“Betimes in the morning say to thyself, This day I shall have to deal with an idle curious man, with an unthankful man, a railer, a crafty, false, or an envious man; an unsociable, uncharitable man. All these ill qualities have happened unto them, through ignorance of that which is truly good and truly bad. But I that understand the nature of that which is good, that it only is to be desired, and of that which is bad, that it only is truly odious and shameful: who knows moreover, that this transgressor, whosoever he be, is my kinsman, not by the same blood and seed, but by participation of the same reason, and of the same divine particle. How can I be either be hurt by any of those, since it is not in their power to make me incur anything that is purely reproachful? … For we are all born to be fellow workers, as the feet, the hands, and the eyelids; as the rows of the upper and under teeth.” ~Marcus Aurelius
One of the marks of the spiritual or awakened individual is that he does not argue or fight with others readily. He understands that the fool is such out of a limited intelligence, or just plain ignorance. He forgives those who deal dishonestly with him for the same reason.
Foolish people think they benefit themselves by robbing others, by telling lies about them, by sending others off to fight their wars for them. They have goods and money, but do not share with others. They do not realize that they hurt only themselves with this behavior. Marcus Aurelius says we should not be angry with such people because they act out of ignorance.
Ignorance of Truth
You might say that ignorance is no excuse since some such people are well-educated. But educated in what? Who educated them in ethics and morality? Who teaches them spiritual wisdom and truth? If they are getting their education from public schools in America or Europe they are not getting educated in those things, so they remain ignorant, even with degrees and titles.
In many public schools today, classes in music and art are being dropped to make more room for studying science and mathematics. The ancients understood that a well-rounded education was essential, and some of us still do. Yet with many complaining about the lack of art studies in these schools, there are no complaints about our kids growing up with little or no spiritual education. In can be argued that public schools are not the place to teach such things, but they can be taught in ways that are inclusive of all religious beliefs.
Marcus says that good only is to be desired. Many people say we must take the bad with the good and accept that the bad is part of reality. Marcus has it correct. He doesn’t say we can’t acknowledge that bad things exist, but that we shouldn’t desire them. It’s like when you are on a diet. It does you good to eat a salad for lunch, but not if you follow it with a large piece of chocolate cake. It’s not a matter of balancing the good with the bad, but of gradually eliminating the bad completely. The problem is that few of us to the one source of true good—God—before deciding whether something is good or not. This is another part of that ignorance Aurelius speaks of. We often do bad things because we simply don’t recognize them as such. We have to realize that before we vilify a person for doing something we consider evil.
Marcus also says that his kinsmen are all men and women and they should be treated as such. Most of us would not shun a brother or sister if he had a problem. We would try to help our relatives overcome their failings. Aurelius says we should be that way with all people because they are all our kin. Instead of throwing people in prisons or mental institutes, we should try to help them overcome their weaknesses. Even when we can’t and they have to get professional help, we should not look down on them because of it. Only that ignorance of truth leads us to treat others as if that are not our brothers and sisters.