Ladies and gentlemen,you are quite in luck today because you will be getting some hardcore lessons from Marcus Aurelius.
Yes,I am talking about the mighty Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius! He will himself be present and give you some of what he knows about life.So maintain pin-drop silence throughout, and pay attention to him, everybody.Beware!You don’t want his wrath to be unleashed upon you.
Alright,you might be scratching your head right now and asking yourself-“What in the world can long died Marcus Aurelius teach me?“
Here is your answer:
The Way Of Life!
Simple as that.
Marcus Aurelius,one of the greatest and most powerful emperors of the Roman Empire, was also a huge proponent and advocate of the undervalued and underrated ‘Stoic Philosophy.’
‘Stoic Philosophy’ or simply,’Stoicism‘ is the school of thought of the Greek,which was founded in Athens by Zino of Citium in 300 BC,as an upgrade to Cynicism.
The word ‘Stoic’ is derived from the word ‘Stoa poikile‘ which means ‘painted porche‘-the place where Zino of Citium used to conduct and educate his philosophy.In modern times, the word ‘stoic’ refers to a person who is quiet,apathetic and inanimate.
Stoicism,in my opinion,is by far the best philosophy developed till date, because it pronounces that destructive emotions are the result of our own errors in thinking and judgements,much like the principles of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.)
The fact that stoicism is hugely applicable in our lives makes it more appealing than other known philosophies,which are heavily based on the theoretical plain.
Stoicism proffers two doctrines to which to adhere to:
- Looking and interpreting the life circumstances in a way which would result in indifference towards them.
- Endurance of the life circumstances,whatever they may be,and keep on living composedly.
In a nutshell,Stoicism is:
“To not want to let it go…but to let it be.”
Just the opposite of what Buddhism is all about.
When applied systematically,the stoicism not only makes a person more rational, but also more calm and collected.
Stoicism is the way to learn to not give a fuck…for real,I am serious about that,and I don’t give a fuck what you think.
Today,I am going to present you my most favorite points from the book “Meditations” written by the Marcus himself.
I know you are all excited to get into the meat of the article,but I want you to have a little more knowledge about how the book ‘Meditations’ came into existence.
Marcus Aurelius wrote many self-instructional and self-guiding notes from 161 to 180 AD,in which he drafted his own personal take on the Stoic Philosophy.These notes,which consist of quotations ranging from one sentence to the length of a paragraph, were never intended to be published or distributed,hence are written in a very bland and blatant manner.
The notes also didn’t have any official title,so when they were actually published,they were divided into twelve books, under the title “Meditations“,which in Medieval Greek literally meant “To Himself“,which is what those notes actually were to Marcus.
Marcus’ opinions on the Stoicism were heavily influenced by Epictetus,whom he mentions many a time in the ‘Meditations’.
The recurring themes in the ‘Meditations’ are-the self-control,adherence to ethical behavior and, contemplation about death.I have never in a book read about death so many times, and ‘Meditations’ is crazily repetitive about it.
Another point that Marcus stresses a lot in the notes, is behaving according to the ‘Logos‘.
‘Logos’ is a complex terminology and the debate is still on fire as to what it actually means.Reading ‘Meditations’ though,one cannot deny the similarities between the beliefs of Logos and Pantheism.
Pantheism is a very neo-word,and refers to a doctrine where it is believed that everything cosmic is divine and should be revered as it is.
According to Heraclitus (pre-Socratic Greek philosopher),Logos meant: “that universal principle which animates and rules the world”,although it sternly denies the personality of a morphological God.
What it comes down to is that,whatever happens to you,was intended by the nature to happen and there is no way you could have changed it,so instead of resisting it,you must learn to accept it.
Although,I disagree with some ideologies in the book (concept of Logos,for instance),there is a ton of things to be picked up from it.
Credits:The points are taken in the unadulterated form from the book ‘Meditations’ deftly translated by Gregory Hays and proudly published by the Modern Library of New York.
The points are immediately followed by a brief comment from me.These are practical implications to the philosophy presented.Keep in mind though,they are my personal interpretations of the points,and you can draw totally different inferences.
Let’s get started…!
•Concentrate every minute like a Roman—like a man—on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can—if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable. You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life?
COMMENT:In the above quote,Marcus stresses on the significance of being in the present moment,that is,not thinking about the past or the future, and putting all one’s attention and concentration to the task at hand-at present.
He also implies to be rational rather than emotional.
The lines-“You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life?“,colors the life with simplicity.Like I have always said,life is not complicated or twisted,it’s only as confusing as you make it.
