Meditations is one of the most significant books of all time. It’s a diary of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It offers insight into the thought and value systems of one of the most important figures of the Roman Empire. Marcus wrote Meditations solely to himself. But this doesn’t diminish the value of this book it makes it even more significant. Influenced by stoicism, the book provides an insight into the observations, dilemmas, and thoughts that occupied Marcus Aurelius. Marcus sees humans as an integral part of the universe. He perceives all the adversity and hardships in life as the potential for development. He comprehends failure as a chance to become stronger and wiser. He experiences negative and positive as inseparable and only as a transitory state. The emperor saw nothing as permanent. He encourages the reader to manage his reactions to external stimuli. His contemplation of death is also interesting because in the face of death he sees the chance to thrive:
“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly. What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.”
The book is still relevant today. Although society has changed since the time of Marcus Aurelius, what hasn’t changed is our moral dilemmas and hardships. Today, just like in the time of the Roman Empire, people face similar problems. Marcus’ contemporaries were also troubled by the challenges of understanding and managing their emotions, lack of meaning in life, and finding a purpose. The reason why this book is still beloved today is simple. It provides answers and coping mechanisms to all those challenges. As Marcus Aurelius said:
“The happiness of your life, depends on the quality of your thoughts”
Here are some Marcus Aurelius quotes:
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength”.
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present”.
“We live only now. Everything else is either passed or is unknown”.
“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears”.
“Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside”.
“Do not waste the remaining part of your life in thoughts about other people, when you are not thinking with reference to some aspect of the common good”.
“No action should be undertaken without aim, or other than in conformity with a principle affirming the art of life”.
“Remove the judgement, and you have removed the thought ‘I am hurt’: remove the thought ‘I am hurt’, and the hurt itself is removed”.
“It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’ No, you should rather say: ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearful of the future”.
“Your mind will take on the character of your most frequent thoughts: souls are dyed by thoughts. So dye your own”.
“Soon you will have forgotten all things: soon all things will have forgotten you”.
“Accept humbly: let go easily”.
“No more roundabout discussion of what makes a good man. Be one!”.
“The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have”.
“It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them”.
“When someone is properly grounded in life, they shouldn’t have to look outside themselves for approval”.