Showing posts with label Advice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Advice. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Advice to Myself: What Twitter is Not


Twitter is not a tool to gain the favor of people by praising them or their work. Nor is it a place for you to maneuver your own work to their attention. Your blog likewise ought to be inhospitable to such flattery.

Such use will reduce the purpose of everything you write to gaining popularity, either for fame itself or for money, and all the more often will you turn away from your life and toward these online places for satisfaction.

Look to what foolishness even solid minds and good men have been reduced! Picking fights with strangers, spending hours crafting insults, arguing with no hope of resolution, betraying their life's privacy. . . if only they could see what the vain hope of popularity has taken from them, or perhaps the void which such pursuit has filled.

So what is Twitter and your blog to you? A place to reflect wisely on what matters most to you. Let not reflecting on life—a very good and necessary thing—become all of life, and let not the business of sharing those reflections overshadow them.

Even the philosopher, if you are such a thing, is not only a philosopher.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Advice to Myself: Splinters


One of the most necessary lessons of moral philosophy is contained in this question: why do you see the straw in the eye of your brother and not in your own? It is, however, a great and ongoing challenge to apply this lesson wisdom.

On the one hand, it is very easy to pardon the errors of another when they are the same as yours. This is so first because such errors are obvious to us and second because by forgiving others we hope to welcome our own absolution. Yet it is no less important, and much more difficult, to forgive a man for falling into those errors from which you have yourself steered clear. It is easy to look at a man overcome by lust or gluttony and say, "What a weak-willed fool!" simply because you have overcome such weaknesses, if you were even tempted by them.

Yet what about your inability to curb your tongue or your temper? Or to treat others generously or be patient? "What a weak-willed fool!" you should be called for those struggles of yours if you fail to see that each man struggles with a different part of life.

On the other hand, it is easy from this position to fall to the facile conclusion that no judgments are possible. Given the gravity of man's life, it would be desirable if we could abdicate judgment and permanently defer to a higher authority. For man's soul we can do this, for it will be judged by a perfect wisdom.

We do not, however, have recourse to that perfect wisdom regarding every matter on this earth, and to defer all judgments would lead to utter immorality and disorder. The affairs of this world require choices, so instead of refusing to judge, undertake the responsibility of judging wisely, that is to say, with clemency, impartiality, and the humility to realize that even the wise and good do not sit so high above others that they may not err in judgment, especially if they judge without the aforementioned virtues or if they judge without full knowledge of the facts.

Both of those situations are quite likely, too, so also be not so eager to throw down the fates of others, but judge to bring about the good. That is, neither judge nor spare judgment to flatter your sense or superiority, but do each in the service of some other good.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Advice to Myself: Spare Yourself


Spare yourself concern for the comings and goings of inferiors. To follow them and resent their unwise but carefree wanderings is a dark path. So is resenting them the praise that other fools lavish upon them. What do you want with the praise of fools? Spare yourself this madness.

Yet driven as we all are by desire for praise, seek neither to court the favor of great men. You will grow to resent a life you do not understand and which is complete without you.

Instead, seek out those who are good and alike to you in virtue. In them, or in that one, you will have nothing sweeter. Wherever you turn, it will be present for you. So supported you will raise each other's spirits.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Advice to Myself: Eager Martyrs


When choosing a course of action, do not choose a path simply because it forces you to relinquish something significant: this purpose flatters your vanity. You will probably become resentful because in your eagerness to sacrifice you overestimate what your sacrifice means to others.

Sometimes we act to prove we are martyrs regardless of what good is actually accomplished. Choose your path in accordance with reason, aiming at virtue, and for virtue risk what you judge to be beneath its value.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Advice to Myself: Don't Lash Out


Wise men urge us to know ourselves, and this is certainly true. They too give many fine reasons why, but here is one in particular you should heed: know the cause of your negative emotions--anger, enmity, fear, shame, indignation--and take great care to direct your attempts at resolution toward the just and proper ends. It is of course wise to know the cause of all of our emotions, but the negative ones--excepting enmity--flare up without warning and easily hurt the innocent.

Before you know the cause you will be tempted to lash out at the wrong people or remedy the wrong situation. In fact, you will often be tempted to lash out at something very good in blind reaction to that which has disappointed you but which you have yet to identify.

After you identify the cause, you will be tempted again. On the one hand, you may be tempted to act rashly. On the other hand, you may wish to avoid confronting an unpleasant truth. (In reacting deficiently, sometimes we concoct mealy excuses that we an others scarcely even believe, but sometimes we are too clever for ourselves and create elaborate rationalizations.) Both of these extreme reactions show that you do not have one or more of your priories arranged clearly enough.

If what is troubling you is important, you may need to pursue its solution with vigor, perhaps even risking other goods, whose value you also need to know in order to risk them. If what troubles you is not important, then you recognize it as inferior to other goods, which outweigh your trouble such that you may endure it.

The small man has little and is angry at many because, insecure, he is easily reminded of his smallness and thus is easily threatened. The magnanimous man, however, not only expresses anger sparingly, but rather is beneficent, so wisely and harmoniously has he arranged his soul, and his soul with his actions.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Advice to Myself: On Challenges


Some men seek out challenges because they expect to grow stronger, wealthier, or wiser by the doing. This is necessary and good if done with prudence, but do not, even if you have the wisdom to gain from failure, meet so many challenges that you exhaust your mind and body. He who undertakes too much grows weary and worn in body by excessive exercise and his mind grows febrile because of care and constant change. He is bloodied by his relentless pursuit of progress.

Other men refuse all challenges in the vain hope of protecting their life as it is. This man may wisely avoid ill-considered progress, but his inertia withers him until at last the most basic functions of life are tortuous routines. He is reddened not with blood, but rust.

Just as a tree protected indoors without breezes will never grow to full health or will grow and topple, and just as it needs wind to press its trunk and compel it to grow the new wood that with strengthen it, so man needs adversity to spur his maturation. Yet as a great wind will topple a tree, too much strain will topple a man.

Unlike a tree, though, man is not stuck in place, fated to suffer and endure whatever chance weather blows at him, rather by his prudence and intelligence he may seek some challenges and avoid others. His fate is to choose his challenge: good from good, good from bad, bad from bad.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Advice to Myself: Know Your Role


We are inclined to glorify our circumstances when we fancy them the products of our own design–usually this is when life goes well–and likewise demonize them when we feel weak. Therefore first distinguish your role in arriving at present circumstances from other causes such as fortune and the influence of others. Give no cause more or less credit than it is due.

Advice to Myself: Plants and Habits


Like the plant that from a seed grows, so do our habits. Tend them so they provide shade and beauty for your character. Some plants, though, outgrow their pots, and so some habits overtake the man.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Advice to Myself: On Seizing Days


Some time ago I began to write down, like the venerable Marcus Aurelius, exhortations to myself in the hopes of urging myself toward the good. These writings were not intended for publication because I hoped that by abandoning scrupulous reference and explication I might distill a variety of learning into simple, practical wisdom I could regularly revisit and follow.

I have decided to post them here, with the additional caveat that they were conceived in Latin, so please pardon the fact that they feel somewhat stiff and translated. I make no pretense of originalityyou will find many familiar thoughts throughoutbut only claim an often desperate desire to correct what often seems to be the incorrigible, that is, myself.


Fix the tempo of the day by your design and do not let it be set by the mood in which you wake up. Contend with the variations and challenges of the day to make your mark. That said, some days are unlucky and go against you: do not fight such days and attempt to impress your designs on the wind and water crashing about you. Get out with your skin intact!

Most days are an admixture: seize a morning, afternoon, or evening, but do not demand all three.