You Should Be Reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

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Meditations is the translated and published personal writings of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180). Likely never intended for publishing, Marcus Aurelius wrote the 12 books, (effectively chapters) of Meditations over the course of his life. They mainly detail his philosophies and principles in the form of hundreds of short paragraphs, ranging from the length of one sentence to a few pages.

As is to be expected of the last of the “Five Good Emperors”, whose death marked the end of a two-century long period of (relative) peace in the Roman Empire, Marcus’ writings are full of absolute gems of wisdom. Many of these gems are simple truths, the kind that seem natural and even obvious once pointed out, yet are nonetheless remarkable. These mainly include core Stoic concepts, like acting in accordance to nature and accepting things outside of your control. Almost every idea presented is very clear and practical as Meditations often directly calls the reader to act in a certain way, while explaining how to do so and what benefits would arise as a result.

The format of the book also makes it a very enjoyable read. Since the individual paragraphs are short and disconnected from one another, it’s very easy to start and stop reading whenever and wherever. This also allows the reader to move from idea to idea quickly, and easily reread any parts they find particularly significant or abstract, which made the experience much more engaging for me.

Now is the perfect time to pick this book up. 2021 has just begun, and with a New Year comes new resolutions and personal goals. January is the time of self-improvement. To speak for myself, I feel that if I keep even just one of the teachings of this book in mind at all times, I would be well on my way to achieving such improvement. I also hope to do more reading this year, and perhaps some of you do as well, in which case you would be killing two birds with one stone by reading Meditations. With all of this in mind, I pose you the question, why are you still reading this? You should be reading Meditations!

To end this short recommendation, I leave you with some quotes:

“Another does wrong. What is that to me? Let him look to it; he has his own disposition, his own activity. I have now what Universal Nature wills me to have, and I do what my own nature wills me to do.”

“Call to mind the whole of Substance, of ¬†which you have a very small portion, and the whole of time whereof a small hair’s breadth has been determined for you, and of the chain of causation where of you are how small a link.”

“If this is neither evil of mine nor action which results from evil of mine, and if the Universe is not injured, why am I troubled because of it? And what injury is there to the Universe?”

“Do not because a thing is hard for you yourself to accomplish, imagine that it is humanly impossible: but if a thing is humanly possible and appropriate, consider it also to be within your own reach.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.