When the very best students learn of way-making (dao)
They are just barely able to keep to its center.
When mediocre students learn of way-making
They are sporadically on it and off it.
When the very worst students learn of way-making
They guffaw at the very idea.
-From Chapter 41, trans. Ames & Hall.
“Remember that to change course or accept correction leaves you just as free as you were. The action is your own, driven by your own impulse and judgement, indeed your own intelligence.”-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.16 (trans. Hammond)
(It’s helpful to remember that the emperor Marcus Aurelius, when he wrote his “Meditations,” was writing to himself as a form of (Stoic) philosophical exercise, and never intended these to published or read by others. In fact the title that comes with the manuscript is not “Meditations,” but “To Himself.”)
One must not apply oneself to resolving “difficulties” at the stage when the situation has become difficult. Rather, we are shown, one anticipates the predictable arrival of this stage and pays close attention to things while they are still easy to manage.
Neither should one desire immediately to realize any “great projects”; instead, always begin at the incipient stage of things, which, as such, constitutes a promise of development.
-Francois Jullien channeling some Daoist wisdom, above all from the Laozi (the Daodejing) in his book In Praise of Blandness: Proceeding from Chinese Thought and Aesthetics, as translated by Paula Varsano (page 43).
A recent post by Bogdan is what put me in mind of that particular passage.
“For happiness is at once the thing most beautiful, best, and most pleasant.”
The above quotation from Aristotle, which as of writing this is displayed on this site’s Home page, has always struck me. It’s one of those things you hear that immediately sticks in your mind, and periodically resurfaces from memory, unbidden, as you go about life.
It’s also a passage that many of us never encounter, even if we study or otherwise learn about Aristotle’s account of ethics, because it’s from his book Eudemian Ethics, which seems only rarely to be read.
In any case, the statement speaks somehow to the importance of philosophical methods, ideas, and ways of living. These are, after all, aimed at happiness, or at least they were during the ancient period, as well as today in philosophical consultation and counseling.
“Constantly test your mental impressions – each one individually, if you can: investigate the cause, identify the emotion, apply the analysis of logic.”-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.13 (trans. Hammond)
It’s helpful to remember that the emperor Marcus Aurelius, when he wrote his “Meditations,” was writing to himself as a form of (Stoic) philosophical exercise, and never intended these to published or read by others. In fact the title that comes with the manuscript is not “Meditations,” but “To Himself.”