Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Essential Marcus Aurelius (2008)

     Want the general experience of having read Marcus Aurelius' Meditations (160-180) without the tedium of actually having to read the full text?  I would suggest The Essential Marcus Aurelius (2008).  Not that I'm any kind of expert on the subject, but I know I was greatly appreciative of much of the seemingly redundant philosophy.
     Not that there is anything wrong with what Aurelius wrote – it is just that the same ideas are covered with more skill and tact in other philosophies and/or religions.  It is clear that Aurelius is largely afraid (to some degree) of his eventual death, and found it a constant struggle to find meaning in his life in light of this.  He seems oddly appreciative of life for a man who spent his time killing people at the fringes of the Empire. 
     The strange thing is that the commonness of his writing is what makes it seem wholly unimportant.  George Gershwin seems to have a better manner to explain that fame is not guaranteed to endure in "Nice Work if You Can Get It" (1937), and even there it was as an aside to the notion that love may be a greater reward that external validations,. 
      Anyway, I have selected a few things from Aurelius' Meditations as condensed in this book:

"It is as if someone standing by a fountain of pure and sweet water were to yell curses at it, yet the fountain never stops bubbling fresh water.  Even if you should hurl mud or even throw shit into it, the water will quickly disperse it and wash it away, and in no way be defiled.  How, then, can you have such a fountain within yourself?  By guarding your freedom each and every hour with kindness, simplicity, and self-respect."  [p. 65-66]
     I mostly like this one because Aurelius seems to be okay with drinking shitty water.  Because the fecal matter is going to settle in that fountain.  I just don't think he thought this through.

"Stop philosophizing about what a good man is and be one." [p. 76]
     Good advice, right?  But it kind of requires that he stops writing at that point.  There is an entire school of thought that proper philosophers live their philosophies rather than detail them for others.

"[W]hoever gives in to fear, pain, or anger is a fugitive." [p. 77]

"How ridiculous, what a stranger in his own land, is the person who is surprised by anything that happens in life." [p. 92]

No comments:

Post a Comment