Viewing Life From Two Perspectives
I recently watched the intense National Geographic documentary Free Solo. One of the most surprising things about the film is how Alex Honnold, the rock climber who challenges intense heights without a safety harness, approaches his challenges. Before each of his climbs, he keeps meticulous notebooks that include overviews and strategies about the best way to progress over giant walls. In a way, Marcus Aurelius, in his Meditations, sees the potential for practitioners to form two different approaches when encountering circumstances:
"Nothing but what you get from first impressions. That someone has insulted you, for instance. That—but not that it’s done you any harm. The fact that my son is sick—that I can see. But 'that he might die of it,' no. Stick with first impressions. Don’t extrapolate. And nothing can happen to you. Or extrapolate. From a knowledge of all that can happen in the world." -VIII:49
Here, Aurelius gives advice about two ways we may view life's hardships. In one perspective, we could, he suggests, view troubles without adding assumptions. Someone who notices that their son is sick should just keep it at that; there is no need to say that the illness will lead to an inevitable death if we do not have good reason to believe this is the case. In the second perspective, someone could view their son's illness with the consideration that the illness could lead to death. However, Marcus seems to imply that this way is more difficult for people (this is probably why he suggests this mode of observation as a secondary method). If the practitioner is easily tempted by anxiety, they should probably stick with the first method. Both of these peaks of perception are correct; it is up the practitioner to choose the best way to proceed.
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