To my soul:
Are you ever going to achieve goodness? Ever going to be simple, whole and naked–as plain to see as the body that contains you? Know what an affectionate and loving disposition would feel like? Ever be fulfilled, ever stop desiring–lusting and longing for people and things to enjoy? Or more time to enjoy them? Or for some other place or country–"a more temperate clime"? Or for people easier to get along with? And instead be satisfied with what you have, and accept the present–all of it. And convince yourself that everything is the gifts of the gods, that things are good and always will be, whatever they decide and have in store for the preservation of that perfect entity–good and just and beautiful, creating all things, connecting and embracing them and gathering in their separated fragments to create more like them.
Will you ever take your stand as a fellow citizen with gods and human beings, blaming no one, deserving no one's censure?
- M. Aurelius, Meditations 10:1
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I find that as I age I turn again and again and again and again to Aurelius the way some turn to their Bibles, their Torahs, their Korans, but unlike the religious I don't find, and am not seeking, comfort; instead I find the markings of a single, solitary man wrestling with the facts of his life and trying to transform those facts into a life lived completely. It has none of the easy proscriptions of religious truth (believe! have faith! follow the law!), but rejects such truths for a harder questions: how am I to live pulled by tides of desire, anger, frustration and their opposites–acceptance, peace and letting go. The fact that the document he left behind was never intended for anyone's eyes but his own and is a single voice–alive, aware of its our contradictions, ever leaning forward to get it right in his mind–is what makes it so relevant to me, makes it speak to me as the voice of Ecclesiates speaks to me, the voice of Viktor Frankl, the voice of one crying in the wilderness speaks to me. My brothers, my fathers, me. When Aurelius asks, Will you ever take your stand as a fellow citizen with gods and human beings, blaming no one, deserving no one's censure? I want to kill him; I want to thank him for saying it plainly; I want to answer him: yes, that is what I am trying to do right here, right now, with each word.
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My friend, his questions are your questions, are they not? Questions of wondering when it will be good, simple, whole. Questions of the effort to convince yourself to let go, to make your stand. Thou, we fucked, are not original. We are simply this iteration of ancient mysteries of consciousness, conscience and what the fuck are we supposed to do with it all.
Here is my answer: we are to gather our separated fragments and create.
Aurelius' words were his description of what the gods do with our lives, the impulse and drive of life to create more life framed in a story about it all making sense as being part of a perfect entity - the logos. I hope he's right, but I won't know until I die. In the meantime let me use what is separated in me, broken in me, incomplete in me–my contradictions, my weaknesses, my failings–and use them to create something that had not existed before I put my hand to it: a story, a work, a life spent doing such things.
It is time to do such work. It always has been. It always will be. What is your work? What have you postponed because it was hard, or you felt inferior to the task of building it? What life are you not living?
There will never be enough money.
There will never be enough time.
There will never be kinder people.
There will never be a better place.
There will never be a moment more perfect than this one.
Listen, listen to the lion. Listen to the voice inside you begging you to get on with it. Listen, you know all this already. Listen and you will remember and once you do you will not be afraid to live–regardless of your trials. You are on your own here. But keep this in mind, while you must find your own way, men and women who have struggled as you and I struggle, kept records of their struggle. Search them out, not for the answers they came up with, but for the good company of a soul on fire with the desire to live while it could. The fact this is a timed test must not dissuade you from venturing the risk. You'll be dead either way, but this way you'll have done something very few have ever managed: using it up before you lay it down.
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Boom, my brothers and sisters. Boom.