The Key

by Tom Swift

“When the ruling power within us is in harmony with nature, it confronts events in such a way that it always adapts itself readily to what is feasible and is granted to it. For it attaches its preference to no specific material; rather, it sets out to attain its primary objects, but not without reservation, and if it comes up against something else instead, it converts it into material for itself, much like a fire when it masters the the things that fall into it. These would have extinguished a little lamp, but a blazing fire appropriates in an instant all that is heaped on to it, and devours it, making use of that very material to leap ever higher.” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.1

Everything the emperor says here, including the beautiful metaphor, applies to you if you could change “with nature” in the initial line to “with purpose.” When you tend to your purpose, and do so steadily, you can handle nearly everything else that comes your way. It is when you neglect your purpose that the other matters swell in importance — become larger in your mind. It’s like your mind makes a substitute, one that does not suffice. You act as though “a clean kitchen” or “an email at work” or “this walk with your dog” are why you are here. When, of course, while those tasks may count for something, they are not what you in those moments make them out to be. The purpose. You must tend to the purpose: the answer and the antidote. Everything else is fuel needed to burn that fire.