No more roundabout discussion of what makes a good man. Be one!
Always make a definition or sketch of what presents itself to your mind, so you can see it stripped bare to its essential nature and identify it clearly, in whole and in all its parts, and can tell yourself its proper name and the name of those elements of which it is compounded and into which it will be dissolved.
For if he shall begin to fall into dotage, perspiration and nutrition and imagination and appetite, and whatever else there is of the kind, will not fail; but the power of making use of ourselves, and filling up the measure of our duty, and clearly separating all appearances, and considering whether a man should now depart from life, and whatever else of the kind absolutely requires a disciplined reason, all this is already extinguished. We must make haste then, not only because we are daily nearer to death, but also because the conception of things and the understanding of them cease first.
…a Greek word with several translations into English including a reminder, a note, a public record, a commentary, a draft, a copy, and other variations on those terms.
The context was Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, but it sounds like a good description of Tumblr, Twitter, and a number of wonderful things on the internet. I first came across hypomnemata (sleep + thread…) in The Present Alone is Our Happiness (recommended in Ryan Holiday’s super awesome reading list email archive).
Reading the Wikipedia entry, it made me realize what I often (mostly?) use this Tumblr for: to make notes to myself, shaping and re-shaping my perspective. Many of my favorite posts (tagged, e.g., work, opinions, empathy, arguments, happiness, death, travel, thinking, philosophy, stoicism, psychology) function as a sort of admonishment that I really do re-read every now and then. It’s an attempt to refresh and re-calibrate, internalize. This journaling/commonplacing thing isn’t new, but there’s something satisfying about knowing that one strand of the tradition goes back to an old Greek word. See also commentarii, commonplace, memoranda.
Corresponding to the umpire-as-instrument idea is External Realism. According to External Realism, there are umpiring-independent facts of the game — balls are really fair or foul, runners are either safe or out — and the questions we face are merely epistemological, how best to determine the facts, how to find out.
Corresponding to the umpire-as-player idea is Internal Anti-Realism. According to Internal Anti-Realism, umpires don’t call them as they see them; umpires, through their calls, make it the case that a pitch is a strike or a ball, a runner safe or out. There are no umpire-independent facts in baseball.
The latest in my journey through stoicism. Last night while reading this I realized I was reading ideas from 2000 years ago on an iPad. Mind blown.
Bear and endure. Have you not received faculties by which you will be able to bear all that happens? Have you not received greatness of soul? Have you not received manliness? Have you not received endurance? And why do I trouble myself about anything that can happen if I possess greatness of soul? What shall distract my mind or disturb me, or appear painful? Shall I not use the power for the purposes for which I received it, and shall I grieve and lament over what happens?
“Yes, but my nose runs.”
We must be indulgent to the mind, and from time to time must grant it the leisure that serves as its food and strength.
As predicted, I’ve been on a stoicism bender. This was a good one to dive into early, as my recent Heraclitus and Seneca might have tipped you off. This bit on friendship was one of my favorite parts:
Nothing, however, gives the mind so much pleasure as fond and faithful friendship. What a blessing it is to have those to whose waiting hearts every secret may be committed with safety, whose knowledge of you you fear less than your knowledge of yourself, whose conversation soothes your anxiety, whose opinion assists your decision, whose cheerfulness scatters your sorrow, the very sight of whom gives you joy! We shall of course choose those who are free, as far as may be, from selfish desires; for vices spread unnoticed, and quickly pass to those nearest and do harm by their contact.
It is hard to contend against passion, for whatever it craves it buys with its life.
We cannot bear toil or pleasure or ourselves or anything very long.
It is weariness upon the same things to labor and by them to be controlled. In change is rest.
Whatever moral rules you have deliberately proposed to yourself, abide by them as they were laws, and as if you would be guilty of impiety by violating any of them. Don’t regard what anyone says of you, for this, after all, is no concern of yours. How long, then, will you put off thinking yourself worthy of the highest improvements and follow the distinctions of reason? You have received the philosophical theorems, with which you ought to be familiar, and you have been familiar with them. What other master, then, do you wait for, to throw upon that the delay of reforming yourself?