Reading: an Emperor’s Guide to Protecting Your Peace

Saturday, October 08, 2016

How serendipitous that the first of our weekly Reading posts should fall on #BookshopDay?! This week we’re revisiting Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, albeit more of a private philosophical journal than a literary book. Written around 168-180 AD, the journal offers insight into the inner workings of the Roman Emperor’s mind. Why, you may wonder, in the year of our Lord 2016, should you be interested in reading the mind fluff of yet another canonical Dead White European Male?

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
Because it happens to be good stuff. Good, timeless stuff that will resonate with the modern reader who reflects on leadership and service unto her fellow man, and on their position and purpose within a global village. Which, we think are subjects that play on the mind of every millennial. A passage that particularly resonates with us here at the Five Es is:

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness - all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow-creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet, or eyelids, or like the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law - and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction?” 

Naturally, given that it is a journal and wasn’t necessarily written for public consumption, the scope of the text is broad. But underpinning it all are Stoic philosophical meditations like the above, and a vision of humanity as equal members of a providential brotherhood. Whether or not we share his Stoic leanings or understanding of our place and nature within the universe, the Emperor could teach us a thing or two about how to protect our peace, keep a clear mind, and get on with others in this thing called life. It’s worth perusing a page from Aurelius’ Meditations. 

Available: on Amazon or in the spirit of #BookshopDay, at Waterstones

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