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Meditations Paperback – November 29, 2014
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Of my grandfather Verus I have learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion. From the fame and memory of him that begot me I have learned both shamefastness and manlike behaviour. Of my mother I have learned to be religious, and bountiful; and to forbear, not only to do, but to intend any evil; to content myself with a spare diet, and to fly all such excess as is incidental to great wealth. Of my great-grandfather, both to frequent public schools and auditories, and to get me good and able teachers at home; and that I ought not to think much, if upon such occasions, I were at excessive charges.
George Long's version:
From my grandfather Verus I learned good morals and the government of my temper. From the reputation and remembrance of my father, modesty and a manly character. From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich. From my great-grandfather, not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things a man should spend liberally.
Having said this however, it's still worth comparing both translations which are free on the Kindle.
Also, as a result of the publisher's choice of insanely small text, it causes the book to use so few pages that the spine itself easily creases. This book needs to be redone with at least a size 10 font so as to make it more readable and thereby require more pages, which would thicken the book a bit and give it more structural stability. Because as it is, it's not much sturdier than a magazine.
If you are apt to reading philosophy, profound books that give you insight into the universe and your place in it, I cannot think of any greater book than the Meditations. Marcus Aurelius has been called Plato's philosopher-king, and though I disagree with this, I see the point: he ruled the Roman Empire near its greatest extent with the virtues of fundamental stoicism. He did not want or consent to Plato's Republic, but he put his duties, his loved ones, and his country before his own interests. He rejected luxury and comfort. He wrote to remind himself to lead by example, that he is the master of himself, that emotions cannot puppeteer him, and that pleasures cannot warp his logic and his will to do good. He reminded himself to always be favorable to all that came by him, even those that disagreed with him and spoke ill of him, for he believed they were brought to the earth to work together. He rejected unreasonable condemnation and unhelpful criticism as well as praise and arrogant pride. He looked to correct, not condemn, the ignorant, and stand agreeable and thankful, not prideful and bashful, when corrected. He praised the universe for her inner-workings, borrowing from Plato's idea that all that is natural must in turn be good, if not for the individual, then for the whole, which then must still be good for the individual regardless. His metaphysics are not scientifically sound, the same for Plato, a large influence, but they do tap into the imagination.
He ponders most on death. Death is natural, and all that comes from nature must be good, therefore death is good. He reminds himself to never fear death as he would never fear breathing, or his eyes never fear seeing, or his hands ever fear writing. Death is a product of life, as sight is a product of the eyes, and writing all product of the hands, all natural consequences of being. What is there to fear? Nothing. What is there to be angry about? Nothing. When irritated, whose fault is it? Yours, for allowing exterior happenings you cannot control affect your inner peace.
My favorite part of the entire book is when he ponders on inner peace. Many would seek peace retiring to a calm village, a seaside home, or in the mountains far from the busy cities. Marcus argues he who has not inner peace in himself wherever, will never have inner peace whatever. Surroundings matter not, only your attitude. This is the biggest lesson of the Meditations, the greatest wisdom Marcus has to offer: it is your reaction to life, not life itself, that creates happiness. This was the principle Nelson Mandela stuck to when he was imprisoned. This is the principal that is the core of stoicism.
"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."
Pick up this book. It would be unfortunate going through life, pondering how to bring yourself happiness, when the secret to happiness was found 2,000 years ago. You do not have to accept all Marcus says, I do not agree with him on all things. But his wisdom is invaluable.