Sunday, April 29, 2012

Not Zen 3: Stoic Ending

When the Emperor Justinian shut down pagan temples, libraries, and schools of philosophy, he included in his orders the closing of the Stoic houses where masters taught logic, reason, and harmony with nature.

Marcus, great-grandson of the philosopher Epictetus, went to the emperor's court to plead his case. Before the magistrates, he explained that Stoic virtue consisted of a spirit aligned with the cosmos.

"We are free from envy and anger," said Marcus. "We accept even slaves as our equals, for all people are divine. To us, the souls of humans and animals are part of the living being of the universe. Stoics see that all things cooperate with all other things that exist. Can we not continue to teach such logic and harmony throughout the Roman Empire?"

He applied his reasoning skills to demonstrate how Stoics helped the empire and the lands beyond. But the emperor's magistrates would not hear his case. Their guards escorted him away.

Outside the courthouse, Marcus met his fellow Stoics. They did not despair because they had virtue. Nevertheless, they discussed what actions they could take. Marcus advised no further protests.

"Only a house has been destroyed," he concluded. "And that is no great thing. It is the way of human nature both to destroy and to build. So let our hearts hold nothing too dear and there will be nothing to cause us pain when it is taken away. All material things pass. Only virtue remains."

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