Last week I read the very first sentence of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and it knocked me on my ass!
“From my grandfather Verus, I learned good morals and the government of my temper.”
WOW. I’ve been looking forward to reading this work, but had no idea I would be conked in the head on sentence number ONE!
Let’s unpack and go a step further, as we usually do here at www.weirdforgood.com.
What is the Emperor of Rome saying with the very first line of his slender book written waaay back around 170 AD? I think he’s choosing to write about his most valuable virtues first. And today, how do we relate to these two ancient ideas?
“good morals” is absolutely a hot topic in today’s world. Where do they come from? Who decides what is right and wrong? Are morals strictly written in stone or do they change with the times? Do we get to decide individually what we consider good morals? These questions are important, but a little bigger than I want to get into here…
However! On the next virtue that Richard Harris’ character, in the movie Gladiator, Mr. Aurelius, is talking about: “government of my temper”… I will dive into much further.
I can guarantee you that one thing in my life, that I really wish I would have been able to govern at times would be my fiery temper!
It’s true. And anyone who really knows me is shaking their head right now!
Actually as I first read this line, I didn’t focus so much on the word temper, but on the word government.
How often in today’s world do we hear that a main virtue to be valued is when someone governs an emotion? Aren’t we all supposed to feel what we feel and act on what our “heart” is telling us? Or is the emotion coming from somewhere else? Like maybe our gut?
I guess the word temper usually equates to anger, but “temperament” actually could be expanded. Here is a list of nine temperaments found in children by Thomas and Chess
- Regularity (rhythmicity)
- Initial reaction
- Persistence and attention span
Wow, think if as kids, we had all learned to “govern” our temperament in all its forms.
I take “govern” to mean that we have the power and control over these parts of ourselves at all times. Would this be the most powerful tool we could ever possess?
I am beginning to think so.
I don’t care if we are going to talk about real issues like money or relationships or career pursuit or family or even our spiritual walk, the “government of our temperament” would take us further than riding the waves of our gut emotions every time they fire up.
Okay, maybe you are one of “those” people who don’t experience things like anger, rage, fear, depression, sadness, jealousy, loneliness, or disappointment. Well in that case, I’m sorry. Cause really it takes someone who can “feel” to also experience radical joy, elation, hopefulness, hilarity, passion, and all the thrilling fulfilling highs of life!
Point here is: on some level we all have emotions; sometimes helpful, sometimes not. But Every Time I can think of, I would rather have control over whether or not I let myself escalate up or slide down the range of feelings in the present moment.
So many times in our world today, we see the encouragement, admiration or at least attention on people who live and act upon their reactions. We see the celebrities on TMZ getting the most video play when they go berserk expressing extreme behavior and/or have overindulged.
Actually folks, that is the real issue I’m getting to here. When we want something really badly, we usually feel it waaay down in our gut. It may be junk food; sure, but it could also be an spendy item we think we haaave to have. It could be a feeling of wanting someone else to feel hurt because we feel they hurt us. I personally relate to wanting alcohol or cigarettes to have a good time.
None of these things are born in the right mind. None of these are born among our learned or decided upon “good morals”. I think our heart knows too and yet, I go with the gut.
Hmmmm, we’ve been touching on some pretty deep subjects lately and it’s only going further from here.
Guys and Gals, I am now embarking on some new waves of thought concerning the “government of my temperaments”. In my mind, it means that I have a rational mind apart from my gut reactions. It means my heart is wise and will lead me down the paths toward good if I let it speak to me.
It means I want to learn to righteously govern myself. Then I could pass a bill that can create an internal emotional movement toward service or purposefulness. I could also learn how to veto a nonproductive, victim-based feeling that will only lead to negative outcomes like anger, hurt or misunderstanding in me or someone else.
I like Marcus’s Grandpa Verus. He’s teaching me some awesome new lessons this very day. I’m sure that my family who raised me will say that they did attempt to instill these things in me already, and they may have, to a point. Hell, I may be one really jacked up dude without their love and support!!
Truth is, just like the real title to this book “thoughts/writings addressed to himself”, (according to Wikipedia) we have to stand up as adults and decide it’s time to take control of the one and only thing in this world that we are capable of affecting.
Our own attitude.
This alone is my job today. I can do nothing to change the world around me, until I learn to intentionally change the world inside me.
I’m starting now, and I’ll let you know how it goes…. One more thing that people who grew up with me know… I’m not perfect. And that, I do not expect to ever change. I will however do something to make a difference in the one thing I can. Myself.
Thanks, With Sincere Love and Gratitude to everyone reading these words.