222 of 227 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 1998
The style is direct and unpretentious. The message is simple but extraordinarily powerful: life is short, the past and the future are inaccessible, pain and pleasure have no meaning, but inside each one of us there is a ruling faculty that is touched only by itself. Only that which makes us better capable of confronting our condition with resolution and courage can be said to be good, and only that which makes us worse and more unsatisfied can be said to be bad. The only thing that is of any importance is our own private quest for perfection, which no external power can ever destroy. Marcus Aurelius delivers many insightful and inspirational observations about human nature and the human condition, and he makes an excellent rational argument for seeking the good and for acting modestly and continently. I cannot think or a more satifying and moving work, and it is all the more poignant because it was written by a man who wielded almost absolute power and lived surrounded by the luxury, yet managed to keep things in perspective and to occupy himself only with what truly matters. One sentence captures perfectly the spirit of his writings: "Where a man can live, there he can also live well." An extraordinary testimony of wisdom and fortitude.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 1998
My first exposure to Marcus Aurelius was "Silence of the Lambs" (when Hanibal Lector quotes Aurelius to Clarice). I was intrigued. After reading Meditations, I was even more intrigued, and started buying copies for my friends. I have read Nietzche, Plato, Sartre. But this book tells it like it IS. Aurelius did not shy away from discussing topics we find too embarrassing today: from death to sex, perversity to honesty. This small volume is PACKED with life-giving, refreshing wisdom. And the price??? An unbelievable value.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 1999
I love Marcus. He is noble, sensitive, and trying his best to live right despite being emperor and stuck leading an army near the Danube. A great soul, a friend, someone who understands all you have suffered. Indispensable.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2003
This edition of Marcus Aurelius' 'Meditations' is an excellent rendition of what may be the most profound book of insight meditation ever written. It is an updating of George Long's venerable 1862 translation, with long sentences untangled and thee's and thou's modernized to you's . At first I found it a little dry and underemphatic, but as I continued reading, I became thoroughly engaged by its clarity and precision. As a literal reading, the Dover edition is a lot more readable than Loeb's Haines translation, and more direct than Staniforth's Penguin edition. And at this price, you almost can't afford not to have it. 'Meditations' really can help you be a better person.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 1999
I found this book so powerful, I was moved to memorize large parts of it.
Each paragraph, while following a theme of the section, is completely relevent in itself.
The book can be picked up and read from any page and any paragraph, and the user will need no context to the previous paragraph, and will find each paragraph sufficient unto itself.
The book accomplishes this by driving, in pure and unadulterated form and words, the main theme quickly and directly to the reader.
Accerpt from memory:
"Let it be thy earnest and Incessant Care as a Roman and Countryman to do whatever it is that thou are about with true and unfeigned gravity, natural effection, freedom and a sense of justice. As for all the other cares and imaginations, how shalt thou ease thy mind of them ? Which thou shalt do, if though shall go about every action as though it were thy last, free from all vanity and self love....."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2014
In many important ways, the reflections of Marcus Aurelius (121-180) crystalize the philosophical wisdom of the Greco-Roman world in a diary written to himself whist emperor fighting a war out on the boarder of the Roman Empire, a little book know to us as The Meditations.
The Roman philosophers are not as well knows or as highly regarded as Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus or Zeno the Stoic - and for a simple reason: the Roman thinkers were not primarily interested in abstract theory; rather, they were concerned with behavior, that is, understanding how to live in the everyday world and putting their understanding into practice; the goal being to live the life of an authentic philosopher, to be a person of high character and integrity, to develop inner strength and a quiet mind and value such strength and quietude above all else. Indeed, to accomplish such a lofty goal, the Romans realized the need for radical transformation, a complete overhauling of one's life through rigorous mental and physical training, like turning base metal into pure gold. And once a person takes on the role of a philosopher, their deeds must reflect their words - no hypocrisy, thank you! Thus, it isn't surprising the Romans put a premium on memorizing and internalizing simple proverbs and maxims and employed the metaphor of philosophy as the medicine to cure a sick soul.
Turning now to Marcus Aurelius, we can appreciate how he imbibed the wisdom not only from the Stoics (along with Seneca and Epictetus, Marcus is considered one of the three major Roman Stoics), but he was also willing to learn from the schools of Epicurus, Plato and Aristotle. In the Greco-Roman world, being an eclectic was perfectly acceptable; truth was valued over who said what.
We find a several recurring themes in The Meditations: develop self-discipline to gain control over judgments and desires; overcome a fear of death; value an ability to retreat into a rich, interior mental life (one's inner citadel); recognize the world as a manifestation of the divine; live according to reason; avoid luxury and opulence. But generalizations will not approach the richness and wisdom nuggets a reader will find in Marcus's actual words. Thus, I conclude with my personal observations coupled with quotes from Book One, wherein Marcus begins by expressing heartfelt thanks to his family and teachers for the many fine lessons he learned as a youth. Here are four of my favorites:
"Not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home" ---------- After my own nasty experience with the mindless competition and regimentation of public schools, I wish I had Marcus's good fortune of excellent home schooling.
"Not to meddle with other people's affairs, and not to be ready to listen to slander." ---------- I didn't need a teacher here; I recognized on my own at an early age that gossip is a colossal waste of time and energy, both listening to gossip and spreading gossip. I can't imagine a clearer indication of a base, coarse mind than someone inclined to gossip and slander others.
"To read carefully, and not to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book." ---------- How true. Reading isn't a race to get to the last page; matter of fact, I agree with Jorge Luis Borges that focused, precise rereading is the key to opening oneself to the wisdom of a book.
"To be satisfied on all occasions, and be cheerful." ---------- I'm never in a hurry. Life is too beautiful to be in a hurry. For me, there is only one way to live each day: in joy and free from anxiety and worry. In a sense, all of the meditations of Marcus Aurelius amplify this simple view of life.
I've written this review as an encouragement to make Marcus Aurelius a part of your life. You might not agree with everything he has to say, but you have to admit, he has a really super-cool beard and head of hair.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2014
There isn't much that can be said that hasn't already been mentioned. This is the classic translation of a classic work. Read it now, and then pick it up and reread it at least once every year or so. It pays dividends.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2015
Timeless essays on human character and such. Seminal framework. Probably the greatest thing ever purchased for $1.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2015
One of the greatest books ever written. Why wouldn't you want to take the advice of a man who ruled during Rome's Pax Romana? All of Marcus' advice is in short punchy sections (as if he knew our attention spans would be lousy).
Read it in short bursts... try to practice what Marcus is instilling in you... don't rush through it in a weekend.
There's a reason powerful people call this their favorite book. William "BJ" Clinton called this "his favorite book" and revisits it all the time. Not saying you should emulate Clinton, but you cannot deny the fact that powerful people - including Marcus himself - found this book to be a fundamental tool in their toolbox of knowledge.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2014
I am currently on chapter 9 of this book. I must say I am glad to be reading this at my 5-10 page pace and not that of say a college course. I find myself reflecting and reading, reading and reflecting. To get this book for a penny is like WHAAAAT? Either your going to read it or not. If you are in the picking up the pieces stage (mid life crises or such) be as objective as possible. It is easy to gravitate to the things in this book that may agree with distrust of mankind based on the fact that it's mankind and nothing more. However if your looking for that old sage/elder assistance in better living, this book might help.