Meditations: Living, Dying and the Good Life by Marcus Aurelius and translated by Gregory Hays is a classic book that talks about Marcus Aurelius who lived in Greece during the period 121 – 180 AD. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor, perhaps the only one that talks about spirituality and spiritual reflections. The book discusses aspects like human rationality, divine providence and moral virtues.
Stoic philosophy is an ancient Greek philosophy that flourished in Greece and Rome around 400 years ago, and that which received wide support from amongst all societies in both countries. The believers of stoic philosophy did not believe that the mind was an incorporeal entity and argued that it obeys certain laws of physics.
Stoic philosophy in Meditations
Meditations is more of a series of pensée, and it says that everything that is happening now has happened always and will continue to happen. The book notes that people would go on marrying, breeding, getting, sick and dying and in between there will be war, boasting, plotting against each other, complaining, throwing parties, flattering for gain and so on. The book makes us think about the futilities of life – what was in a blob of semen yesterday would be in an urn of ash tomorrow. No matter what the person’s profession or status is, he would die one day. Marcus also makes one thing clear – everything has a purpose in life and he urges his readers to discard their ambitions and recognize their transient and insignificant self. The book makes us think about the futilities after which man runs.
Here is an excerpt of a thought-provoking passage in the book:
“‘If you seek tranquility, do less.’” Or (more accurately) do what’s essential — what the logos of social being requires, and in the requisite way. Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better. Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?” But we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well. To eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow.”