing the truth or their truth and it seemed really easy to me for them to be like “oh I guess the Earth was flat, my bad, shout out to Jesus,” or whatever they needed to say, yet now looking back on it, I don’t think everyone can.
There are some people, or some times in life where you can’t not take a stand for truth. I think we all fail to do that 100% of the time, but I think lies become too heavy of a burden to carry so that the older people get it becomes less and less tolerable to keep carrying them.
I warn you, therefore, again and again, my Marcus, and beseech you to remember, as often as you conceive in your mind a startling thought, think over it with yourself and turn and try it with various figures of speech and dress it out in splendid words. For there is a danger that what is new to the hearers and unexpected may seem ridiculous unless it be embellished and made figurative.– Fronto
Marcus didn’t do this, because he wrote for himself, so there wouldn’t need to be embellishment.
I don’t know if I would have enjoyed his writing the same way if he had. I do like beautiful writers like Maya Angelou, but I’ve always also loved simple, clear, everyday writers, like Stephen King. And it’s always seemed to me, that though I have a good knack for memorizing “fancier” words, clear words resonate more deeply with my soul.
So that I think when I go back over the past articles, 129 before I figured out who I am and 2 after, I think I will edit them for clarity, to make the ideas clear, help break up chaotic chunks and make clear unclear references, but not to “embellish” to not seem ridiculous, I don’t think that not seeming ridiculous is at all important to me.
To me life is so often ridiculous, the truth is… well Donald Trump is actually the current president of the country I live in, it really seemed ridiculous that that could even happen before it happened, I just don’t think there is a reason for me to deny some things about me are illogical or ridiculous or to try to pretend the larger world is not ridiculous as often or more than it makes sense.
I don’t see a reason to fight ridiculousness at this point in life, if anything I’m ready to embrace it as long as it sits on the side of truth, the side of being aligned with my values.
Speaking the Truth
If we didn’t know this, it would perhaps come as a surprise to find that Marcus praises Fronto, a Sophist, for teaching him how to put the truth into words.
It is that I learn from you to speak the truth. That matter (of speaking the truth) is precisely what is so hard for gods and men: in fact, there is no oracle so truth-telling as not to contain within itself something ambiguous or crooked or intricate, whereby the unwary may be caught and, interpreting the answer in the light of their own wishes, realize its fallaciousness only when the time is past and the business done. — Marcus Aurelius
Again, although it’s difficult enough to grasp the truth ourselves, if we wish to share our wisdom with others that’s even more hard work.– Donald J Robertson (Original Article)
I was at times ashamed at how hard it was for me to speak my truth, whether out loud or even in my own mind, but knowing Donald Robertson finds it to be hard, Marcus Aurelius struggled with it and worked on it and Fronto as well found it to be a difficult endeavor makes me a bit more relieved to be somewhat typical human.
One of the things I’ll never forget about my grandmother was the way she seemed to be one with her truth at every moment, she didn’t seem to falter in knowing her own mind nor saying it.
I think it’s been a trap to want to fill her shoes (though we had exactly the same sized feet, so I literally inherited her shoes).
I filled her “real shoes” but I’ll never be the person who could immediately say exactly the right thing. If I’m ever lucky enough to find the truth, it takes a while to write it, and if so I’m aware it’s not in a perfect way, such that my best is a whole different animal then her best.
I’m starting to go down my road now and without carrying regret I can’t make it down the roads belonging to others.
Philosophy is like building a miniature train track set and town, but with ideas of life and truth, mostly in your own mind.