Meditations

Meditations

Written in Greek, without any intention of publication, by the only Roman emperor who was also a philosopher, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) offer a remarkable series of challenging spiritual reflections and exercises developed as the emperor struggled to understand himself and make sense of the universe. Ranging from doubt and despair to conviction and ex...

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Title:Meditations
Author:Marcus Aurelius
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Edition Language:English

Meditations Reviews

  • Brad Lyerla

    When I was a freshman in college, I lived in a dorm. My roommate was on the football team. He would write inspiring things on poster board and hang them in our room often on the ceiling above his bed to motivate himself. He favored straightforward sentiments like "never give up."

    The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius did not hang motivational posters for inspiration. Instead, he kept a journal in which he collected his thoughts about how to live well. MEDITATIONS is that book.

    Most people have heard

    When I was a freshman in college, I lived in a dorm. My roommate was on the football team. He would write inspiring things on poster board and hang them in our room often on the ceiling above his bed to motivate himself. He favored straightforward sentiments like "never give up."

    The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius did not hang motivational posters for inspiration. Instead, he kept a journal in which he collected his thoughts about how to live well. MEDITATIONS is that book.

    Most people have heard that Aurelius counsels to expect the worst and you will never be disappointed. While that is part of what he has to say, it is not the most interesting of what he has to say. At his most thoughtful, Aurelius calls on us to ask the best of ourselves and never mind the behavior of others. His MEDITATIONS is a work of motivational advice to inspire us in the ways of stoicism. It is a manual for being a complete, mature adult. It is a guide for living a dignified, thoughtful life

    Consider: "Suppose that a god announced that you were going to die tomorrow 'or the day after'. Unless you were a complete coward you wouldn't kick up a fuss about which day it was - what difference could it make? Now recognize that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small." Book IV (Greg Hays trans., Modern Library)

    Or: "Concentrate every minute like a Roman - like a man - on doing what's in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from distractions. Yes, you can - if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable. You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage this, that's all even the gods can ask of you." Book II.

    And: "If at some point in your life, you should come across anything better than justice, honesty, self-control, courage - than a mind satisfied that it succeeded in enabling you to act rationally, and satisfied to accept what is beyond its control - if you find anything better than that, embrace it without reservations - it must be an extraordinary thing indeed - and enjoy it to the full." Book III

    That these thoughts came from the most powerful man in the world, a man whose personal power so vastly exceeded the personal power of any American president that we have difficulty comprehending it, makes it all the more impressive. Aurelius continually writes that strength comes from humility, self-restraint and good humor towards others. He teaches us to accept what we cannot control and to trust what we know.

    Good advice, indeed.

  • Maru Kun

    Marcus gives us wise advice about using the Internet, particularly social networking sites:

    He shares his opinions on the worst types of modern professional. He does not approve of lobbyists and is rightly worried about their influence on the legislative process. We should heed his words:

    Marcus gives us wise advice about using the Internet, particularly social networking sites:

    He shares his opinions on the worst types of modern professional. He does not approve of lobbyists and is rightly worried about their influence on the legislative process. We should heed his words:

    He has harsh things to say about public relations executives;

    He understands the modern office dynamic, reminding himself:

    Marcus has advice for politicians, which it is clear from this book he thinks are untrustworthy, illogical and prone to anger. He condemns unreservedly all their faults and the problems with the modern electoral system:

    - Marcus is spot on in identifying a lack of democratic accountability, fostered by the CIA, NSA, GCHQ and the rest of the security paraphernalia, as being at the root of many of our current political problems.

    In the UK there is a tradition for politicians, or at least for the posher type of politician, to study “PPE” or “Politics, Philosophy and Economics” at either Oxford or Cambridge University.

    But despite such an expensive education our political masters don't have half the grasp on the classics that Marcus has, which is remarkable considering he was home-schooled. I wish Marcus would consider a career in politics just to show up our current representatives for the intellectual pygmies that they really are.

    Marcus also gives us advice on a more personal level. I don’t know much about his background but I can be sure he is the father of teenage children! Can he really keep his temper?

