By Troy Headrick of Thinker Boy: Blog & Art
I’ve started reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. I’m only into chapter four—I bookmarked page twenty-three to be a bit more specific—but I’m already so glad I decided to look at it again. As I claimed in my last blog, the book is full of wisdom and provides a great study in how to live artfully. It would certainly make my list of top ten most influential tomes I’ve come across in recent years.
In my previous piece, I mentioned that Aurelius teaches his readers how to age with grace and dignity, which makes it universally relevant since we’re all inexorably moving down a path called “life.” As a matter of fact, the book is full of wonderful passages on mortality and aging. For example, toward the end of chapter two, he writes the following:
In human life, our time is a point, our substance a flux, our senses dull, the fabric of our entire bodies subject to corruption, our soul ever restless, our destiny beyond divining, and our fame precarious. In a word, all that belongs to the body is a stream in flow, and all that belongs to the soul, mere dream and delusion, and our life is a time of war and an interlude in a foreign land, and our fame thereafter, oblivion.
That’s not only a teaching passage; it’s beautifully written as well. Given that this is our fate, Aurelius, shortly after writing this, says that “philosophy” is our most dependable “escort” and “guide.” I think he’s saying that we should live an examined life if we want to be able to put things in perspective. We should live self-reflectively and thoughtfully.
Some might find the above passage depressing, but the implied argument is one that liberates. He doesn’t rail against ambition—he, in fact, held considerable political power during his lifetime—but he warns against taking ourselves (and life and others) too seriously and placing value on things which aren’t going to last and have little genuine importance. His argument, if you really think about, is very freeing. It’s about enjoying the experience, the here and now, without trying to make things larger than what they are. Exaggeration seems to be a terrible human trait. We make mountains out of molehills much more often than we should. We blow things way out of proportion. We take things way too personally.
In my previous blog I said that I was going to include some case studies in this one—of those who age well and those who don’t—but one never knows where a piece of writing is going to go once a person starts writing it.
Just a reminder: Getting a little off track, while writing and thinking, doesn’t make one a bad person. The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line but who says the most beautiful type of line is a straight one?
I’ll finish by asking an open-ended question. What came to mind as you were reading my blog?
19 thoughts on “One Way to Be Absolutely Free”
Thanks to those who are liking my post. Please send links to your blogs so I can check them out.
I am not a philosopher,but just trying to understand what exactly troubling the humanity ! I just started reading your blog articles and i am going to be immensely benefited.Thank you
Thank you for the nice comment. We all learn from each other. I am an educator and I often feel that I learn more from my students than they learn from me. Do you have a blog or website? If so, why not put a link here so I (and others) can check it out.
enjoyed your write-up & connected dots; inspires one to read or re/read meditations. thank you.
It’s the sort of book a person needs to reread every five years or so. What book do you especially like and would recommend? I got a Barnes and Noble gift certificate that I haven’t used yet and would appreciate some recommendations.
The Biology of Belief 10th Anniversary Edition
Most reads these days are leaned towards rewiring the brain, which is key to compensate for the damage many suffer (i.e. TBI, PTSD, etc). So, neuroplasticity-land 🙂
Thank you for sharing… the reason I am enjoying life is because I am living life my way, following my heart with a open mind…. 🙂
“Confidence is knowing who you are and not changing it a bit because of someone’s version of reality is not your reality.”― Shannon L. Alder
Absolutely! Being authentic is so empowering! Unfortunately, the world (and its expectations) exert so much pressure on us. But being “the real you” is something worth fighting for. Thanks for the valuable reminder!
I’ve been writing about Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. What book would you all recommend that I read? What book has been especially influential or inspirational or thought-provoking?
I would recommend “If Only I’d Listen to Myself” by Jacques Salome and Sylvie Galland.
Sounds interesting. Thanks, Bogdan. I’ll will check it out. The title certainly sounds promising!
What came to mind as you were reading my blog? That I have only read a few quotes from Marcus and should really look into his published works. It always amazes me that people long ago had the same questions we have now. I love reading their thoughts.
I do too. The Great Books always contain universal insights that are timeless. Thanks for the comment!
I heard of Aurelius on a Sam Harris podcast last week and, as a philosophy buff, was ashamed to have never read him. Then I forgot I wanted to buy his Meditations, until reading your lovely blog. Thank you.
You certainly won’t be disappointed if you get your hands on a copy of Meditations. By the way, I read the Sam Harris book on Christianity–he isn’t a believer as you are likely well aware–and thought it was a powerful argument against organized religion. He was speaking to choir when I read it though.
Yes Harris is one of my top five thinkers. I have read all his work and consider him a fair and clear examiner of everything he tackles. His recent move into expanding his interests in meditation are a welcome change, if you are interested.
I loved this post! Thank you for that. It’s always great to have a little reminder to ease up about everything. It’s so true that we get caught up in the exaggerations and put meanings to things that don’t have to have them.
I’m glad you liked the post! And thank you for the interesting comment.