这是经典中经典，谁没听说过古罗马皇帝奥勒留斯的〈沉思录〉？以前断断续续地看过一些，这次看的是Gregory Hays的新译本，更为平白易懂。奥勒留斯身为帝王，却是一位哲学家（也许是最接近柏拉图所倡导的philosopher king的一位），斯多葛学派的代表人物之一。古人的哲学实际是人生哲学，奥勒留对后来枯燥的学院派玄幻推理毫无兴趣，他写〈沉思录〉主要是在征战治国之余为了自省的辅助，可以看出皇帝对自己要求也高，整天三省吾身，诚惶诚恐，一日不提素就感到羞耻。和斯多葛学派其他代表人物Seneca, Epictetus相比，这本书更有名气更哲学更深刻一些，但是不如另两位的书实际。斯多葛学派讲究用钢铁的意志和忍耐接受现实，不去纠结自己不能左右的东西，对后世为人处事的人生哲学影响深远。我认为要了解这派人生哲学看Seneca, Epictetus入门更合适。
instead of studying how to make it worth men’s while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them. The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?
But lo! men have become the tools of their tools.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your .
I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty , nor weakness . If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pygmies, and not be the biggest pygmy that he can? Let mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made.
Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace. The town’s poor seem to me often to live the most independent lives of any.
Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them.
My neighbors tell me of their adventures with famous gentlemen and ladies, what notabilities they met at the dinner-table; but I am no more interested in such things than in the contents of the Daily Times. The interest and the conversation are about costume and manners chiefly; but a goose is a goose still, dress it as you will. They tell me of California and Texas, of England and the Indies, of the Hon. Mr.——of Georgia or of Massachusetts, all transient and fleeting phenomena, till I am ready to leap from their like the Mameluke bey.8 I delight to come to my bearings,—not walk in procession with pomp and parade, in a conspicuous place, but to walk even with the Builder of the universe, if I may,—not to live in this restless, nervous, bustling, trivial Nineteenth Century, but stand or sit thoughtfully while it goes by.
5. Ways of Seeing，by John Berger。这是一本讲欣赏绘画和照片的经典小书。
Essay 1: Danger of mystifying the past arts. Reproduction changes the uniqueness, how we see the original, the meaning and use of art pieces. Word captions affect the meaning of a painting.
Essay 2 & 3: We see a man for the power he presents, we see a woman for what she is. A woman is also her own spectator. Nakedness (herself) vs. nude (object of a spectator). In most nude paintings in the past the woman is looking at the spectator no matter what she is supposed to be doing. Modernity has changed the attitude toward women, but the pattern in arts still prevails somewhat.
Essay 4, 5: Owning oil painting to show off affluence. Painting an object as a symbol can be too real to serve the purpose. The same for paintings of religion: Mary Magdalene's paintings don't show repenting (just beautiful woman). There are exceptions to capitalism (Rembrandt, Vermeer, Poussin, Chardin, Goya, Turner) but they have no followers.
Essay 6,7: Publicity pictures (ads) are about envy. Happiness is judged by others: you want to be observed, but not observe others.
7. 天涯晚笛，by 张充和。出身世家的名媛才女，network里全是名人。
8. 纸上卧游录，网人 程雨城的随笔，非常有学问。
少为人知的是，亚当斯密这位现代经济学的开山鼻祖，还写过一本The Theory of Moral Sentiments，对人性和幸福有过透彻的论述。脸红的是，这本书我早就买了，一直放在书架上。
“Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of love. He naturally dreads, not only to be hated, but to be hateful; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of hatred. He desires, not only praise, but praiseworthiness; or to be that thing which, though it should be praised by nobody, is, however, the natural and proper object of praise. He dreads, not only blame, but blameworthiness; or to be that thing which, though it should be blamed by nobody, is, however, the natural and proper object of blame.“ Adam Smith.
We have all the tools of contentment at hand already. You don’t have to conquer Italy to enjoy the fundamental pleasures of life. Stay human and subdue the rat within. Life’s not a race. It’s a journey to savor and enjoy. Ambition—the relentless desire for more—can eat you up.
For Smith, money and fame should be kept in perspective. He concedes that most of us will always prefer having more money to having less. Public recognition is pleasurable. But don’t be consumed by the desire to consume or a passion for public acclaim. You’ll end up violating the rules of prudence or justice.
Smith sees nothing wrong with what we moderns call success. It’s the passionate pursuit of success that corrodes the soul, in Smith’s view.
The road paved with wealth, fame, and power is the gaudier road, the glittering road, the one that draws us. Yet the other road is the better road. Less gaudy, generally glitter-free, but still exquisitely beautiful. On one road, the traveler is noticed by everyone. If you take the other road, the road of wisdom and virtue, you will also be loved. You will also be respected. You will also be noticed. But only by the “most studious and careful observer.”
Smith in his book and with his life is telling us how to live. Seek wisdom and virtue. Behave as if an impartial spectator is watching you. Use the idea of an impartial spectator to step outside yourself and see yourself as others see you. Use that vision to know yourself. Avoid the seductions of money and fame, for they will never satisfy.
“I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought, ‘what the hell good would that do?’
– Ronnie Shakes”