Awakening From the Meaning Crisis by John Vervaeke, Ep. 15 — Marcus Aurelius and Jesus (Summary & Notes)

“If the meaning and the event are fused, then you are con-fused.”

(In case you missed it: Summary & Notes for Ep. 14:

Ep. 15 — Awakening from the Meaning Crisis — Marcus Aurelius and Jesus [58:39]

  • Mindlessly, Automatically, & Reactively. We M-A-R the process of finding existential meaning thus distorting it, and the Stoics were trying to draw our attention to that process so that we can better understand how our self, our identity, and our agency are being forged.
  • The Stoics advocated prosoche & procheiron. Prosoche is ‘to pay attention.’ Meaning: pay attention to how you’re paying attention (your M-A-R). Learn to distinguish between your modal meaning and the event. (Vervaeke argues that this is the core of all of our modern cognitive psychotherapies. Learning to distinguish the meaning between the event and the meaning you give the event)
  • “If the meaning and the event are fused, then you are con-fused.”
  • Epictetus starts his “manual for living” saying that the core of wisdom is knowing what’s in your control and what’s not in your control. And to stop pretending things are in your control that aren’t.
  • “If you do not know how to separate the meaning from the events you’re liable to be very seriously modally confused, such that you pursue maturity by trying to have a car. You pursuing being in love by having sex.” Etc.
  • Procheiron means ‘ready to hand.’ It means remembering, but in the sense of sati. Remembering in a way that brings skills and sensibilities to bear.
  • The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is a book where you can see procheiron in action. Many people misread this, thinking the point is to believe the propositions he is proposing. But it’s not a book written to you, it’s a book written to himself. “Marcus is practicing psychotechnologies that are attempting to bring into awareness the co-identification process and co-transform the meaning of the world and the meaning of himself.”
  • “The Stoics would recommend getting a cup that you’re really attached to, start using it on a daily basis so that you really like it until it becomes very familiar, and then smash it. Because then you will remember the distinction between the meaning and the thing.”
  • Premeditatio: “When you’re kissing your child goodnight, say to yourself, ‘I may lose him to death tonight.’”
  • The Stoics say it’s not mortality that makes us anxious it’s fatality. We’ve lost touch with the meaning of that word. The root isn’t death it’s fate. “Everything is fatal in that the meaning and the thing are not identical, and if we forget that we will suffer when they come apart.”
  • Why is ‘fatality’ associated with death? Because death is where meaning and event come apart. Death is ‘fatal.’ It reveals to you that meaning and event are not identical.
  • “Everyone dies, but not everyone has lived.” — Marcus Aurelius; You want a fullness of life, not just a length.
  • In looking to the West to find guidance re: the axial legacy, we turn to Jesus of Nazareth.
  • kairos: that perspictival, participatory knowing. Knowing the right timing to shift the course of events.
  • Christianity is going to propose this radical idea that God’s creative logos (the word he speaks through the prophets). From the Gospel of John (maybe lifted from the Stoics): “In the beginning there was the logos.” This speaks to the capacity for kairos. That Jesus of Nazareth is the ultimate kairos.
  • metanoia — usually defined as “conversion,” it’s actually much closer to “awakening” or “noticing.” A radical transformation in your salience landscape.
  • “Love.” This word has been trivialized for us, since we use this one word to talk about so many different things. We love peanut butter, and our children, and a really good game of tennis… are all these things the same? We even think love is an emotion, but it’s not. It’s a modal way of being. “It is an agent-being relationship.
  • (How do we know this? Because loving someone can be expressed by being sad when they’re absent, being happy when they’re present, being jealous when there’s somebody else around, being angry when they’re neglecting you…)
  • Agape is a different kind of love, the one that Jesus was talking about. (there are also eros and philia: eros seeks to be one with something and is satisfied through consummation; philia seeks cooperation in which we experience reciprocity, i.e. friendship) Agape is the love a parent has for a child. “Love turns non-person animals into moral agent persons.”
  • With agape, Christianity can say to all of the “non-persons” of the Roman Empire (incl. women, children, non-male citizens, sick, poor, widowed…) and say: we will turn you into persons. Persons that belong to the kingdom of God.

Next up: Awakening From the Meaning Crisis by John Vervaeke, Ep. 16 — Christianity and Agape (Summary & Notes):

List of Books in the Video:

  • Marcus Aurelius - Meditations
  • Julian Barnes - A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters
  • Erich Fromm - To Have or To Be?
  • Pierre Hadot - What Is Ancient Philosophy?
  • Pierre Hadot - Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault
  • Margaret Visser -Beyond Fate

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