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Book Title: Marcus Aurelius - Meditations: Adapted for the Contemporary Reader|
The author of the book: Marcus Aurelius
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Reader ratings: 6.5
Edition: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Date of issue: November 7th 2016
ISBN 13: 9781539952299
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 9.19 MB
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In many important ways, the reflections of Marcus Aurelius (121-180) crystallize the philosophical wisdom of the Greco-Roman world. This little book was written as a diary to himself while emperor fighting a war out on the boarder of the Roman Empire and today this book is known to us as The Meditations.
The Roman philosophers are not as well known or as highly regarded as Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, or Zeno the Stoic - and for a simple reason: the Roman thinkers were not primarily interested in abstract theory; rather, they were concerned with behavior, that is, understanding how to live in the everyday world and putting their understanding into practice; the goal being to live the life of an authentic philosopher, to be a person of high character and integrity, to develop inner strength and a quiet mind and value such strength and quietude above all else. Indeed, to accomplish such a lofty goal, the Romans realized the need for radical transformation, a complete overhauling of one's life through rigorous mental and physical training, like turning base metal into pure gold. And once a person takes on the role of a philosopher, their deeds must reflect their words - no hypocrisy, thank you! Thus, it isn't surprising the Romans put a premium on memorizing and internalizing simple proverbs and maxims and employed the metaphor of philosophy as the medicine to cure a sick soul.
Turning now to Marcus Aurelius, we can appreciate how he imbibed the wisdom not only from the Stoics (along with Seneca and Epictetus, Marcus is considered one of the three major Roman Stoics), but he was also willing to learn from the schools of Epicurus, Plato and Aristotle. In the Greco-Roman world, being eclectic was perfectly acceptable; truth was valued over who said what.
We find several recurring themes in The Meditations: develop self-discipline to gain control over judgments and desires; overcoming a fear of death; value an ability to retreat into a rich, interior mental life (one's inner citadel); recognize the world as a manifestation of the divine; live according to reason; avoid luxury and opulence. But generalizations will not approach the richness and wisdom nuggets a reader will find in Marcus's actual words. Thus, I conclude with my personal observations coupled with quotes from Book One, wherein Marcus begins by expressing heartfelt thanks to his family and teachers for the many fine lessons he learned as a youth. Here are four of my favorites:
"Not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home" ---------- After my own nasty experience with the mindless competition and regimentation of public schools, I wish I had Marcus's good fortune of excellent home schooling.
"Not to meddle with other people's affairs, and not to be ready to listen to slander." ---------- I didn't need a teacher here; I recognized on my own at an early age that gossip is a colossal waste of time and energy, both listening to gossip and spreading gossip. I can't imagine a clearer indication of a base, coarse mind than someone inclined to gossip and slandering others.
"To read carefully, and not to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book." ---------- How true. Reading isn't a race to get to the last page; matter of fact, I agree with Jorge Luis Borges that focused, precise rereading is the key to opening oneself to the wisdom of a book.
"To be satisfied on all occasions, and be cheerful." ---------- I'm never in a hurry. Life is too beautiful to be in a hurry. For me, there is only one way to live each day: in joy and free from anxiety and worry. In a sense, all of the meditations of Marcus Aurelius amplify this simple view of life.
I've written this review as an encouragement to make Marcus Aurelius a part of your life. You might not agree with everything he has to say, but you have to admit, Marcus has a really cool beard and head of hair.
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Read information about the authorMarcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (often referred to as "the wise") was Emperor of the Roman Empire from 161 to his death in 180. He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors", and is also considered one of the more important Stoic philosophers. His two decades as emperor were marked by near continual warfare. He was faced with a series of invasions from German tribes, and by conflicts with the Parthian Empire in the east. His reign also had to deal with an internal revolt in the east, led by Avidius Cassius.
Marcus Aurelius' work Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign between 170 and 180, is still revered as a literary monument to a government of service and duty and has been praised for its "exquisite accent and its infinite tenderness."