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Meditations | Symbols

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Bee and Fig

Recurring images of bees and fig trees are found throughout Meditations, and serve the purpose of reminding the author of his own resolve to remain steadfast in the action of the duty that his lot in life has assigned to him. Just as a bee benefits from, and acts as beneficiary to, the colony to which it belongs, so too is man inextricably connected to his society.

The fig tree has no other option than to bear fruit, a condition mandated to it by Providence. By extension, then, the words and actions of other men are not subject to any expression of anger or judgement by Aurelius. No matter how obnoxious these people might be, they are acting as nature has directed them.

Branch and Tree

Horticulture as practiced by the Greeks and Romans included grafting branches of one variety of grape onto a "parent," or host plant. With care, the branch would successfully bond and grow to bear its own characteristic fruit supported by a sturdy host. Aurelius uses the practice of grafting as a way to explain that corrupt men placed in positions of power may believe in moral principles of community service, but in truth serve only their own fundamental purposes. They can be "grafted" onto a position of trust, but like any grafted branch, can bear fruit only according to their true nature, and not that of the host plant.

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