Thursday, 16 May 2013

Confused Men

All these things have befallen them because of their ignorance concerning what good things are and what evil things are. 
                                                                                    - Meditations, 2:1

     When we are bad, it is because our reasoning has taken a wrong turn somewhere.  We lack knowledge of what is truly a Good and what is truly an Evil.  For the Stoic, only Virtue is good and only Vice is evil.   All else is unimportant. 
     Emperor Marcus had reminded himself at daybreak that he will surely chance upon less than pleasant personalities throughout the day - meddlers, ungrateful and insolent people, the deceitful and the slanderous, and the unneighbourly (see previous post).  But he feels no rancour towards such people.  His tone is one of compassion. Their Vices "have befallen them" like a some misfortune that befalls an unsuspecting person.  Marcus will not be  - cannot be - hurt by the meddler.  Another person's Vice cannot cause Marcus to be any less virtuous.   But he understands that the meddler is hurt by his own meddling; the ungrateful by his own self-entitled ingratitude; and so on.  
     And why do these misfortunes befall people?  "Because of their ignorance concerning what good things are and what evil things are."  Poor reasoning has confused them.  It has caused them to take the evil for the good, the good for the evil, the unimportant for the important.
     Marcus bears with them like one bears with the ignorance of a child or the delirium of a feverish man.