meditations – the merits of others / be the bee

It’s been a while since I did a Meditations post. You could be forgiven for thinking that I’d forgotten or finished with them (you could also be forgiven for forgetting about them altogether). But, no, the book still sits prominently on my desk, and I still flip through it from time to time. Various passages also flit around my mind every so often, and I try to remind myself of the things that I learnt from these writings of Marcus Aurelius.

At this present time – somewhere between Thanksgiving (although we do not celebrate that here in Australia, but I saw plenty of Thanksgiving posts from other bloggers) and Christmas – that sort of time when people are indulging in and generously giving warm, fuzzy feelings, I suppose it would be unsurprising for my mind to lean toward this particular passage:

Whenever you want to cheer yourself, think of the qualities of your fellows – the energy of one, for example, the decency of another, the generosity of a third, some other merit in a fourth. There is nothing so cheering as the stamp of virtues manifest in the character of colleagues
– Meditations, Chapter 48, Book 6

It’s kind of like the concept of those “good news” stories that pop up on social media, etc – heartening stories that try to restore your faith in humanity when most of what you see on TV and the internet is “bad news”.

But this is one of those passages that has been flitting in and out of my mind since I first read Meditations – I just haven’t gotten around to writing a post for it until now, and now it suddenly seems rather pertinent. I suppose the hard part, though, is knowing where to begin.

I can talk about work, I guess, because that’s generally quite easy. I work with such wonderful, lovely people. In all my time working where I do, I’ve never felt so motivated and driven than when I feel such warmth for those I work with, or when I am inspired by them. And if it’s ever hard to get out of bed on a Monday morning (or any other morning for that matter), I only need to think of those who I will work with that day, and it is enough to “cheer” myself, and get me moving. Sometimes it even puts a bit of a spring in my step.

And sometimes it’s not just the people I currently work with, but those who I have worked with in the past. I think of them, and I suppose I am motivated by some desire to “do them proud”; or else I remind myself of the good they inspired in me before, and which therefore probably still exists somewhere in me.

I think also of my friends and family in relation to that passage. I think of how kind-hearted and generous they are, and of how I should try to be like that too. I think often, although quietly, of how lucky I am to have these people in my life.

My blogging network, too, is a constant source of inspiration: people who write thoughtful and thought-provoking posts, those who share their stories and experiences, and those who write light-hearted and cheerful posts. (I’m sure I’ve written plenty about how uplifting it is to be part of this blogging community, I won’t even bother finding links.)

And then there are those that are of no significant relation, those that I do not interact with to any great extent: perhaps the friendly check-out person at the supermarket who asks how my day is and actually pays attention to the answer; the cheerful bus drivers who greet their passengers, and with a smile no less; or the man I happened to pass on the street who was sweeping up a box of screws and bolts that had fallen on the road from the back of a passing ute (he lived nearby, and had heard the box spill out, so figured he should sweep it up to prevent a whole lot of punctured tyres).

So there is a lot of good in the world, and there’s a lot that can pull me out of a dreary or mopey mood, but thinking of all this tends to lead me to another of Marcus Aurelius’ meditations:

So you ought to be one of those who, in a sense, are unconscious of the good they do
– Meditations, Chapter 6, Book 5

To explain this, he writes about a vine that bears grapes without seeking or expecting anything for them, but continues to produce grapes season after season. And so, he asserts that we should do good for the sake of doing good, and not for the gratitude of others, for recognition, or even for our own gratification or fulfilment.

Be like the vine that produces grapes, or the bee that makes honey. Be that person who others can look to when they need to cheer themselves up.

5 thoughts on “meditations – the merits of others / be the bee

  1. You have a better attitude about people than I do… What bothers me is how surprised I am when someone does something good. It’s become unexpected and I am so grateful when it occurs. I’m afraid that one bad action by somebody seems to trump five good ones by other people – at least in terms of how the “bad” stuff affects me.

    Your feelings about your coworkers are great! I bet they feel the same about you too.

    The idea of doing good – and not even being conscious of it – is truly something to aspire to. The closest I’ve come lately is not *telling* anybody about something good I’ve done. It’s weird not to tell! Also, I’m trying to keep my eyes open for chances to do good things and be ready to act.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post.

    • To be perfectly honest, there are times I reckon I hold grudges a lot longer than most people would. Good and bad all imprint on my mind quite deeply. I think reading all this philosophy has helped though. These posts are as much reminders for myself as for sharing with others.

      And I understand what you mean about not telling anyone about the good you do. On one hand, I think people should know about good things that other people have done so that we spread positivity and inspiration etc; but, on the other hand, the point of doing something good is the act itself, and not the flow-on effect… Maybe it’s a bit like “actions speak louder than words” / “lead by example” (?)

      • Oh, I tell somebody most good things I do; the doing-good-and-not-drawing-attention-to-myself is a recent experiment. Your point is entirely sound though; when we tell people they get ideas of their own – I like that!

        There’s some quote (I think) that II’m about to butcher, that says we write about the things we need to know/learn. I am glad you are reading those Meditations and writing about them – I can go along for the ride.

  2. Pingback: one twelfth | pistachio conspiracy #63

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