Known as the Philosopher King, the Emperor of Rome from 161 to 180 was a thoughtful man who wrote what is considered to be one of the great works of philosophy, an untitled work that we now call Meditations.
Marcus Aurelius advocated Stoicism, a philosophy that was founded nearly five centuries earlier. Zeno of Citium, Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus and others built a comprehensive pantheistic philosophy – that everything is one, that everything is determined, and everything is rooted in nature. The Stoics had an ethics which called for a will in agreement with reason and nature, a life in harmony with the universe. This is similar to the message of Spinoza and others more than a millenium later.
Aurelius captures the positive nature loving spirit of Stoicism:
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …”
He urges a psychology of inner-strength:
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.”
And yet he urges you to give into a determined world:
“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”
“What we do now echoes in eternity.”
He advises that we understand the truth is much bigger than any one person can claim:
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”
Meditations is a surprising book of insights that may apply to our modern world. It is simply a must read.