At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: "I have to go to work–as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I am going to do what I was born for–the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?"
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5:1
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I prefer this portrait of the man. No dreamy-eyed philosopher bestowing benedictions, but the soldier he was.
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It is out here the doings are done. It is out here differences are made. It is out here, in the world, engaged in the messiness of living, of finding your way that who you are takes on flesh and moves in the world. Hiding out, believing you are superior to the moment and thus have no need to act is the way of death, of the miserable death of living as a dead man: untouched, unmoved, unengaged, huddled in blankets, mocking the fools who bother to try.
You have work to do–as a human being. When are you going to get to it?
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It does not matter what your work is, only that it is yours, only that you engage it and put in the time to become a master of it. By mastering any skill you contribute to the well-being of others known and unknown to you. Aurelius believed in the logos, the rational, cosmic order wherein each life plays its role and so sustains the logos. What have you helped sustain?
If the answer comes slowly to you or not at all, know this: you are the answer itself, you are the logos itself.
We fuck ourselves when we lose the conviction that we have something to offer, that the effort necessary to build or create or give is too great, the reward too small and so offer nothing, build nothing, create nothing and then wonder why everything sucks as badly as it does. I guarantee you that right now you have plans, you have ideas about what you would like to do, about how you want your life to be. You have the idea in hand, but you won't act on it because you fear failure, or don't see any money in it, or were told by someone it was a stupid idea, or compare yourself to others who have already mastered what you haven't begun yet and so stopped yourself from trying. Right? Tell the truth, right?
There are no shortcuts, love. You have to get out of bed, put your feet on the floor and try, and work, and fail and try again until you get a handle on it and then you have to try harder, commit deeper and give yourself over to it - completely. Once you are there your half-life ends, the struggle and doubt and insecurity and fear evaporate in the light of your life come alive. Oh, you'll still have to wrestle the angel before he blesses you, but you'll be up to it, glad of it: strong, at peace with the work and the way you have used the gift of your life.
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"Wake up and fight."
So reads number 33 on Woody Guthrie's list of New Year's Rulin's. Wake up and fight. Wake up and fight against the urge to pull the blanket up over your head. Wake up and fight the fear that freezes you in place. Wake up and fight for the truth that caroms inside you looking for a way out. Wake up and fight the easy impulse to criticize instead of risking anything yourself. Wake up and fight to be who you are: complete, no part left out. Wake up and fight for your life instead of letting it leak and ebb away.
In my head, Aurelius and Guthrie sing in harmony.
Where's your voice?
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