What Marcus Had to Say

Derek recently narrated a book devoted to the stoicism of Marcus Aurelius. Marcus – let’s call him Marc – on second thought let’s not – lived from the year 121 to 180. For the last 19 years of his life, he was the Roman Emperor. Until Derek got this job, I was unfamiliar with his master work, Meditations, although millions around the world have read it.

Marcus Aurelius was considered a giant of philosophy in his lifetime and he remains so today. Yet part of his stoic beliefs involve not pursuing a legacy, or the folly of immortality. He thought it was futile and foolish. The tenets of stoicism are self-restraint, duty and respect for others. He has a lot to say about how to perceive things that happen in life: they aren’t good or bad, but we put those values on them. Go with the flow. If something happens, it can’t be changed and there’s no point in whining about it. Be stoic. Meditations chronicled his own quest for self-discovery.

meme featuring a drawing of a Marcus Aurelius bust - with curly hair, a beard, and a robe on his shoulders and the text of a quote: When you arise each morning this of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love

My question is this: Marcus was brilliant and insightful in the year 150. Why aren’t we humans ingesting his and other philosophies about the nature of life early on? Why are we instead, doing things like this in grade 9?

detailed pencil drawing of a crayfish that identifies all of its parts

Copying a diagram of a crayfish was entirely useless to me later in life. I recently unearthed this science project and wondered who thought this was the best use of my young mind? What I needed was grounding and perspective. We’re all works in progress, and if we look for it, we find ways to grow our minds over the years. But swapped out for the crayfish project, this classic piece of literature might have helped me mature much earlier. Marcus would say I’m experiencing his wisdom at the appropriate time. But he would never word it quite that way, he was too modest. Instead he would say something like this:

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

You can find more of his wisdom HERE.


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