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Meditations (A Penguin Classics Hardcover) (edició 2015)
de Marcus Aurelius (Autor)
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Meditations de Marcus Aurelius
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I first read Meditations in 2015. I really liked it and was awed at how the ideas written by Marcus Aurelius two millennia ago, felt so true and on point in our times.
On this second reading though, almost five years later, and after so many things have changed in my life since then; I've come to truly appreciate the wisdom of Aurelius. He's showed me how we are not so different, a Roman Emperor and the most powerful man on earth at the time and me, just an ordinary man two thousand years later. There were so many passages I highlighted and notes I made on the margins and in between blank spaces in my hardcover edition. Really contemplating the ideas he wrote to himself and sometimes being struck at how much his words resonated. Without any doubt in my mind, an outstanding and inspiring man. I will definitely be returning many times to my copy of this book (Hays translation), to center myself as I continue to find my way in this chaotic life and strive to be a better man, just like Marcus Aurelius did.
Clásico del estoicismo y la vida mínima que invita a la reflexión en las decisiones diarias. Muy recomendable para los tiempos de abundancia y desidia.
Lido em dezembro 2022 - muito bom
Modern stoics are such pilferers of diaries... That they would take the desperate letters of self-encouragement, the cheap ‘self-help’ of musty centuries, for any kind of truth is vulgar. And worse they have made the mistake of taking a ‘shepherd’s manual’ for life philosophy. Such bad taste is the case with most ‘Stoic thought’. Meditations, Seneca’s Letters – these are private conversations and should remain as such. Those who can derive the most benefit from these works are roman emperors of the second century, teens, and office workers who are about to receive a stern (but less-than-official) reprimand from a client or manager and must remind themselves not to let it ruin a nice weekend at the links.
Were someone to publish my own ‘notes to self’ as any kind of life philosophy I would be mortified. Imagine how even the face of Marcus Aurelius would flush were he to learn that his private, unpolished musings were being used as cheap self-help by thousands of ‘peasants’ and 'petty bourgeois'. (He, the Emperor! What gall.) If there is one truth in this work, it is found in the description of the unrelenting stupidity of each generation, “always the same”.
Stoicism is a kind of play-acting. As one might critique the modern self-help genre as so much tripe compared to the original stoics, so too the stoics are characterized by bad thought and bad thinking. The fool reads one book, and, taking it uncritically, proceeds to speechify as if the ideas were his own. The stoic sleeps one night on the ground and considers himself a philosopher for discovering the possibility of being unfortunate (though he remains a fortunate one). In this instance, he has gone less far than even the vulgar peasant, for at least this slave really does experience privation.
These aren’t just strong opinions – ask Marcus Aurelius if he is really convinced by his own tract. If I may paraphrase a paraphrased Kierkegaard, ‘Aquinas has already made himself ridiculous with his five proofs. If G-d really exists, then one proof should be sufficient. And even one is too many, for why should I attempt to prove that my neighbor exists – such a thing would be an insult. All the more to G-d, who does not need his existence “proven".’ This should be our attitude to Marcus Aurelius’ arguments against his fear of death. The bored student already realizes this, “Why does he repeat himself so much? Why is he always changing his arguments from one page to the next?” This is because he hasn’t convinced even himself. If Marcus Aurelius had conquered his fear of death and also realized the truth of his perspective with Platonic Knowledge, then he would not have to repeat himself. Maybe once he would write it down, perhaps to please the peepers of dairies, but there wouldn't be reason to justify its prominent place throughout the text. The argument continues, why insist on virtuous life slow to anger if this is already one’s character…
Perhaps most damning, Meditations can only be taken in the context of real political supremacy such that one’s only difficulties consist of small intrigues and social slights. Aurelius' insistence on the Rule of Law in reference to Nature is also the transparent insistence that others respect his supremacy. As such, this work only applies to those who are themselves roman emperors or imagine themselves as such. (I’m looking at you, teens.) For anyone else, adherence to command is servility through the looking glass of self-actualization. This weakness is evident in Aurelius’ use of metaphor:
“Pointless bustling of processions, opera arias, herds of sheep and cattle, military exercises. […] The miserable servitude of ants, scampering of frightened mice, puppets jerked on strings. Surrounded as we are by all of this […] remembering that our own worth is measured by what we devote our energy to.”
How many of these aria singers, military recruits might be better than Aurelius, yet are fixed to 'strings' by material conditions. Why not use an example of inner turmoil as metaphor instead of the act of performing one’s duty? Because what Aurelius really wants is Dominion. I provide the following as a corollary:
“To keep on being the person that you’ve been—to keep being mauled and degraded by the life you’re living—is to be devoid of sense and much too fond of life. Like those animal fighters at the games—torn half to pieces, covered in blood and gore, and still pleading to be held over till tomorrow . . . to be bitten and clawed again.”
The little person Augustus deigns to play a small part in his metaphor, to receive a little insult, is then returned to life where he is immediately put to death.
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The translation doesn't shrink from anachronism (there's talk of atoms) and sometimes verges on the new age: "Stay centred on that", "Let it hit you". But it's sparky and slangily readable, and for those who know Marcus only as the Richard Harris character in Ridley Scott's Gladiator, this is a chance to become better acquainted.
As a critic once said, the Meditations are an "unassailable wintry kingdom". But in the desert of 2003, their icy blasts are refreshing and restorative. They tell you the worst. And having heard the worst, you feel less bad.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)188 — Philosophy and Psychology Ancient, medieval and eastern philosophy Stoic
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To the extent that I think about philosophy, these thoughts often chime with my own, except for the assumption of rational thinking and the acceptance that everything happens for the best, for example see book 4:9-10:
9. It was for the best. So Nature had no choice but to do it.
10. That every event is the right one. Look closely and you’ll see. Not just the right one overall, but right. As if someone had weighed it out with scales.
The collection can be repetitive and morbid, but is also fascinating; to read thoughts from over 1,800 years ago that sound current (although this observation is dependent upon the translation).
I am currently also reading Rage by Bob Woodward, and I think a lot of the military personnel who were asked to serve the US in the Trump administration were probably more than a little conversant with the stoicism of the Meditations.
In respect of the translation by Gregory Hays, there were Americanisms, and I was flummoxed by the meaning of “gussy up”, an American colloquial term I had heard before, but had to google to understand!
Time is a river, a violent current of events, glimpsed once and already carried past us, and another follows and is gone. ( )