    Unlike other self-help writers he doesn’t flinch at reminding us about our own mortality:

    We should remember:

    and also

    How refreshing if more authors of self help books would confront squarely the central issue of our own mortality and our negative emotions of anger or frustration instead of forever hiding from these topics.

    So to end with my favorite paragraph, from book 10 paragraph 5. One for physicists as well as philosophers to puzzle over:

    I don’t normally read self help books. Often they seem full of cliches left over from the Victorian era. And in this book, which may have been modeled on the writings of Alain De Botton, Marcus mixes in a lot of philosophy and this just isn’t to everyone’s taste.

    But with this short work Marcus, who is Italian, and his co-author Gregory Hays have brought the format right up to date by reflecting squarely on the types of issues that we all face today.

    A great book by an author who - and this is no exaggeration - deserves a statue to be put up for him. I can only wish I could meet Marcus one day. In fact I’ll be checking out if he has any book signings lined up. If he has a decent agent I’m sure he has.

  • Glenn Russell

    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 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 n

    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 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

    : 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.

  • Phyllis Eisenstadt

    THINK ABOUT IT!

    Never before have I given a five star rating to a book of which I had only read 9%. However, this book is special in many ways, and if the beginning is any indication of the author's thoughts and reflections, it merits this rating. I eagerly await my future readings of this splendid work.

    Like the Bible, it can be opened to any page, and the passage will resonate with most people at various times in their life. Each passage stands by itself and is not dependent upon what had preced

    THINK ABOUT IT!

    Never before have I given a five star rating to a book of which I had only read 9%. However, this book is special in many ways, and if the beginning is any indication of the author's thoughts and reflections, it merits this rating. I eagerly await my future readings of this splendid work.

    Like the Bible, it can be opened to any page, and the passage will resonate with most people at various times in their life. Each passage stands by itself and is not dependent upon what had preceded it. Therefore, although I am in the midst of reading two other books, I pick this one up sporadically, read a few passages, and am not confused about plot and characters. Although the book was written in a manner easy to understand, it is anything but simplistic; it is profound and replete with wisdom. Further, it should be read slowly so that the reader may absorb the words and delight in the meditations of Aurelius. I have done much highlighting in order to remember certain passages, and I know I will reread them throughout the years.

    Once again, my friend Steve Sckenda has recommended quality literature to his GR friends for which I thank him most sincerely.

    Phyllis Eisenstadt

  • Riku Sayuj

    Marcus Aurelius must have been a prolific reader. He sure was a prolific note-taker, for these meditations are surely his study-notes(?- after all he was a 'philosopher' from age 12). I don't know of the publishing system at the time but where are the detailed footnotes and references? Marcus Aurelius is quite a wise man or at least he read enough wise men. He sure nailed it as far as boring a reader is concerned. No better way to establish your book's wisdom quotient.

    I am being needlessly caust

    Marcus Aurelius must have been a prolific reader. He sure was a prolific note-taker, for these meditations are surely his study-notes(?- after all he was a 'philosopher' from age 12). I don't know of the publishing system at the time but where are the detailed footnotes and references? Marcus Aurelius is quite a wise man or at least he read enough wise men. He sure nailed it as far as boring a reader is concerned. No better way to establish your book's wisdom quotient.

    I am being needlessly caustic of course(do note my rating above). The book is quotable in almost every page and is good to dip in to now and then, you might well find an aphorism that fits the mood just right every time. And that is why the book is a classic and so well-loved.

    Don't read it as a scholar, you will end up like this reviewer. As I said earlier - He is like the wisdom of ages. Aargh :) Not that it is all bad - it is like reading an old uncles's notes after he has been preaching to you all your life.

    Good that I am a stoic too. All ills are imaginary. Yes.

    [ Or perhaps it was easier to be a Stoic while stoned: The emperor was a notorious opium user, starting each day, even while on military campaigns, by downing a nubbin of the stuff dissolved in his morning cup of wine. ]

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