On Reverence for the Natural World

“Implements, tools, equipment. If they do what they were designed for, then they work. Even if the person who designed them is miles away.

But with naturally occurring things, the force that designed them is present within them and remains there. Which is why we owe it special reverence, with the recognition that if you live and act as it dictates, then everything in you is intelligently ordered. Just as everything in the world is.”

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (Gregory Hayes translation, 2002)

Summum Bonum

Some months back I loaned my copy of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens to a friend-of-a-friend. He messaged me awhile ago and said that he ‘owed me a book’. I asked for clarification and apparently his dog, a Vizsla that goes by the moniker Frank Tempo, had ‘dispatched’ the book with due prejudice. I laughed and said I could think of no better way for that book to have met it’s untimely end.

I said to not worry about the book, but noted that he’d given an Memento Mori coin to our mutual friend and hinted that one of those would be nice…

This morning in the mail I received a very nice gift from him, surpisingly a Summum Bonum coin instead. From the attached card:

Summum Bonum is an expression from Cicero, Rome’s greatest orator. In Latin, it means “the highest good.”

And what is the highest good? What is it that we are supposed to be aiming for in this life?

To the Stoics, the answer is virtue. If we act virtuously, they believed, everything else important could follow: Happiness, success, meaning, reputation, honor, love.

Our goal in creating this medallion is that you will feel its weight in your pocket and remember that no matter the circumstance, no matter how dire or desperate, how straightforward or scary, virtue is the answer.

The coin is very well made, nicely sized and with a substantial heft. Feels really nice in the hand. I am inspired to honor my friend and his gift by striving each day for “the highest good.”

Amor Fati

Shared my Camus/Sisyphus observation with my buddy and personal sage, A. Titus Esq., the other day and he of course responded as only he could:

“A position I have long held to be so…One must imagine Sisyphus happy. Nietzsche called this ‘Amor fati’. Or as I like to call it, ‘be quiet and go’.”

I’ve read some Nietzsche, but not much and never studied his philosophy formally so had never happened upon this observation of his, but apparently Amor fati was a recurring tenet from his writings. From Wikipedia:

“Amor fati (lit. “love of fate”) is a Latin phrase that may be translated as “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate”. It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good or, at the very least, necessary, in that they are among the facts of one’s life and existence, so they are always necessarily there whether one likes them or not. Moreover, amor fati is characterized by an acceptance of the events or situations that occur in one’s life.

This acceptance does not necessarily preclude an attempt at change or improvement, [emphasis mine] but rather, it can be seen to be along the lines of what Nietzsche apparently means by the concept of “eternal recurrence“: a sense of contentment with one’s life and an acceptance of it, such that one could live exactly the same life, in all its minute details, over and over for all eternity.”

I don’t know how your days usually go, but not every one of mine includes a ‘holy shit’ moment, so when I come across one, I stop and recognize it. I particularly like the notion that acceptance of one’s fate doesn’t mean you still can’t strive to improve or change it, just that you are no longer at odds with it.

Excuse me while I get on with the being quiet and go-ing.