Meditations Updated: Book 1
Some of the language in Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (Dover Thrift Editions, best $1 I ever spent) can be hard to follow. So I took the liberty of updating it and sharing it here (also on twitter @StoicDay). I’d love to hear other interpretations (I’ve noted my editorial comments in italics, preceded by RP), and stories about trying to apply stoicism to your daily life.
1. Grandpa taught me how to be good and how not to lose my shit.
2. Dad taught me modesty and what a real man is.
3. Mum taught me generosity, clean thoughts, spirituality, and the value of simplicity.
4. Great grandpa was into home schooling and big on education.
5. The Governor (RP: not Arnie!) said: don’t waste time on team sports, work with your hands, don’t be greedy, say no to gossip, and don’t meddle in other’s affairs.
6. A guy called Diognetus said don’t sweat the small stuff, ignore forecasters, tolerate freedom of speech, get familiar with philosophy, and learn to dig Grecian discipline.
7. Rusticus taught me I had to improve my character, not to be a show off, and to abstain from poetry, rhetoric and fine writing. Write with simplicity, read carefully and understand deeply, and don’t be easily persuaded by those who talk a lot. He also gave me knowledge of Epictetus.
8. Apollonius taught the value of freedom of will, steadfast purpose and nothing else, and to be resolute in face of all events, how to receive good deeds from friends without being humbled or failing to thank them
9. Sextus showed the value of a benevolent disposition, how to be a good dad, to live in sync with nature, be good to friends, tolerate ignorance, how to be a good listener, how to discover and prioritize your life principles, how not to lose your shit, and how to be smart without showing off.
10. From Alexander the grammarian (RP: now that’s a vocation!): not to think less of others for poor language skills but to show the right way by example.
11. Fronto taught me about bad shit like envy, duplicity and hypocrisy, and how Patricians seem to suck at paternal love.
12. From Alexander the Platonic, I learnt it’s not cool to say you’re too busy to spend time with people who are important to you.
13. Catulus taught me to show friends empathy when they’re bitching about something, but only just enough to get them back to a good place. And to say good things about teachers and don’t forget to love your kids.
14. From my brother Severus: to love family, truth and justice. From a bunch of my bro’s friends:
· the idea that a political system in which everyone got treated fairly would be awesome,
· the importance of staying true to your values & being inclined to do good,
· to be optimistic about things, and trust that your friends care for you,
· to speak up on what you don’t like vs. not, and then having people worry about what you say behind their backs
15. From Maximus: be happy no matter what, with the right mix of dignity and being good to others, say what’s on your mind, always have good intentions, be unflappable, funny, and just all round awesome.
16. My step dad taught me a ton of things:
· Be chill & don’t waver on things you’ve decided to do.
· Hard work and perseverance matter, don’t get sucked in by external recognition.
· Listen to those with something to offer for the common good and give each of them what they deserve.
· Enjoy the benefits of vigorous exercise and rest.
· Don’t think you’re better than anyone else.
· Don’t expect too much of your friends.
· Be a thorough investigator, not swayed by first appearances.
· Be friendly, but not over the top, and not swayed by flattery.
My step dad was good at looking forward, watching over the empire, and not upset by criticism, nor superstitious. He also said:
· Don’t seek popular approval, be firm and fair.
· Enjoy what life gives you and don’t miss the extravagances when you don’t have them.
· Get your shit together and be able to manage others.
· Honor the real philosophers and don’t be misled by pretenders.
· Be a good conversationalist.
· Look after your health but not in an extreme way.
· Recognize greatness in others and help them.
· Don’t have a lot of secrets.
· Don’t go for a lot of pomp and ceremony, nor dress or eat extravagantly.
· Don’t jump to conclusions but consistently take time to understand things properly.
According to Socrates, my step dad could handle stuff others couldn’t, showing a strong soul (as demonstrated with Maximus’ illness)
17. Things I’m thankful for:
· To the gods for nearly everything being good, and that I didn’t piss them off by doing something bad.
· I didn’t get it on too early with my grandpa’s concubine and consciously put off having sex till I thought I was ready. (RP: did I read that right?)
· I had a cool dad and ruler of the empire to learn from, and to understand I don’t need all the trappings of being a king.
· To learn that even with such a public role as emperor you can still be a regular guy
· For an awesome brother who set a great moral example, and that my children were neither stupid nor deformed.
· That I sucked at public speaking, poetry and other studies which I wasn’t fully into (probably because I wasn’t doing well at them).
· I quickly gave those who helped me positions of honor, and that I knew some great people.
· Frequent reminders about how to live at peace with nature.
· I didn’t make a move on Benedicta or Theodotus even when I suffered from lust
· Though I often argued with Rusticus, that he holds no grudges about anything.
· Even though mum died young I got to spend the last few years with her.
· When I wanted to help someone I had the means to do so and that I never needed help from anyone else.
· A good, obedient, affectionate, and simple wife, and for lots of good teachers for the kids.
· Even if I felt any inclination towards philosophy that I didn’t follow any sophists.
· I wasted no time on historians, deductive reasoning, or appearances in the sky (all of these need the help of gods and luck).
End of Book I.
Let me know what you think :)