The Comforting Words of the Long Since Dead

Meditations (Modern Library Classics)I’ve been rereading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, the archetypical philosopher-king and Roman Caesar. Meditations is a diary-like accounting of Marcus Aurelius’ thoughts and ideas. You can almost imagine him encamped with his legions on the Danube, writing down his thoughts and examining his life. The original title is closer in meaning to “notes to himself” rather than what most modern people think of when they hear the word “meditation”. It is a highly enjoyable and thought-provoking read. The personal, thoughtful writing style gives you a real sense of the man, who lived and died more than two thousand years ago. A student of the Stoic school, Marcus Aurelius reflects on life and death and often about how to endure and accept what we cannot change. Here are a few quotations:

  • Let it be your constant method to look into the design of people’s actions, and see what they would be at, as often as it is practicable; and to make this custom the more significant, practice it first upon yourself.
  • Anger cannot be dishonest.
  • Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.
  • Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
  • We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne.

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