Writing a review of Meditations is a hard task since there is too much to describe and discuss in one post considering the idle length of a blog post, or of a book review or to have your attention till the end of the post, but it is not enough. I rejected the idea of writing a review before writing this review, several times. But as Marcus Aurelius said:
At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work – as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for – the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’
Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD. He is considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers and what we read today as Meditations is actually a personal notebook written by Marcus, for himself. He divided his work into 12 shorter volumes that comprise today the Meditations. One might question, what to learn from a man who is now a part of wandering dust, who is dead for almost 18 centuries? Wisdom. Wisdom is the crux of life.
In each of the 12 volumes, Marcus’ writing is clear as he describes the virtue of one’s life as a plot that progress as the essence of how universe as a whole works. In his journal, he reminds himself with understanding of universe is recursive in nature.
Everything have always been the same, and recuring, and it makes no difference whether you see the same things recur in a hundred year or two hundred, or in an infinite period.
There is no point in loathing how one’s life is and Marcus writing helps one in endurance. He offers wisdom on how tackle endurance without affecting one’s mental or physical state, constantly reminding us of the solo life we have. From the start of the book, Marcus focuses on the logos, the reasoning, the rational part of our minds, our thoughts our actions, each totally depended on one another. He emphasis the importance of work and discourages the distractions and desires we all have to deal in time. The presence of oneself, the conscious moment, and in that moment he encourages one to be patient and control our actions accordingly. His words shine a beam on the tolerance of nature and how one dislikes, disapproves of another, and reminds us that everyone have faults, thus, one should not concentrate his physical and mental energy on anger.
The way Marcus tackles death with his words is an important theme of this book. It is a known fact, as Marcus describes death to be a natural process, from his understanding of universe and how one should not fear or consider it as a taboo in one’s life. One can not change the nature of the Nature itself. Marcus motivates one to focus on what is in his hands and that is the present moment of one’s life.
Concentrate every minute – 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 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?
Another important aspect of his writings is the way he dealt with the future, which deep inside we all know, yet we need a constant reminder for our minds to mingle with. The future, as Aurelius describes, should not be the point of distraction in our present since it will only cause disturbance and uncertainty in our minds and can lead to improper actions.
Never let future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
I observed after reading Meditations is why we refer to a book as a classic? Is it because of the time that it has been written? I guess not. If that is the case then every other book written till the current date and time is a classic. That is not the definition or the categorisation of a book as a classic in any case. So what describes a book or rather what differs a book to be different from the others written in the same time span? Refining what I just said, why only a few amount of text survives over a long period of time, centuries to say? Every piece of text has its own purpose to its reader and some text fulfil the purpose of many readers. Thus, survival of a book like Aurelius’s Mediations or Dante’s Inferno completely depends on their offering to whomsoever is reading them. Significance of these texts depends on their teachings or learnings for the reader as well as the person who wrote them. One way to measure their significance is to measure by the wisdom they offer in time of crisis where time of crisis depends on each individual.
Other way to measure is to read it. I encourage you to go through it for once and you will find some wisdom in Marcus Aurelius’ words.