Meditations: An Introduction

I am currently reading, and will probably be slowly doing so for some time, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.

For those who aren’t familiar with this particular Roman emperor here is a brief description from the dust jacket of my edition of Meditations.

The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
(AD 121-180) embodied in his person that deeply cherished, ideal figure of antiquity, the philosopher-king. His Meditations are not only one of the most important expressions of the Stoic philosophy of his time but also an enduring guide to living a good and just life. Written in moments snatched from military campaigns and the rigours of politics, they reveal a mind of exceptional clarity and originality, and a spirit attuned to both the particulars of human destiny and the vast patterns that underlie it.

I wanted to introduce it to my blog because I am finding that reading my way through the Books provokes me to think about Marcus’ worldview and how much of it still applies to life in our time.

Book I reads as a dedication to all those who had shaped Marcus’ life, opinions and actions. It is like a rollcall of the characteristics that are important to him, and those from whom he learned them. And while reading it, I was struck by the thought that I haven’t actually openly acknowledged my guiding principles for a very long time or openly recognised other people’s influence in and over my life.

It also occurs to me that many of the principles Marcus valued are no longer openly taught or transmitted in our society. At least, they are not manifesting amongst the younger people I have had contact with over the past few years. Take a look through the following list and see what you think.
Were any or all of these principles taught to you?
Are you seeing them being taught or modelled around you today?
Are they still valued and valuable? Do we still need them?
I’d like to hear what you think.

  • to have an even temper
  • modesty
  • to keep from doing evil and from dwelling on evil thoughts
  • to be slow to listen to slander
  • to put up with plain speaking
  • to read books accurately
  • not to be satisfied with superficial thinking about things
  • graciousness
  • to avoid fault-finding
  • love of family, love of truth, love of justice
  • to do good
  • to be useful
  • mastery of self
  • to be generous, forgiving, void of deceit
  • love of work and perseverance

💡 Postscript: for those with a philological leaning, the term principle has its roots in the Latin: Princeps meaning leader, emperor.

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