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Finished reading this recently. It's a collection of "notes to self" written by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (ca. 161-180), known for being a Stoic philosopher.

The copy I had included introduction, notes and an index (total around 25% of the book) by Gregory Hays. The intro was interesting as an overview of Roman life in the time of Marcus Aurelius, though some may find it a bit dry.

I picked up this book because over the years I had occasionally seen people talking about the book, Marcus Aurelius, and/or Stoicism, so I was a bit intrigued.

One of the primary tenets of Stoicism seems to be that of detachment from things that are out of your control; that your happiness should depend only on your own mind and on doing good and not on what others are doing to you, etc. This is probably a helpful attitude to have in our modern era where it seems we are always a few disasters short of catastrophe.

Although I appreciate many of the ideas shared in the book, I'm not sure Stoicism is good for me on a day-to-day basis, mostly because of the amount of detachment from the world it prescribes. There is a strong sense of fatalism in the principles Marcus espouses. While that may shield you from bad emotions such as anger or hatred, I think that level of detachment might also take away a sense of joy in your life? I'm not sure I'd like to be a Vulcan.

(IDK, it's possible I'm misinterpreting the philosophy. It's possible it would have been better to start off with the earlier Stoic writers like Epictetus or Seneca so I have a more solid foundation.)


Some parts I highlighted:

Book 1: Debts and Lessons

Not to be constantly correcting people, and in particular not to jump on them whenever they make an error of usage or a grammatical mistake or mispronounce something, but just answer their question or add another example, or debate the issue itself (not their phrasing), or make some other contribution to the discussion—and insert the right expression, unobtrusively.

Book 3: In Carnuntum

Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people—unless it affects the common good. It will keep you from doing anything useful. You’ll be too preoccupied with what so-and-so is doing, and why, and what they’re saying, and what they’re thinking, and what they’re up to, and all the other things that throw you off and keep you from focusing on your own mind.

Stop drifting. You’re not going to re-read your Brief Comments, your Deeds of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, the commonplace books you saved for your old age. Sprint for the finish. Write off your hopes, and if your well-being matters to you, be your own savior while you can.

Book 4

People try to get away from it all—to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish that you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like. By going within.

Book 5

Some people, when they do someone a favor, are always looking for a chance to call it in. And some aren’t, but they’re still aware of it—still regard it as a debt. But others don’t even do that. They’re like a vine that produces grapes without looking for anything in return. A horse at the end of the race . . . A dog when the hunt is over . . . A bee with its honey stored . . . And a human being after helping others. They don’t make a fuss about it. They just go on to something else, as the vine looks forward to bearing fruit again in season. We should be like that. Acting almost unconsciously.

Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human—however imperfectly—and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked on.

Book 7

Look at the past—empire succeeding empire—and from that, extrapolate the future: the same thing. No escape from the rhythm of events. Which is why observing life for forty years is as good as a thousand. Would you really see anything new?

Book 12

that to expect a bad person not to harm others is like expecting fig trees not to secrete juice, babies not to cry, horses not to neigh—the inevitable not to happen.

Thu, Feb. 17, 2022, 11:10 p.m. / / blog / #books #philosophy / Syndicated: mastodon twitter / 752 words

Last modified at: Feb. 18, 2022, 12:26 a.m. Source file

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books Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (intro by Gregory Hays) Feb 17 2022 -