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Marcus Aurelius


After an inundating recommendation by Tim Ferris and Ryan Holiday, I finally got my hands on an ancient book on stoic philosophy – Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (written around 167AD).

The book was originally Marcus Aurelius’s diary where he jots events and thoughts that strikes him; before it became a seminal text on stoc philosophy.

A little background on Marcus. He was the Roman emperor from 161 to 180, and he was regarded as the last of the five good emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius) and, needless to say, an uber stoic philosopher.

Half-way into the book, I couldn’t wait to share some of my favorites passages, the morals are anything but novel, yet, the dynamics of the word arrangements blows my mind, occasionally, tipping me off my reading chair. Enjoy.

On Time and Procrastination.

“Think of your many years of your procrastination; … It is time now … to understand that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance enlightenment; or it will be gone, and never in your power again” — Book 2 Passage 4

“Were you to live three thousand years, or even thirty thousand, remember that the sole life which a man can lose is that which he is living at the moment; and furthermore, that he can have no other life expect the one he loses. For the passing minute is every man’s equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours. Our loss, therefore, is limited to that one fleeting instant, since no one can lose what is already past, nor yet what is still to come” — Book 2 Passage 14

I will argue that we can lose what is yet to come – our lives are always branching (incessantly) into different possible contingencies. Although this is still tied to the instant moment argument already covered by Marcus.

An example: if I don’t write this post, it wouldn’t get posted, which means I automatically lose all the opportunity that might come with writing about stoic philosophy on my blog. A quite obvious loss of what is yet to come.

Apparently, Marcus could not spot the difference between a good life and having a good wife (and vice versa).

“And I must thank heaven for such a wife as mine, so [obedient], so loving, and so artless; for an unfailing supply of competent tutor for my children…” — Book 1 Passage 17

On Jealousy and Envies.

“Do not waste what remains of your life in speculating about your neighbors, unless with a view to some mutual benefit. To wonder what so-and-so is doing and why, or what he is saying, or thinking, or scheming — in a word, anything that distracts you from fidelity to the Ruler within you — means a loss of opportunity for some other task. See then that the flow of your thoughts is kept free from idle or random fancies, particularly those of an inquisitive or uncharitable nature. A man should habituate himself to such a way of thinking that if suddenly asked, ‘What is in your mind at this minute?’ he could respond frankly and without hesitation; thus proving that all his thoughts were simple and kindly, as becomes a social being with no taste for the pleasures of sensual imaginings, jealousies, envies, suspicions, or any other sentiments that he would blush to acknowledge in himself” — Book 3 Passage 4

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