I first heard about Marcus Aurelius’ Meditation through Ryan Holiday, author of Ego Is the Enemy, The Obstacle Is the Way, and Stillness Is Key. After I finished Ryan’s latest book Stillness Is Key, I knew I had to jump into Meditations.
I had been hesitant to do so because I assumed it was going to read like a confusing Shakespearean play. After all, it was written hundreds of years ago. Luckily, the version that Ryan recommenced was a new translation by Gregory Hays, who is a professor of classics at the University of Virginia.
The introduction of the book by Gregory was random at first, seemingly jumping all over the place. Still, it was providing background for Meditations and provided a lot more depth behind Marcus, his life, and his thinking. I highly recommend reading the introduction before diving into Meditations.
I was able to read Meditations in about a week, which is a short read for me. Almost every page is filled with beautiful deep thoughts or observations. The level of introspection he had about himself, those around him, and humans in general, was fascinating.
Some points that stood out for me: Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions. But make sure you guard against the other kind of confusion. People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time – even when hard at work.
What a great observation. Have a purpose. Don’t let the meaningless aspects of life distract you from what matters. Don’t compare yourself with others. Find your purpose and work towards it.
Another that stood out to me: The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your life should take on the color of your thoughts. Color it with a run of thoughts like these:
Anywhere you can lead your life, you can lead a good one.
Lives are led at court…
Then good ones can be.
Things gravitate toward what they were intended for. What things gravitate toward is their goal.
A thing’s goal is what benefits it – it’s good.
A rational being’s good is unselfishness. What we were born for. That’s nothing new. Remember? Lower things for the sake of higher ones, and higher ones for one another. Things that have consciousness are higher than those that don’t. And those with the logos still higher.
One more: If it does not harm the community, it does not harm its members.
When you think you’ve been injured, apply this rule: if the community isn’t injured by it, neither am I. And if it is, anger is not the answer. Show the offended where he went wrong.
The format of the book was easy to digest as well. Meditations is a collection of Marcus’ journals sorted into chapters that are referred to as books. Each relates to each other, but there is a difference in tone between each. The easy to digest sentences or paragraphs within each book was the perfect way to present this information. There was no fluff, just direct thoughts around what he was conveying.
Meditations is a book that I will be rereading soon, and I will make sure to revisit it continually for the rest of my life. I imagine each time I read it, a new section will stand out or especially speak to me. It is a tremendous moral compass type of book, and I recommend that everyone pick it up for themselves.