In Search of Meaning; Reflections on Life

In search of meaning is a series of blog posts intended at reviewing ancient philosophical textbooks.

Today I will be reviewing Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. It was one of the books in my reading list that was recommended by many, including people from all walks of life. This title was also one of the common entries for all the answers to ‘What are the must read books in one’s life?’ in quora.

Meditations is a collection of books on the reflections of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who lived in the 1st century and was one among the best rulers Rome ever had. Once you read the Gregory Hays’ [translator] portrayal of Marcus Aurelius’ character, you will discover that the characterization of Marcus Aurelius in the 2000 hollywood blockbuster, Gladiator, is a fair one.

Meditations were a set of notes he wrote to himself and was never intended to be published for general public. This book is classified under stoics in philosophy. Stoics by definition is a way of philosophical living in which the follower endures pain and hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.

With this book I realised how much the translation of a book matters. Meditation is translated by many publishers but the one I enjoyed the most was by Gregory Hays. Readability of Hays’ translation has to be appreciated and his thought of providing the socio-economical and political background of that time, to make the literature more meaningful, is worth mentioning.

Meditations is a book of practical advices. What you get out of this book depends on what you have gone through in life. If this book had been taught in schools and colleges, we could have had better citizens and better humans.

Some of the quotes worth quoting here are:

The real nature of things our senses experience, especially those that entice us with pleasure or frighten us with pain or are loudly trumped by pride. To understand those things – how stupid, contemptible, grimy, decaying and dead they are – that’s what our intellectual powers are for.

I have never read a better explanation for what intellectualism means!

Look inward. Don’t let the true nature or value of anything elude you. If you can cut yourself – your mind — free of what other people do and say, of what you have said or done, of the things that you’re afraid will happen, the impositions of the body that contains you and the breath within, and what the whirling chaos sweeps in from outside, so that the mind is freed from fate, brought to clarity and lives life on its own recognizance — doing what’s right, accepting what happens, and speaking the truth

Isn’t this this ultimate spiritual awakening, all the mortals are after?

To the world: Your harmony is mine. Whatever time you choose is the right time. Not late, not early

How many of us have waited long enough to start something? That wasn’t a good idea even in the times of ancient Rome.

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself “I have to go to work – as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for – the things I was brought into the world to do.” People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat.

Do you need a better motivational piece of text to start working on your purpose in life ?

Don’t feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human – however imperfectly – and fully embrace the pursuit that you have embarked on.

The only quote you need to read to be resilient in life.

Meditations may be the only book you need, at times of difficulties and at times of triumph.

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