“Everything exists for some end, a horse, a vine. Why do you wonder? Even the sun will say, I am for some purpose, and the rest of the gods will say the same. For what purpose then are you? To enjoy pleasure? See if common sense allows this.”
Marcus Aurelius — Meditations Book 8
Why not post after, oh, about a year…or more really? Today, I really need it so here goes.
Is pleasure to be pursued? Does it bring happiness, or is it just a drug, something that you need more of? Something that requires a higher dose each time. In living, will a new house or new location make me happy? I’m not reflecting here on the size or beauty of the house, but rather the novelty of having a new one…something different. How does one fight becoming bored in their situation? Eventually, would I become bored of a gilded palace with flowing streams and servants waiting on me hand and foot? Without a doubt, yes, if I let it. Can I find contentment in a cardboard hut? Yep, if I decide to.
If you are not in survival mode, that is, if your life is relatively comfortable, there is a tendency to be “on to the next thing.” A new environment, a new girl, a new car, an exotic vacation. Desire is an interesting thing. We’re wired for pursuit…it helps when we are in survival mode. For the most part, I know I’m wired for action, to not sit still for long. But the wanting, the pursuit can be harmful. The things we enjoy are “indifferents” when it comes to living the good life, no?
Does my common sense tell me that “enjoying pleasure” is my purpose. Certainly, our purpose certainly should not be the pursuit of pleasure. I think this is what Marcus is trying to convince himself of. Is he right?
Or is he just coping? “I have no pleasure now, so obviously I can live without it”–is that what he’s doing here in his meditation? I really don’t know. For me, I return to an acknowledgement that externals are neither good or bad, but our judgment is what makes it so (Yes, I know, I’m stealing from Epictetus here).
If the judging of externals is what determines my happiness, then necessarily my contentment resides in my decision to be content right now. Decide now if you will be content, and you will be content. Easy, right?