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The Essential Marcus Aurelius (Tarcher Cornerstone Editions) Paperback – January 10, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

The acclaimed author of The American Soul, Why Can’t We Be Good? and Money and the Meaning of Life, Jacob Needleman is Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University, and former Director of the Center for the Study of New Religions at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. He lives in Oakland, CA.
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Product Details

  • Series: Tarcher Cornerstone Editions
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: TarcherPerigee (January 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585426172
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585426171
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This translation is "essential" because it is not a complete translation. The translators' note that some of Aurelius just is not amenable to translation and so pass on doing so. Calling this book "essenital" is making a virtue of this decision. Still, the book is nice and short with a useful intro essay. And, it does contain the basic wiring: do not look to others for approval but seek it within yourself; control what you can and do not worry about what you can not; understand that you only have this moment and commit to being a good person in it. Worth the time.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I carry my Marcus Aurelius with me everywhere. His wisdom is timeless and useful to us all. I am purchasing a few more copies for some friends that I know will appreciate him. If you are looking for the wisdom of the ages...practical, timely wisdom, then Marcus is for you.
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Format: Paperback
As I write, the minions of X have just waged a campaign on Wikipedia to revise the facts of one of the best known episodes in American history so its entry will conform to their idol's dazzlingly dumb word-salad version of that event. Elsewhere, Y is closing in on hit number 3,000. And Z, who has long wanted one, just got an afternoon talk show.

No point naming names. They don't matter. If these people didn't vie for our attention --- and our rage, our envy and our amusement --- others would. Life is incessant. And busy. And it's been that way forever.

"Life is all warfare and a stranger's wanderings, and the reward is oblivion," Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) writes. His remedy:

Do not waste what remains of your life in speculating about your neighbors... To wonder what so-and-so is doing and why, or what he is saying, or thinking, or scheming --- in a word, anything that distracts you from fidelity to the ruler within you --- means a loss of opportunity for some other task.

Marcus Aurelius was not the first to see the world as a play in which the characters chase after shadows, forget they are the leading actors of their own dramas and discover too late --- if at all --- that they have wasted their lives. And he was not the first to know what to do about it. But he was blunt and brief and non-judgmental, and the combination makes him stand out from other philosophers. Almost 2,000 years after his death, you can read him as if he published his book last week.

And not just read Marcus Aurelius. Re-read him. Like all great art, the "Meditations" change as you change --- the book you read in school is different at age 30, and completely fresh again at 60. Lucky is the reader who has one copy all his/her life.
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Format: Paperback
Marcus Aurelius' Meditations is among the most popular works to survive from antiquity. In the introductory 30 pages of The Essential Marcus Aurelius, Jacob Needleman and John Piazza provide the historical setting and background information so that the reader can gain a better understanding of the 12 books (chapters) of Aurelius' meditations. The passages chosen are intended to convey the universal significance of Aurelius' writings for people in all walks of life. The meditations will make the reader pause and think, as they are an inner exploration about problems and questions of life. We find that humans are basically the same, even almost 2,000 years later, for he wrote about situations that many of us ponder. Even an emperor of the huge Roman Empire had to grapple with problems and had questions about life.

-- Alice R. Berntson, New Connexion Journal
[...]
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Format: Paperback
This is a great translation of an enduring classic. The Meditations is a lifelong collection of practical wisdom that should be consulted periodically by anyone interested in living a better life.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Wow! I have read and own different daily readers and inspirational texts. But, this book has quickly become my favorite for dispensing timeless wisdom without talking to you like a child or someone who needs a lot of stories to get the point. I can routinely open to any page, read one of the numbered entries, and be inspired all day, or go back and re-read it throughout the day in agreement.

For example, in 8.29:
"Master your impressions by continually saying this to yourself: 'Now it is in my power that within this soul there be no wickedness, appetite, nor any agitation at all. But, seeing things for what they truly are, I will make use of each one according to its real worth' Remember the power that you have been given by Nature"

Replacing "Nature" for "God" works on much of his writing.

Just reading the words "..nor any agitation at all" makes one realize that letting go of the inner agitations is all it takes to find your center again.

The Essential Marcus Aurelius (Tarcher Cornerstone Editions)
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Format: Paperback
The four stars come from the content, which is Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius' meditations on life -- in fact, the title of this book is usually "Meditations." But Jacob Needleman and John Piazza have, for some reason, decided to eliminate much of the content of the original work, apparently in an effort to make it clearer and easier for 21st century readers.

That's a noble goal, I guess, but enough has been left out that it makes me wary of what's been left in. In other words, is this really Marcus Aurelius, or is it more Needleman and Piazza?

What's in this slim volume is just fine, a combination of Hellenistic Stoicism and August Comte ("this is the best of all possible worlds"), and the translation is crisp and readable. Marcus Aurelius, who spent most of his time as emperor fighting off barbarians far from Rome, was profoundly influenced by the Stoic thought that had developed over the past 400 years (he lived in the 2nd century CE). The goal was to live a happy, fulfilled life, and the Stoics argued that such a life was only possible in the haven of one's own mind. The body and the world were too full of pain and suffering to rely on, so a good Stoic would do his best (women were given short shrift in the ancient world) to rise above pain, suffering and bad luck by comforting himself with the knowledge that he was doing the best he could to act in a proper manner,

At the same time, Marcus Aurelius convinced himself that the universe was essentially good, and in fact, everything in it happened for the best, even though mere humans couldn't grasp the plan.

The philosophy expressed in "The Essential Marcus Aurelius" is not only durable but also useful, even if readers can't quite swallow all of an emperor's sunny view of life.
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