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What would a good man do?

A while back I was overcome with fear, anxiety, and confusing thoughts about my connection with others. I felt the best way to assess them was through writing in the form of a literary and historical mentor, Marcus Aurelius.

We all have minds that sometimes work against us, mine is no different, and I wrote the following passages one night as a way to remind myself what matters when these mental formations come and invade our peace of mind. I feel like that is what Marcus Aurelius was doing in his journal, which was later turned into a book (post-mortem) titled: Meditations. The profound wisdom in that book speaks to the existential questions of life and the capacity we have for good, even amidst seemingly so much that would appear bad. It would not be an overreaction to say that few books have benefitted me as much as that little book, and I view Marcus Aurelius as one of the greatest people ever to live. Anyway, I encourage you to check the book out and even to write your own meditations, as I did here. I think it helped.

As Marcus learned, while serving as the most powerful person in the world for decades (Roman Emperor 161-180 AD), this form of reflection and journaling can help to clarify your thoughts, especially when you're feeling a magnetic attraction to sink them in the mud.

I've even found that when I re-read these "meditations", they help me vanquish irrational and unsubstantiated mental formations. At the least, they give me the courage to question them and try to understand. What you are about to read is just what was afflicting me that night. But their seeds are sewn deep in my fabric. This I know because they've come up many times in different ways since.

We all suffer, but much of it is unnecessary and able to be worked with if we can try to understand it better. Keyword: try. Here's one of my tries.

Meditations: What would a good man do? Do that.

Anxiety and fear have run my life for too long. The only fear I should have is of failing to be good. In whatever situation I’m presented with. To succumb to my lesser self—that is all I should fear. If I maintain what I know to be right, I should not bow down to fear and let it rule over me. I think that is the essence of what Aurelius wrote. He explains what a “good man” would and should do and about anxieties as irrational contortions of the mind.

If I can maintain my integrity and hold true to what I know to be good, fear is an overreaction in all scenarios. Too often, I’ve lived my life through fear—fears never actualized. Above all else, I should fear not having the strength to do what I know is right in any circumstance.

Fear of ridicule? Why fear a thing that has nothing to do with you? When someone ridicules you, it is undoubtedly a revealer of what’s inside them, not you. Yes, you may conduct yourself in a way that opens yourself to ridicule, but if you were acting in alignment with your integrity, for a good means, then I say, 'ridicule all you want. Hopefully it helps you to one day understand.'

Anxiety? For what? Because of others? That makes no sense. Are you behaving in a way that upholds your honor? If you are, then don’t be anxious. Anxiety is a byproduct of a noisy society. You don’t have control over others. You only have control over your own actions. If you behave rightly, then your anxiety is wrong.

What is in your life that you know is out of your control, yet you let it bother you?

Traffic. Other people. Why let it bother you then?

Go into today with an open heart. Your fellow man is yourself. We are all one with nature. Don’t manifest fears that aren’t based. Don't make enemies where there are none. The reality is that others are doing their best. All are insecure, scared, and Suffer as you do.

We all suffer. We do so needlessly in many cases. To open your heart and keep it open relieves it greatly. For too long I’ve reverted to conditioned ways. Too often viewing my neighbor not as a friend but as a stranger. As someone I don’t need. But I do need them. And they need me. We all need each other. There is no them apart from us.

Remind yourself of this as often as you can. If you adhere to this, you can’t have a bad day. You can only think you are:

What would a good man do? Do that. When in doubt, think of a person you view as honorable. what would they do?

Suppose you go about your life in a way where you know most of your actions to be good. Then that is what I call a good life. But too often, our minds will twist the memories of those same actions. Even good actions can be interpreted as wrong or not as good. What then? Remind yourself of the nature of your mind. To its sinister side. The side that speaks out of turn. We all need ways to reflect so that we can better understand the truth. Without journaling, I don’t know what mountains of misunderstanding would exist in my mind today. My goal is to keep these hills from ever reaching the clouds.


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