“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work–as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for–the things which I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’
–But it’s nicer here…
So you were born to feel “nice?” Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?
–But we have to sleep sometime…
Agreed. But nature set a limit on that–as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota. You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash and eat.”
– Marcus Aurelius
Every morning I have that dialog with myself, and so long as I come away siding with Aurelius, I feel like I’ve won. It’s not fun and surely it’s not easy. In some cases it borders on insanity and OCD. Little, meaningless things take on monumental importance–because I cannot NOT do them because it means appeasement. And I know that it is indeed a slippery slope, that once you begin the practice of capitulation to the Resistance, it never ends. There’s that Russell Banks book–The Sweet Hereafter–where the bus driver mentions that in 50/50 situations she always “errs on the side of the angels,” meaning she always gives God the benefit of the doubt. That’s the policy I’d like to base my life on, erring on the side of dedication, of hard work, of commitment.
And that’s the crucial question that Aurelius’ passage poses: You’ve had plenty of sleep…but have you had enough work?
….and fully aware of the irony, I’m enjoying my mini-vacation in Santa Barbara.