Antagonists, enemies, and trust

Posted on 2016-11-12

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I’ve been reading–listening to, actually–Marcus Aurelius Antoninus’s Meditations recently. He was a Roman emperor, and a Stoic philosopher. My worldview differs substantially from his, most significantly in my understanding of divinity and humanity. As I read his writings, however, I find much overlap in our philosophies, and much to learn from.

On those who oppose us:

In the gymnastic exercises suppose that a man has torn thee with his nails, and by dashing against thy head has inflicted a wound. Well, we neither show any signs of vexation, nor are we offended, nor do we suspect him afterwards as a treacherous fellow; and yet we are on our guard against him, not however as an enemy, nor yet with suspicion, but we quietly get out of his way. Something like this let thy behaviour be in all the other parts of life; let us overlook many things in those who are like antagonists in the gymnasium. For it is in our power, as I said, to get out of the way, and to have no suspicion nor hatred.

But being on guard against everyone isn’t a great option either. Simon and Garfunkel described this poetically in their song “I Am A Rock”; C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, says this:

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

I won’t try to integrate these thoughts right now…but both are gems of wisdom.

Posted in: Humanity