Keep things simple and achieve the greatness.
•Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed.Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.
COMMENT:This goes along the veins of “Nobody can hurt you without your
The world is polluted with unfair people who spit venom when they speak.The choice which we have,is either to get affected by the snark or not.
It is completely up to us whether we ‘choose’ to feel hurt, or to pass.
We have our feelings under our control.Nobody but you,control how you feel and react to the environment around yourself.You,therefore are the true and real master of yourself,not the one who ‘does harm’.
Do not let people’s words affect your state of peace and tranquility. You have the choice to believe in either your words or other people’s.
For instance,let’s say someone calls you incompetent.
What do you do?
You get down and depressed?
If so,then it is because you believe in them rather than yourself.You just gave that person permission to hurt
Call yourself competent and scrap what others say.
Others can only hurt you to the extent you let them.
•That every event is the right one. Look closely and you’ll
Not just the right one overall, but right. As if someone had weighed it out with scales.Keep looking closely like that, and embody it in your actions: goodness—what defines a good person.Keep to it in everything you do.
COMMENT:This one is huge.
There is a lot of baggage and scars that people get from fateful events in their lives.These scars remain and impede one’s progress,even long after the event is done with and forgotten.
Looking at everything through the lens of “every event is the right one“,immediately heals any bruises from the past.If every event was the right one,then there is no one to blame or feel depressed about it.If every event in your life was the right event,how can you feel bad about it?
Every event that has occurred was right.It moved you towards something good or better.Maybe it helped you to improve,reflect or be cautious in the coming future,but it made you wiser than you were yesterday.
Maybe you got fired from your job.
Is that a good or a bad event?
You may feel that it is a tragic event,but if you look at it, Marcus’ way-every event is the right one,you immediately regain control and power.
You got fired from the job,but now you can look for a job which pays more.
Maybe now you can follow your passion.
Another example- let’s say,you had neglectful parents growing up.It sure was a bad event.Wasn’t it?
But what did you gain from it? Maybe you forged some really good friendships and had people who you didn’t even know,take good care of you.
You will also be a better parent as you would know how bad negligence feels.
Not good or bad,but every event made you stronger and smarter than your previous self.
Appreciate that fact.
•To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around it.
COMMENT:This quote insinuates that a person must aim to keep his desires and emotions under control at all times.
The people,by their very nature,are chaotic and inconsistent.One must learn to not be moved by their flux,no matter how strong their ‘waves’ are.In a nutshell,become stronger than the pandemonium around you.
When you make a decision,you must follow through.
When you say you will do something,always stand by your word.
Never let yourself and your words, be affected by what happens around you.
Become like a rose.No matter where you are put,you give out sweet fragrance.Do the right things and keep doing them, even if everyone around you is indulging in vice.
Have principles and be prepared to even die for them.
That is what character is all about.
•Like seeing roasted meat and other dishes in front of you and suddenly realizing: This is a dead fish. A dead bird. A dead pig. Or that this noble vintage is grape juice, and the purple robes are sheep wool dyed with shellfish blood. Or making love—something rubbing against your penis, a brief seizure, and a little cloudy liquid.
Perceptions like that—latching onto things and piercing through them, so we see what they really are. That’s what we need to do all the time—all through our lives when things lay claim to our trust—to lay them bare and see how pointless they are, to strip away the legend that encrusts them.
COMMENT:You have to give it to Marcus for his gritty perception towards life.
In the above quote,he advices (himself) to be unphased by anything mesmerising that presents itself before his eyes.To see a dead pig,instead of a delicacy.
People lose control of themselves when they see something unusually attractive, and they feel the urge to either own or consume it.The emotions then,cloud their perceptions and judgements about the thing or the person and they end up making some really horrible decisions.One must learn to see things as they are at their core,and not what they present themselves to be.
Get real for a moment.
Everything and everyone has a rotten side.
One must learn to see things beyond the crafted perfections of the substances and organisms.
Learn to call a spade,a spade.
Don’t sugarcoat anything just to make yourself feel better about it.
•Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.
COMMENT:Indulging yourself in critical thinking and not believing in what other people say.
There is a very popular (read: deadbeat) story about some frogs living in a well.Everyday some of these little frogs tried to climb up the well to get out.The other frogs, when they saw their fellows climbing,screamed: “You can’t do it…it’s not possible”.The frogs listened to them and they gave up.Why even bother if it’s impossible?
Well one day,a quiet tiny frog began jumping and bouncing ferociously out of the well.
“Oh come on!It’s not going to happen…” screamed the other frogs.
