Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Marcus Aurelius

I just finished Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. It isn't terribly long, and consists of his advice on how to live a good life. A consistent theme is that we should live our lives according to reason and without regard for the thoughts of others, knowing that we will soon die. Bracing thoughts.

Some quotes:
Chap. III, para. 4:

Waste not the remainder of your life in thoughts about others, except when you are concerned with some unselfish purpose. For you are losing an opportunity to do something else, when you have such thoughts as: "What is such a person doing, and why, and what is he saying, and what is he thinking, and what is he contriving?" . . . We ought to check in the course of our thoughts everything that is without a purpose and useless, but most of all meddling and maliciousness. A man should train himself to think only of those things about which if you were suddenly asked, "What have you now in your thoughts?" -- with perfect openness you might immediately answer, This or That.

* * *

Chap. IV, para. 17:

Do not act as if you would live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.

* * *

Chap. IV, para. 47:

If any god told you that you should die tomorrow, or certain the day after tomorrow, you would not care much whether it was the third day or the morrow, unless you were completely mean-spirited -- for the difference is too small to consider. So think it no great matter to die after as many years as you can name rather than tomorrow.

* * *

Chap. V, para. 28:

Are you irritated with one whose arm-pits smell? Are you angry with one whose mouth has a foul odor? What good will your anger do you? He has this mouth, he has these arm-pits. Such emanations must come from such things. "But the man has reason," you will say, "and he could, if he took pains, discover wherein he offends." I wish you well of your discovery. Now you too have reason; by your rational faculty; stir up his rational faculty; show him his fault, admonish him. For if he listens, you will cure him, and have no need of anger . . .


Blogger Eddie said...

I am drawn to the stoics, but ultimately I don't think they adequately account for the trust needed to operate in the world, especially a world such as ours. Stoicism seems more like a fall back position when things aren't going well.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not wasting thought on others is exactly what has our country in the predicament it is in right now, both domestically and internationally.

Although the read may have been enjoyable, it is not a prescription for the good life.

5:06 PM  

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