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Where another man prays
‘Grant that I may possess this woman,’
let your own prayer be,
‘Grant that I may not lust to possess her.’

Where he prays,
‘Grant me to be rid of such-and-such a one,’
you pray,
‘Take from me my desire to be rid of him.’

– Marcus Aurelius

In the “Meditations”, [Marcus Aurelius] provides us with a technique for discovering the true value of things: If we analyze something into the elements that compose it, we will see the thing for what it really is and thereby value it appropriately. Fine wine, thus analyzed, turns out to be nothing more than fermented grape juice, and the purple robes that Romans valued do highly turn out to be nothing more than the wool of a sheep stained with gore from a shellfish. When Marcus applies this analytical technique to sex, he discovers that it is nothing more than “friction of the members and an ejaculatory discharge.” We would therefore be foolish to place a high value on sexual relations and more foolish still to disrupt our life in order to experience such relations.

At it so happens, Buddhists recommend the use of this same analytic technique. [1] When, for example, a man finds himself lusting after a woman, Buddhists might advise him to think not about her as a whole, but about the things that compose her, including her lungs, excrement, phlegm, pus, and spittle… Doing this… will help the man extinguish his lustful feelings. [2] If this doesn’t do the trick, Buddhists might advise him to imagine her body in various stages of decomposition [which it will indeed go through, later, and possibly even sooner than expected, due to the unpredictable nature of life].

A Guide To The Good Life: The Ancient Art Of Stoic Joy
William B. Irvine

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