Wisdom, Courage, Justice, Temperance

December 6 of 31 December-ish posts

I’ve been reading Marcus Aurelius.

Specifically, I’ve been reading the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor circa 161 -180 AD and noted Stoic philosopher.

What do you want to learn in 2023?

Wisdom is acting on knowledge, experience and understanding.

Courage is willingness to confront pain, danger or uncertainty.

Justice is seeking equitable treatment for all and for all what they deserve.

Temperance is voluntary restraint, patience and forgiveness.

These are four principles of a philosophical mindset and system of personal ethics that form the basis of what is modernly known as formal stoicism. I’ve always been cautious about pigeonholing myself into belief systems or rigidly categorized frameworks of ideology, but I’ve taken a liking to the tone of this particular way of thinking over the past year and adopted some of it’s practices as a way to tune and manage my own approach to the world.

For one, I’ve been journaling more. Arguably, blogging is a form of public journaling, but I’ve taken to recording more personal notes on paper with ink, and making a habit of self-reflection and adaptive growth around the notion of philosophical-based meditations.

Writing words on paper and noting the moments of success, gratitude, error, or struggle through your day, even through something as simple as a bullet-point journal, this is a moment of personal reflection that has helped me find a bit of center in the swirling chaos of my otherwise hectic days.

It is part of the way I have found a new kind of balance in my participation online, and my goal is not to suddenly start blogging about all this on the regular. It’s part of the reason I took a few months off. It’s part of the reason I’ve come back with a bit more focus of mid-life perspectives and my personal balance stemming out of these things that I write about, and not as some kind of social media influencer trying to get likes and shares and ad revenue from the words I post.

This next year is not at all going to be me jumping in and preaching any of this or really even writing about it (much), simply that as I reflect on the close of this year I’ve been contemplative on the benefits brought to my life so far from mindful practice and thinking about these principles and virtues. That will likely reflect more in what I write about, but only tangentially.

That said, I really do think that there is some clear parallels between all this stoicism thinking and the little blurb I’ve had for forever in the about section of this blog, that Cast Iron Guy is ”a journal of uncomplicated things, life lived, and a mindset that reflects the philosophical practicality of well-seasoned cast iron frying pan: enduring, simple, down-to-earth & extremely useful.”

Thinking about and acting through wisdom, courage, justice and temperance are all wrapped up in many of the kinds of folk who seek out simplicity, nature, healthy lifestyles, and positive contribution to the world, all things that I’ve written about here over the last two years.

All this is what I want to learn how to do better in 2023.

I’m aware that there are some fairly high profile folks out there marketing this philosophy as a way to sell videos, courses, and books, and perhaps it is all in good faith but the skeptic in me just needs to put that out there as what you may find if you were to do a web search for any of this.

I’ve watched some of it.

But so far I’ve just let these ideas flow through me, tried to frame my own interpretation of it all, and in doing so have though about them loosely and lightly framed around my everyday life. Now as we enter into a new year it seems like not that I’ll try to make a study or rigorous convent with this stuff, but simply that I want to learn to be a bit more mindful about how my own personal approaches to food, outdoors, and participation in the universe can benefit from a formalized philosophical approach.

Or, maybe that’s pretty deep for a Tuesday morning.

Monday Zen: Pulling Weeds

In a previous post I mentioned that my vegetable garden has been sprouting through the spring in a particular state of ambiguity. 

As all the little seeds I deliberately planted in May began to germinate and grow, so did the variety of weeds and volunteer plants begin to emerge from the soil.

In many cases it was difficult to tell them all apart, good from bad, wanted from unwanted.

In one particular case, the case of the neat rows of deliberately planted carrots versus the scattering of rogue dill weed, the new shoots looked virtually identical in their one and two leaf stages.

Unable to tell the guests from the squatters, I left them all to be — carrots, dill, and a small assortment of other little plants turning the raw soil into a lush gardenscape of green sprouts.

Then this past weekend something interesting (though not unexpected) happened.

The dill began to mature into delicate, blue-green thread of delicate feathery leaves, while the carrots began to mature into paler green wisping fronds.

In the matter of a couple days I could suddenly tell one from the other. Amazing! At last! And I knelt at the edge of the garden box and acutely began to pluck the invading dill from those neat rows of young carrots.

Pulling weeds is not particularly interesting, but gardens, weeds, and all that sprouts in the spaces of those efforts makes for a well worn analogy for many aspects of living a well-cultivated life — pun intended.

Being able to pluck the weeds from your own life, be that from the emotional or physical or whatever spaces of your day-to-day seems simple enough advice.

But then again, just like the frustrating ambiguity I encountered with my carrots versus dill problem, sometimes deciding which bits are the weeds and which are the germinating seeds that you’ve planted deliberately is not always one hundred percent clear.

The mind, the heart and the soul are fertile soil for ideas and thoughts and emotions, some purposefully cultivated with care and attention, while others drift in with the wind and grow of their own accord.

Either can flourish, but it’s up to us with patience and practice to weed the gardens of beings and ensure what grows inside us is meant to be there and will yield the fruits (or veggies) that we want to harvest at the end of the process.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this process lately, both literally as a gardening practice and metaphorically as an act of self-care — and somehow coincidentally both tend to lead me to be on the ground on my knees in my backyard, hands covered in wet soil.