My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Meditations (1909) by Marcus Aurelius is a very dense book, and yet his reflections consist of a mere 122 pages and should be read with enough time to reflect on what is mentioned therein. An additional 92 pages of notes are included, and the notes often hinder the reading more than helping with any new insight.
Most of the notes simply provide cross referencing between the chapters (verses) found in the 12 books (chapters) of Meditations. Marcus Aurelius, however, often repeats himself, especially when discussing the “directing mind,” fame and death; nevertheless, his insights into life are important in any attempt to better understand how to evolve mentally. Below you will find some of the quotes I found to be most intriguing, and if you enjoy these, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the rest of the book.
“Failure to read what is happening in another’s soul is not easily seen as a cause of unhappiness: but those who fail to attend to the motions of their own soul are necessarily unhappy” (Book 2, pg. 12).
“You may leave this life at any moment: have this possibility in your mind in all that you do or say or think” (Book 2, pg. 12).
“To put it shortly: all things of the body stream away like a river, all things of the mind are dreams and delusion; life is warfare, and a visit in a strange land; the only lasting fame is oblivion” (Book 2, pg. 15).
“Your duty is to stand straight–not held straight” (Book 3, pg. 19).
“One who is all in a flutter over his subsequent fame fails to imagine that all those who remember him will very soon be dead–and he too” (Book 4, pg. 26).
“Words in common use long ago are obsolete now” (Book 4, pg. 30).
“The best revenge is not to be like your enemy” (Book 6, pg. 46).
“The directing mind is that which wakes itself, adapts itself, makes itself of whatever nature it wishes, and makes all that happens to it appear in the way it wants” (Book 6, pg. 47).
“What, then, is to be valued? Applause? No. Not therefore the applause of tongues either: the praise of the masses is the mere rattle of tongues. So you have jettisoned trivial glory too. What remains to be valued? To my mind, it is to act or refrain from action according to our own proper constitution, something to which skills and crafts show the way” (Book 6, pg. 49).
“Disgraceful if, in this life where your body does not fail, your soul should fail you first” (Book 6, pg. 51).
“How many who once rose to fame are now consigned to oblivion: and how many who sang their fame are long disappeared” (Book 7, pg. 59).
“Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretence” (Book 7, pg. 69).
“When you are reluctant to get up from your sleep, remind yourself that it is your constitution and man’s nature to perform social acts, whereas sleep is something you share with dumb animals” (Book 8, pg. 73).
“Men are born for the sake of each other. So either teach or tolerate” (Book 8, pg. 82).
“What more do you want, man, from a kind act? Is it not enough that you have done something consonant with your own nature–do you now put a price on it?” (Book 9, pg. 93)
“The time you have left is short. Live it as if you were on a mountain. Here or there makes no difference, if wherever you live you take the world as your city. Let men see, let them observe a true man living accordance with nature” (Book 10, pg. 99).
“No star wears a veil” (Book 11, pg. 113).
“If it is not right, don’t do it: if it is not true, don’t say it” (Book 12, pg. 118).
“Completion is determined by that being who caused first your composition and now your dissolution. You have no part in either causation. Go then in peace: the god who lets you go is at peace with you” (Book 12, pg. 122).
CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), and a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU. He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; A Time to Forget in East Berlin; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can also follow the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 400,000+ followers