The tiny frog looked at them and started jumping with even more strength.Every other frog in the well was witnessing the ‘insanity’ of the tiny frog.
The tiny frog mustered up all the strength,and made a huge leap…out of the well!
All the other frogs were astounded at this feat.”Nobody could ever do it…” they used to say.
How come this tiny frog made out of the well?
He was deaf.
The point is this-if it looks impossible to achieve,it’s because it is not done by any other mortal being…yet.
Do your fuckin duty and set out to achieve it.Become ‘deaf’ to the disbelieving masses.They are the ones who are going to admire you once you conquer what was hailed as ‘impossible’.
•In the ring, our opponents can gouge us with their nails or butt us with their heads and leave a bruise, but we don’t denounce them for it or get upset with them or regard them from then on as violent types. We just keep an eye on them after that. Not out of hatred or suspicion. Just keeping a friendly distance.
We need to do that in other areas. We need to excuse what our sparring partners do, and just keep our distance—without suspicion or hatred.
COMMENT:The above analogy is a great way to look at the world.
The world is a wrestling ring which comprises of either associates or rivals.The only person you can really rely on in the battle, is yourself.
When you are in a fight in the ring,you do not get angry or spiteful when somebody throws a punch at you-that was expected of him.
What you do, is you create and maintain a gap from that person, and keep an eye on him-on his next move.You don’t anchor any vitriolic emotions towards anyone who caused any damage to you whatsoever,but you become cautious of them.Everybody wants to win in this fight and not everybody follows the code.
Real life is no different.Someone tries to get better of you,it’s not really them.They are in the same ring and want to be victorious too,and not everybody adheres to being fair in the game of life.
•If anyone can refute me—show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective—I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and
COMMENT:Relentless pursuit of the truth,self-honesty and self-knowledge always lead to benefits.Self-deception and ignorance might be bliss but it’s not happiness,and it’s definitely not everlasting.
The truth and knowledge don’t need to be churned out of the deep ocean.It’s right in front of you.
The truth will be elusive only when you are hell bent on deceiving yourself, and intentionally eschewing it, so you can be happy for short term.You can have that,nobody would prevent you.But,you shall keep in mind that eternal happiness and peace can only be attained through the constant pursuit of truth,even if that means acknowledging that you are wrong.
If someone you deem wiser than you,tells you that you are wrong,it’s time you take a critical look at yourself.Maybe it’s you who is wrong.The person in the higher hierarchy than you didn’t just appear at the top out of nowhere.
Seek the truth,and not the ego.
•What injures the hive ,injures the bee.
COMMENT:Very subtle, but powerful observation made by Marcus.
The human is a social animal and prefers to live in the community rather than isolation.Therefore, anything that affects the community,inadvertently affects every single being involved in the community.This goes back to Marcus’ philosophy that the universe is a single functioning identity.
•Honey tastes bitter to a man with jaundice. People with rabies are terrified of water. And a child’s idea of beauty is a ball. Why does that upset you? Do you think falsehood is less powerful than bile or a rabid dog?
COMMENT:Every being on this planet has varied perception of the things and events around it.
These perceptions vary from person to person.
What is beautiful to you,might be ugly for me.What is young for me might be old for you.Fifty thousand dollars a month might be a fortune to you, but it is dirt for a millionaire.Even a murderer says he did the right thing by killing his fellowmen.
The kicker is,the perceptions not only vary from person-to-person,but also from time-to-time
Today’s banal days will be tomorrow’s “Good ol’ days“.
Today’s “hardships” will be tomorrow’s “learning experiences.”
I may like vanilla today, but strawberry might become my favorite tomorrow.
All are,but different perceptions.The lesson to be learnt here is that,you don’t need to be judgemental towards anyone’s perception of anything,but to seek the perception which is most useful in ushering you beyond your self-perceived and self-imposed limits and then emulating those perceptions.
Many years ago,I adopted a perception of seeing any and every problem in my life as an opportunity to grow or perform better in the area.
Having poor relationship skills used to be a problem, which then became an opportunity to acquire the skills in forming and maintaining healthy relationships.
An angry client was no more a problem, but an opportunity to improve the business I was in.
Health issues transformed into opportunities to get in shape.
I want you to understand that you run your life according to how you see and interpret its situations,and each and everybody has different perceptions.This is the reason everybody gets different results,even when presented with the same situation.Everybody takes different actions based on their perception.
You must adopt the perceptions which will push you towards your goals not limit you.
You can begin that by becoming an atheist.
Alright guys! This wraps up today’s class (unfortunately),but Marcus will soon be back with more lessons.
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Until Next Time,