Marcus Aurelius and Lao Tzu get me out of bed.

It’s pretty standard for me to pick a passage out of Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus when I wake up.  I find it a good way to get my attitude aligned with how I want to conduct myself through the day.  Otherwise, I am more likely to focus on what’s ahead that I don’t feel like dealing with and then question the wisdom of getting out of bed at all.  A little kick in the butt from the Stoics is a good antidote.

I opened Meditations at random and came to book 5:6

A horse at the end of the race
A dog when the hunt is over
A bee with its honey stored
And a human being after helping others.
They don’t make a fuss about it.  They just go on to something else, as the vine looks forward to bearing fruit again in season.

We should be like that.  Acting almost unconsciously.

As I read that part of the passage it set off a little recognition bell and made me think of a passage in Tao Te Ching.  So I went to look it up (another way to get me out of bed).

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn’t possess,
acts but doesn’t expect.
When her work is done she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

The message is clear.  Don’t make a fuss about doing things.  Do what is correct for you to do and then forget it.  Ideally our work in the world, our participation with others, is something that doesn’t really register as an effort or even an event.

My point here is not to observe that Stoicism and Taoism have some notable similarities.  Plenty of writers and scholars have explored that.  What is valuable for my purposes is the reminder that my daily labors and whatever I do of value with other people are what is natural for me, for anyone wanting to live as Agathos.  What is natural needn’t be a source of struggle or angst.

2 Responses to “Marcus Aurelius and Lao Tzu get me out of bed.”

  1. What is the best book comparing Meditations with the Tao Te Ching? I would like to read one.

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