“When thou wilt comfort and cheer thyself, call to mind the several gifts and virtues of them, whom thou dost daily converse with; as for example, the industry of the one; the modesty of another; the liberality of a third; of another some other thing. For nothing can so much rejoice thee as the resemblance and parallels of several virtues, visible and eminent in the dispositions of those who live with thee; especially when, all at once, as near as may be, they represent themselves unto thee. And therefore thou must have them always in a readiness.
“It is in thy power absolutely to exclude all manner of conceit and opinion, as concerning this matter; and by the same means; to exclude all grief and sorrow from thy soul. For as for the things and objects themselves, they of themselves have no such power, whereby to beget and force upon us any opinion at all.
“That which is not good for the beehive, cannot be good for the bee.
“No man can hinder thee to live as thy nature doth require. Nothing can happen unto thee, but what the common good of nature doth require.” ~Marcus Aurelius
Comfort and Cheer Yourself
Marcus is correct in telling us how to cheer ourselves when we are feeling down. If we are feeling sad, angry, or disappointed with people, look around us at those we live with, work with and hang around with. What virtues do they have? How do they bring us joy? How have they helped us? What do they do that benefits others in the world? When we look at the positive rather than dwelling on the negative, we will generally find that things are not so bad after all.
And it doesn’t stop there. If we can’t get a pet to behave, if the dog chewed up your new gloves, remember the good they have done and the joy they have brought to you rather than dwelling on the negative. Of course, you can teach them not to do such things, but don’t dwell on the problem so long it does more harm to you than to the animal.
If you are angry with your government and its policies or behavior, whether on the city, state, or national level, you may be justified. However, dwelling on it until it gives you ulcers and gray hair is not wise. As quickly as you can, remind yourselves of the benefits you get from the government—and don’t say “None!”. We all get some benefits from the government, but few of us stop to think of it regularly, if at all. Do you put money in a bank? Would you do that if the government didn’t have a guaranteed reimbursement policy on lost deposits? Would you or your children read as much if there were no public libraries? Would you feel safe on the streets of there were no police? There are many more such questions to ask yourself and contemplate how you benefit from the government, but I’ll stop there, having made the point.
And if none of that works, just do something that cheers you up. Go to a concert or a movie. Take a walk in a park. Go on a vacation. Just don’t sit around angry, sad, or depressed. That hurts no one but you. Don’t just stay angry or depressed, cheer yourself!
Exclude Conceit and Opinion
Basically, Aurelius is telling us to not be a know-it-all, especially when you really know it all (hint, nobody knows everything). Obviously, we can’t totally exclude grief and sorrow from our minds (they have nothing to do with the soul), but we can keep them within reason. When a close relative or friend dies, we should grieve. The same with a pet we have gotten close to. But notice that Aurelius refers to things and objects. We shouldn’t grieve over a broken phone. We shouldn’t cry and pout and get depressed because the washing machine shredded a favorite shirt. Those are just things, they can be replaced. What can’t be replaced is your physical and mental health that is damaged when you dwell on the negative too much and too often. You can cheer yourself with truth rather than false opinions, beliefs, and conceits. Cheer yourself, but do it with reality.
The Bee and the Beehive
When Aurelius is telling us that what is not good for the beehive is not good for the bee, he is not really talking about bees. He is talking about us, about people. He is saying that if something isn’t good for our family, our nation, our world, it isn’t truly good for us. It may seem like it is at the time, and it may give us some temporary pleasure or benefit, but if it harms the word, in the long run, it harms us. It’s sad to see someone complain about another person using plastic shopping bags when they spend their weekends riding around on a snowmobile in the winter and a jet ski in the summer. Those devices may be fun, but they are harmful to the environment and do no good. The bag s are at least carrying groceries. I’m not saying to give up all fun things, just limit those that harm the environment, especially if you are fond of complaining about others harming the environment in ways other than your preferred method. To truly cheer yourself and others, do what is good for all rather than what gives you a moment’s pleasure, but long-term harm.
Live as Nature Requires
Aurelius is not entirely correct in this case. Men can and do limit and even prevent us from living as Nature and God wishes us to live. Sadly, society has become so warped and materialistic that even ordinary people will hinder us in various ways. But I think what Aurelius is really saying is that we should not allow it. We must fight the tyrants who prevent us from being what we are meant to be. We must change the minds of those who think they have the right to control us when they do so in violation of God’s Law and Nature’s Law. We are, in fact, obligated to obey the laws of Nature and God if we wish to truly grow spiritually and advance to higher states of being. If you really want to comfort and cheer yourself, you have to follow the Laws of Nature and God. You have to awaken your soul. Only that brings you real and permanent joy.