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wert same mind

Meditations

[med-i-tey-shuhn]
Meditations (Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, Ta eis heauton, literally "thoughts/writings addressed to himself") is the title of a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius setting forth his ideas on Stoic philosophy.

Marcus Aurelius wrote the 12 books of the Meditations in "highly-educated" Koine Greek as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement. It is possible that large portions of the work were written in Sirmium, where he spent much time planning military campaigns from 170 to 180. We know that some of it was written while he was positioned at Aquincum on campaign in Pannonia, because internal notes tell us that the second book was written when he was campaigning against the Quadi on the river Granova (modern-day Hron) and the third book was written at Carnuntum. It is not clear that he ever intended the writings to be published, so the title Meditations is but one of several commonly assigned to the collection. These writings take the form of quotations varying in length from one sentence to long paragraphs.

His stoic ideas often revolve around the denial of emotion, a skill which, he says, will free a man from the pains and pleasures of the material world. He claims that the only way a man can be harmed by others is to allow his reaction to overpower him. He shows no particular religious faith in his writings, but seems to believe that some sort of logical, benevolent force organizes the universe in such a way that even "bad" occurrences happen for the good of the whole.

Reception and Influence

Marcus Aurelius has been lauded for his capacity "to write down what was in his heart just as it was, not obscured by any consciousness of the presence of listeners or any striving after effect." Gilbert Murray compares him to Rousseau and St. Augustine and their Confessions. Though Murray criticizes Marcus for the "harshness and plainness of his literary style," he finds in his Meditations "as much intensity of feeling...as in most of the nobler modern books of religion, only [with] a sterner power controlling it." "People fail to understand Marcus," he writes, "not because of his lack of self-expression, but because it is hard for most men to breathe at that intense height of spiritual life, or, at least, to breathe soberly. D.A. Rees calls the Meditations "unendingly moving and inspiring", but does not offer them up as works of original philosophy. Bertrand Russell found them contradictory and inconsistent, evidence of a "tired age" where "even real goods lose their savour." Using Marcus as an example of greater Stoic philosophy, he found their ethical philosophy to contain an element of "sour grapes". "We can't be happy, but we can be good; let us therefore pretend that, so long as we are good, it doesn't matter being unhappy. Both Russell and Rees find an element of Marcus' Stoic philosophy in Kant's own philosophical system. Gregory Hays' translation of Meditations for The Modern Library made the bestseller list for two weeks in 2002.

Quotations

  • If thou art pained by any external thing, it is not this that disturbs thee, but thy own judgment about it. And it is in thy power to wipe out this judgment now. (VIII. 47, trans. George Long)
  • A cucumber is bitter. Throw it away. There are briers in the road. Turn aside from them. This is enough. Do not add, "And why were such things made in the world?" (VIII. 50, trans. George Long)
  • Soon you'll be ashes or bones. A mere name at most--and even that is just a sound, an echo. The things we want in life are empty, stale, trivial. (V. 33, trans. Gregory Hays)
  • Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust or lose your sense of shame or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill-will or hypocrisy or a desire for things best done behind closed doors. (III. 7, trans. Gregory Hays)
  • Not to feel exasperated or defeated or despondent because your days aren't packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human--however imperfectly--and fully embrace the pursuit you've embarked on. (V. 9, trans. Gregory Hays)
  • Let opinion be taken away, and no man will think himself wronged. If no man shall think himself wronged, then is there no more any such thing as wrong. (IV. 7, trans. Méric Casaubon)
  • (...) As for others whose lives are not so ordered, he reminds himself constantly of the characters they exhibit daily and nightly at home and abroad , and of the sort of society they frequent; and the approval of such men, who do not even stand well in their own eyes has no value for him. (III. 4, trans. Maxwell Staniforth)
  • Take away your opinion, and there is taken away the complaint, [...] Take away the complaint, [...] and the hurt is gone (IV. 7, trans. George Long)
  • Whatever happens to you has been waiting to happen since the beginning of time. The twining strands of fate wove both of them together: your own existence and the things that happen to you. (V. 8, trans. Gregory Hays)
  • Do not act as if thou wert going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over thee. While thou livest, while it is in thy power, be good. (IV. 17, trans. George Long)
  • Do not then consider life a thing of any value. For look at the immensity of time behind thee, and to the time which is before thee, another boundless space. In this infinity then what is the difference between him who lives three days and him who lives three generations? (IV. 50, trans. George Long)
  • When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own-not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. (II. 1, trans. Gregory Hays)

Editions

Some popular English translations include:

  • The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, translated by George Long (1862); reprinted many times, including in Vol. 2 of the Harvard Classics.
  • The Golden Book of Marcus Aurelius, translated by Meric Casaubon. J.M. Dent & Co. (London). 1906-1908.
  • Meditations, translated by Maxwell Stainforth. ISBN 0-14-044140-9.
  • Meditations, translated by Gregory Hays. ISBN 0-679-64260-9.
  • The Emperor's Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations, translated by Scot and David Hicks. ISBN 0-7432-3383-2.
  • Meditations, translated by A.S.L. Farquharson. ISBN 0-19-283907-1.
  • "The Essential Marcus Aurelius" Newly translated and introduced by Jacob Needleman and John P. Piazza. ISBN 978-1-58542-617-1

See also

References

External links

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