Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Finished: July 21st, 2017. Rating: 8/10
If you need to borrow strength, this is the book you read. Beaten down by life? Read it. Have trouble adjusting to a new environment? Read it. Do rude people piss you off? Read it.
Meditations was written by Marcus Aurelius and for Marcus Aurelius. It was his journal. He was the last of the Five Good Emperors of Rome, and this journal was where he reflected on how he could improve.
Besides being the last of the Five Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius was one of the four great Stoic philosophers (the others being Gaius Musonius Rufus, Epictetus, and Seneca the Younger). Stoicism, contrary to popular belief, is not about the death of emotions. It’s about the control of negative emotions. It’s about leveraging obstacles as opportunities. It’s about finding strength under stress. Stoicism is a timeless philosophy for finding calm amidst chaos.
Every word in Meditations will help you do that.
Stoicism was used by Vice Admiral James Stockdale when he was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. The Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both studied Stoicism. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, best known for his New York Times bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek, regularly uses an exercise called “fear setting,” based on an idea of Seneca’s, to aid his decision making.
Meditations was among the few books Theodore Roosevelt packed when he explored the Rio da Dúvida (“River of Doubt”), now known as the Roosevelt River. This journey brought a 55-year old Roosevelt to the brink of suicide, but in his words, “these [books] and many others comforted me much, as I read them in head-net and gauntlets, sitting on a log.”
Marcus Aurelius himself used Stoicism to stay strong even through sickness (a possible ulcer), a possibly unfaithful wife, the death of 8 of his 14 children, tribal uprisings, plagues, numerous natural disasters (the city Smyrna was destroyed by an earthquake), betrayal (Aurelius’s general tried to usurp him), and more.
Aurelius’s quotes are all over the internet. If you like them, you’ll like this book.
My recommendation when reading is to note down passages, categorize them, then reread the passages whenever you need. For instance, note down all the quotes on dealing with rude people, then when someone rude upsets you, you can calm yourself by simply reading the noted passages. Because Aurelius wrote this for himself, his prose speaks to you in a way that no other book can.
No notes because I’d only be quoting passages. If you want excerpts, a simple googling would do the trick. As I said, Marcus Aurelius’s quotes are all over the internet.