“For idiots admire things all the more
When they find them hidden in tangled words, and set great store
In anything that tickles the ear, in phrases dyed a shade of purple.”
-Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, ca 50BC.
“… Year after circling year,
the ring upon a finger thins from the inside out with wear.
The steady drop of water causes stone to hollow and yield,
The curving iron of the ploughshare fritters in the field
By imperceptible degrees. The cobbles of the street
We see are polished smooth by now from throngs of passing feet.
And at the city gates, right hands of statues made of brass
Are worn away by touches of the greeting hands that pass.
And thus we see things dwindle by their being rubbed away-
But what is lost at any given moment we can’t say
Because our stingy sense of sight will never let us see.”
– Lucretius on Creation and Decay, speaking of matter and void, atoms and particles, and how those combined create mass and density of it. From De Rerum Natura, ca 50BC.
“… remember too that the happy life depends on very little. And do no think, just because you have given up hope of becoming a philosopher or scientist, you should therefore despair of a free spirit, integrity, social conscience, obedience to god. It is wholly possible to become a divine man, without anybody’s recognition.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.”
– The Bible, Acts, Ch 4
“One great difference in our ways is that, like the early Christians, the Indian was a Socialist. The tribe owned the ground, the rivers and the game; only personal property was owned by the individual, and even that, it was considered a shame to greatly increase. For they held that greed grew into crime, and much property made men forget the poor.
… The price of a very rich man is many poor ones, and peace of mind is worth more than railways and skyscrapers. In the Indian life there was no great wealth, so also poverty and starvation were unknown, excepting under the blight of national disaster, against which no system can insure. Without a thought of shame or mendicancy, the young, helpless and aged all were cared for by the nation that, in the days of their strength, they were taught and eager to serve.”
– Ernest Thompson Seton, The Book of Woodcraft and Indian Lore, 1912
Always follow these two rules: first, act only on what your reasoning mind proposes for the good of humanity, and second, change your opinion if someone shows you it’s wrong. This change of mind must proceed only from the conviction that it’s both correct and for the common good, but not because it will give you pleasure and make you popular.
– Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
The quote and the art by Martin Schongauer are chosen to represent ideas which revolve around a few different topics. First of all hypocritical kindness to strangers, extending it only for personal benefit. See for instance in Grimnismál where King Geirröd makes a fool of himself by treating his guest, Odin in disquise, unhospitably and badly, and as a consequence loses all of Odin’s support, falling on his own sword, literally. A similar sentiment can maybe be traced in the ultimate betrayal of mankind, not recognizing the Son of Man, neither his divinity, nor his humanity. The outcome is of course different, as the sacrifice of the latter also saves mankind, while the former story is less hopeful. Both, however, revolve around people who unknowingly treat the important and divine badly, in a way they would never have, had they realized who they faced, thus exposing the hypocrisy of it all. Divinity can hide itself under the cover of rags and filth, catching us naked in our false kindness which we only extend to our peers and those above us. True kindness is extended to everyone, expecting nothing in return, not even satisfaction.
Likewise, doing what is good and right, might not make you popular. In fact, it may well do the opposite, as it can expose hypocrisy and guilt in others, leading to anger, and it may well come in conflict with the common norm, with the ideas accepted by the majority, but other’s perception of your actions should not be a factor in your decision making. This however, does not mean you should not listen to others. You should, but always guided by your sense of what is right, while not letting your vanity or pride come in the way.
“A person’s worth is measured by the worth of what he values”
– – –
“Everything material soon disappears in the substance of the whole; and everything formal [causal] is very soon taken back into the universal reason; and the memory of everything is very soon overwhelmed in time.”
Marcus Aurelius, on the importance of valuing your spirit and soul over your body’s pleasure, and the divine in you over the ephemeral material, as it is the only thing that truly matters and is in your control.
“As Antoninus, my city and country is Rome: as a human being, it is the world”.
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations