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The Meditations of the Stoics, 21st Century Style - Elf M. Sternberg
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The Meditations of the Stoics, 21st Century Style
When Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus, and even Socrates awoke in the morning, they paused before beginning the day for a brief, five-minute meditation. They started by imagining themselves in their rooms, and then slowly added to their notion of themselves the images of those others to whom they could reach out, until their circle encompassed their whole of the universe. The idea was to emphasize both the scope of one's influence, and the scope of what was not under one's control. "Contemplate your place in the cosmos; now do within the power of your reach. Today, fate willing, do the work the world has sent you."

The evening meditation was simpler, if a little more wracking: go back and recall the day, and three times start at rising and reach now, cataloging what you did and did not do, what you could or could not do. I imagine the "three times" rule is there to help you feel the need, tomorrow, to weed out the more shameful wastes of time and effort, so you don't have to go through that again.

The funny thing about the Morning Meditation, however, is how different it must be for us than it had to have been for God-Emperor of Rome Marcus Aurelius. Marcus could only send letters, money, or soldiers, and it would be weeks or months before he learned if his influence made any difference. For him, the circle of influence was quite literal.

When I contemplate it, my reach may not leave the planet, but I have fans in the Netherlands, people using my software in South Africa, friends and acquaintances across the globe. It's a very odd feeling to overlay my circle of reach with the vast networks of the modern era.

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shunra From: shunra Date: April 22nd, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Lovely image, thanks!

"They started by imagining themselves in their rooms, and then slowly added to their notion of themselves the images of those others to whom they could reach out, until their circle encompassed their whole of the universe."

It seems to me that nowadays we do that by turning on Twitter.
From: ext_1850410 Date: May 22nd, 2013 09:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Circles of Influence

The Internet has certainly helped contract the distance and time needed to connect across your circle of influence, but from what I've observed, the true "circle of influence" for most people is still only tribal-sized - a handful to a few dozens.

More fame and popularity can certainly widen it, but I wonder if anyone truly reaches the 40 million or so mark of people in their circle ? That does beg the question of how much influence Aurelius did truly have on a shepherd at the edge of the empire?

( 40M population is one estimate of the size of the Roman Empire at the time of Aurelius, quickly found with Google. )

Falbert
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