29 October 2011


Getting control of ourselves and our minds and recognizing that we can work towards controlling our emotional reactions to things can seem like dangerous ground.  There is the temptation to think that we can be like an island unto ourselves.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Just because we can control how we feel about someone's actions towards us doesn't mean that their actions are free from moral judgement.  When someone does a great wrong to us, we can choose to view their action from their viewpoint and understand why they made it.  Our recognition of the motivations behind their action isn't a justification, and our choice to not be stuck in a continual cycle of shock and outrage doesn't preclude us from taking action to correct the situation.

24 October 2011

Never too far off, vol2, part 2a, the one where Marcus Aurelius ACTUALLY responds to Hamlet

So, Hamlet has his litany of complaints.  Let's boil them down into a really compressed form:

Is it better to deal with all of the bullshit in life, or to just kill yourself.  It's definitely a better idea to kill yourself, but what if killing yourself sends you straight to Hell?  Going to Hell for all of eternity would definitely be worse than dealing with this crappy life for another fifty or sixty years, so, out of my own cowardice, I'll choose to stay alive in this world rather than risk eternal torment in the next.

Let's look at where all this torment of Hamlet's comes from, and how much of our life is actually the torment that Hamlet said that it is.  After that we should try to ascertain whether dying would actually be better than putting up with life.

21 October 2011

Never too far off, vol2, part 1, the one where Marcus Aurelius responds to Hamlet

I've always thought that Hamlet was one of the most annoying characters in all of Shakespeare. How would Marcus Aurelius respond to some petty princeling beating himself over the head over whether he should commit suicide or continue living his "miserable" life? 

20 October 2011

Never too far off, volume 1

There are no good ways to start this blog post off.  There aren't many interesting ways to talk about death, but we face it every day.  Thankfully most of us deal with it through the media, and not as a daily occurrence in our own lives.  It's far away even though it's always buzzing about in our ears.  It might be far, but there it is all the same.  There's no getting around it; from dust we came, and to the dust we shall return.

18 October 2011

Marcus minus me

Here are some of the pieces from Marcus Aurelius that I'm going to be writing about later in the week. They all deal with one of the things that most carefully focuses our mind and abilities- death. I thought that you might like to take a look at them by themselves before I interject myself into the situation.

16 October 2011

The guy on the left.

Sometimes it's best to look to first sources.  Other times someone has gathered up all those sources and put them together in a way that can save you a great deal of time.  If you were interested in reading Epictetus, I would probably tell you to pick up The Art of Living, a modern interpretation of his works, as it does as good a job of any in really dealing with the gist of his work.  No one jumps right into a marathon.  If you were to say to me, "Hey Cam, everything sucks, I want to go occupy some street somewhere in the cold, driving rain," I'd have to reply, "Don't waste your time and get sick and risk being convinced that dreadlocks are a good idea, just read some Marcus Aurelius."

Oh yeah, the guy from Gladiator!

15 October 2011

The right or the left

Alright guys, I was at Queen's taking my courses for the weekend,  so I haven't had the time to put anything up.  I'll let you take a guess on this one though while I get it prepared.  Do you think my next post is going to be about the guy on the right or the guy on the left?

11 October 2011

Smelly disagreeable old men

Socrates had a lot of problems.  To the left you can see what some artist imagines to be a famous scene from his marriage.  Xanthippe is pouring her chamber pot out over poor old Socrates’ head.

It might have never happened.  Some authors paint Xanthippe as a horrible person, some as a devoted and caring person, and she, like most of us, was probably somewhere in the middle.  If she had wanted to pour out what she had in that pot over Socrates she might have had a reason though.  He largely ignored his family and his hygiene, and he spent the vast majority of his days trying to get people to see that what they believed didn't really make any sense.

Socrates is a person whom we can learn a great deal from, even if we would have never wanted to be around him in person.

06 October 2011

Always Looking Backwards, vol2

This man's Grandpa raised to the 77th power was Confucius.  That's a lot of powers.

When I was a kid ,the only thing I knew about Confucius was that he could be used in any variety of bad jokes, usually puns, usually dirty.  One kid ends up finding some old book of his uncle's, and proceeds to dispense the wisdom of the sages to those around him:

Confucius say, "Baseball all wrong, man with four balls cannot walk."  
Confucius say, "Man who scratches ass should not bite fingernails."

04 October 2011

Always looking backwards

The checkout line at the grocery store is perhaps one of the most boring places in the world.  It's a non-place really.  You are only there because you aren't at the place you would like to be - at the cashier.  This kind of situation is a dreamland for modern marketers.  Turn your head to the right and you'll see all the hydrogenated corn oil, high fructose corn syrup, and preservatives you can stuff into brightly colored wrappers.  Turn your head to the left and you'll see junk that is even worse for you.  Did Brad really dump Angelina in Nice?  Her thighs really have cellulite?  Is that a baby bump?

Where did our carefully protected individual control over our lives go in that short bit of time? To paraphrase Epictetus, "If a person gave your body away to a stranger walking down the road, you would certainly be angry, and yet you feel no shame in handing over your own mind."

02 October 2011

The Second Handle

If you ask me, names are pretty important things.  If you call it Constantinople instead of Istanbul, you're saying a lot. A little over a year from now someone will be calling me Dad instead of Cameron.  That's a pretty big change in responsibilities.  I've had a lot of names in my day, and I've given out my fair share of nicknames and received my fair share of insults in return, so when it comes to names I pay attention.  Coming up with a name for this blog took me a good bit of time.

Chance played a good part in it.  I had the good fortune of having an English teacher who made us recite the poem "Invictus" at the beginning of each and every class.  At the time, I thought that it was probably the stupidest thing any teacher had ever had any student do, but she apparently had a much deeper reservoir of knowledge than my teenage self gave her credit for.  I repeated to myself each morning that I was the master of my fate, and that I was the captain of my soul.  A decade later it would do me some good.