A statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome. Photo taken by Serghei Topor.
First of all, I want to say this is not a summary or a cliff’s notes version of Meditations because, hopefully, this blog post won’t be that long or go into that much detail. No, this post is merely meant to encourage you to read Meditations.
I was originally assigned to read this book in a Humanities course in college. I have to admit, probably because it was an assignment, I didn’t get the fully depth of the experience originally. I then had a friend tell me he read it often and it was a book he constantly went back to.
Eventually, I went back to it as well. I highlighted and scribbled in the margins, underlined and circled phrases, folded and dog-eared pages—this text was finally speaking to me.
This book is not your typical book, probably because it wasn’t intended to be a book at all. Meditations is just that, it is Aurelius’s thoughts on life and the world around him. It reads like a journal because it was one. It was Aurelius writing about the obstacles he encountered and the personal struggles he went through.
Read Marcus Aurelius. Go. Do it now.
It is important, and here’s why. Whether you believe in a God/Gods or not, you know that humans exist. This is a text that can illustrate our shared human experiences. This text is insight into private thoughts normally not shared. Here someone is sharing them, and while I don’t think this was ever intended to be published, I think that makes it even more special.
It is important because I believe we should all share our life experiences, and the things we know, and the things we learn through living. When we share our experiences, it not only creates a welcoming community, it helps other to learn from our lives and it helps to make life better for other humans.
Marcus Aurelius was born in A.D. 121, but as I read his work, I feel as though he is here having a conversation with me. Yes, this work has been translated into a language I can understand, so it isn’t his exact words, but it is his experiences. And I can relate to those experiences. He lived hundreds of years ago, but the struggles and trials he went through in his life are similar to the things we face as well.
He writes to remind himself that “nothing that goes on in anyone else’s mind can harm you.”
He says things that all of us could stand to remember from time to time: “You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you. Things can’t shape our decisions themselves.”
If you are looking for guidance or to reflect on how to live your best life, take a look at Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I can almost guarantee you will find something within its pages that speaks to something you are currently going through. Use this book to guide you, and pass it on to others.
There are other humans on this planet, which is wonderful and comforting if we share our knowledge and experience, but scary if we try to pretend we never encounter obstacles. Meditations shows us the thoughts and reflections of one man as he takes on his life; use it to help you take on your journey.