Caught Me Slipping.

Tuesday October 20, 2015, 9:40–11:00 am — Class time
For this class we were to complete reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and to have picked a favorite line from each of the books. Meditations was so simplistic in it’s approach, but it was honest and it was profound without saying “too much”. Marcus Aurelius’ stoic philosophy is strongly embodied in this work.

In book one (which was, truly, my favorite book — how humble that such a greatly renowned philosopher thank his mother, among others. It was cool.), Aurelius credited all of the greats of his life: his grandfather, his mother, his father, a number of citizens that he knew. He thanked everyone who had ever inspired him or modeled for him any great characteristics that he knew he to wanted to carry with him for the rest of his life.

Book two reminds us not to be angry with others for their faults or minor transgressions because we are all comprised of the same things. We are all flesh and blood with a limited amount of time on this earth, and for that reason we should not spend our time being upset over earthly things for our deaths will eventually provide the greatest reprieves. We will be returned to the earth and that we can only hope to protect our minds in our time on earth.

Book three discusses that we observe everything closely, like the ridges on the stone or the veins in a leaf. In a way, this book also tells us to protect our minds by telling us to protect our tongues. Aurelius tells us not to gossip and to only say things we would be comfortable saying to the face of another. In other words, this was the chapter of Grandma’s old proverbs. We should be kind in our disposition with others and in general to continue to protect our minds. In a similar vein, books four and five talk about living virtuously, helpfully, and cheerfully. The most important thing to Aurelius seems to be living peacefully in life because death will be such an improvement. Aurelius encourages doing good without expectation; every action is not to be rewarded simply for being good.

I would continue with this pattern, but Marcus Aurelius has a pretty clear message. You must protect your mind; you must do the most good you can do; you must honor the gods; you must not let pettiness cloud your worldly views; you must live in peace with yourself and others, as well.

This Stoic Philosopher had a very clear philosophy, but not the most concise way to put it. That’s a bit ironic to me.

Maybe he just liked hearing himself talk.
(Granted, he did spit some real wisdom in here in the form of little sapphire gems peppered throughout, but, I could have done without some of the extra-ness.)

Thursday, October 22, 2015
I missed my very first class toady. I’d imagine that I missed a lot of very important notes, but that’s what happens when you miss class. It would seem that you guys had some conversation about how to prepare for this exam, and it seemed to mirror our conversation prior to exam one. A lot of my peers asked for additional tips for studying and I gave my best advice.

For this class, I should have read “Solitude and Leadership” by William Deresiewicz. It wasn’t the easiest for me to slip into the skin of a “plebe”, but, as any actress would, attempted to embody the humble, graduating plebe and listen with an open ear.

The first thing, however, that caught my attention was the fact that he believed that the title of speech was a conundrum. It makes too much sense that solitude and leadership must coexist in an individual, or where is the time for reflection? How do you fully trust that you’re making the right decision without thoroughly conferring with yourself? That was just my immediate response, but I guess he’s about to tell me.

After giving us prototypical definitions/examples of leaders and solitude, Deresiewcz proceeded to discuss the amount of leaders that come from the Ivy League or other service academies. I have nothing against Ivies. My good friend goes to Princeton and they’re actively recruiting my brother to join their prestigious ranks, but I find myself snickering at the fact that our author isn’t making the correlation between leadership and money. Rich people go to Ivies. Rich people buy their way into leadership. It’s a timeless and unrelenting pattern that limits the types of leaders our country has representing us.
But I’m not going to dwell on that fact, I just couldn’t really go without saying.

He goes on to discuss the bureaucracy and the type of people who find success there. He gives a lengthy description:

He was commonplace in complexion, in features, in manners, and in voice. He was of middle size and of ordinary build. His eyes, of the usual blue, were perhaps remarkably cold. . . . Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips[.]

The words that jump out to me (and him) were “commonplace”, “usual”, and “undefinable”. These are words that he claims fit many bureaucrats, but do they fit many of our great leaders? I wouldn’t say so.
Not mine, anyways.
But this behavior is often rewarded. In fact, not just in a bureaucracy, but in the common world. Other and unique behavior is often frowned upon and criticized rather than praised or at least considered. This is yet another way that I believe our leadership becomes limited and monotonous, but our author tells us to stay resilient and not to get discouraged by these social tendencies. We need “thinkers”. We need the unique individual. That will be our savior.

Monday, October 26, 2015, 11:01 pm– 12:03 am— Study time in the Towers
Right now I’m sitting here trying not to be frustrated about the fact that I am required to spend more time on this class than I am my major courses. I wonder if you’re going to say that that speaks to the rigor of my major courses or if you’re going to recognize that maybe you ask quite a bit from the class. I’m hoping for the latter.

We have an exam tomorrow, and I plan to prepare for it as I did our last exam, but, uhm, a little more intensely because I’ve been slacking. As usual, I’m going to start with laying out some of the Greek words we’ve learned since the last exam and see what ideas mentally spark from those for me. Then, I’ll go back and read my skimpy journals and reread my notes.

I expect for this exam a bit more difficult than our last, not just because I’ve lost some motivation and my journals aren’t going to be the tool for me this time around that they were for our first exam. I expect that this exam will be more difficult because while we’ve been studying a much shorter period of time, we examined so many more subjects proportionately to the time we spent preparing for this exam.

I’m not sure if that is clear: we had what felt like a month and a half to prepare for pretty much two topics for our first exam. This time around, it feels like we had two weeks to prepare for at least four topics. You can ask us about Socrates, about Marcus Aurelius, about the difference between an emotional/spiritual leader and political leader. The material that we have to have mastered this time around is just so much more than just psychopathy and Alcibiades, which were concepts that were paired as easily as cream cheese and bagels. (Apparently people from the south don’t understand how important this combination is, so, trust me on this one).