Sunday night Stoic: Think on these things

I’ve been listening to the audiobook version of the late Christopher Hitchens’s autobiography, Hitch-22: A Memoir. Hitchens was notable for his eloquence and strongly stated opinions on controversial topics.

He was no man of faith, but tells in his memoir that he chose the scripture reading for his father’s funeral. It was Phillipians 4:8:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

I was reminded of what an excellent verse it is. And it could just as easily look like a line pulled straight from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. It has a clear Stoic shine to it.

This line from Paul’s letter would be a fine bit of scripture for anyone’s memorial service.

When I was a young man, I wrote a personal mission statement that began with this line:

“Pursue truth no matter the cost.”

I regularly have fallen short of that audacious aim. Often the cost of such a pursuit is more than I’m willing to pay. But that pursuit challenges me even more now.

I’m no scientist or activist. I’m not on any heroic, risk-filled quest to right wrongs. But I still care deeply about being true and honoring honest inquiry and letting go of comfortable fictions that only obscure reality.

I want to retain the curiosity that compels discontent with mere conventional wisdom and popular opinion.

I want to fill my mind with what is true and honest and just and pure and lovely.

These are the things most worthy of our attention.