Thursday 11 March 2010

Coffee with my Namesake

My wife was out the other evening so, instead of wasting the evening away in front of one of a number of screens that vie for my attention, I pulled out a book from the ‘Classics’ section of the bookshelf and spent some time reading. The book I chose was Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – the second century Roman emperor/philosopher. I lit a fire and made myself a coffee – an espresso con panna: the strength of an espresso with the decadence of the cream seemed somehow appropriate.

It made for a most agreeable evening. Here are a couple of quotes.

On family attributes:

From my grandfather Versus: decency and a mild temper.

From what they say and I remember of my natural father: integrity and manliness.

From my mother: piety, generosity, the avoidance of wrong-doing and even the thought of it; also simplicity of living, well clear of the habits of the rich. [Book 1:1-3]

On living in the moment:

Even if you were destined to live three thousand years, or ten times that long, nevertheless remember that no one loses any life other than the one he lives, or lives any life other than the one he loses. I follows that the longest and the shortest lives are brought to the same state. The present moment is equal for all; so what is passing is equal also; the loss therefore turns out to be the merest fragment of time. No one can lose either the past or the future – how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess? [Book 2:14]

On beauty:

We should also attend to things like these, observing that even the incidental effects of the processes of Nature have their own charm and attraction. Take the baking of bread. The loaf splits open here and there, and those very cracks, in one way a failure of the baker’s profession, somehow catch the eye and give particular stimulus to our appetite. Figs likewise burst open at full maturity: and in olives ripened on the tree the very proximity of decay lends a special beauty to the fruit…Looked at in isolation these things are far from lovely, but their consequence on the processes of Nature enhances them and gives them attraction. So any man with a feeling and deeper insight for the workings of the Whole will find some pleasure in almost every aspect of their disposition, including the incidental consequences. Such a man will take no less delight in the living snarl of wild animals that in all the imitative representations of painters and sculptors; he will see a kind of bloom and fresh beauty in an old woman or old man. Not all can share this convictions – only one who has developed a genuine affinity for Nature and her works. For him there will be many such perceptions. [Book 3:2]

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