Author: Marcus Aurelius
Translator: Gregory Hays
Publisher: Modern Library
Release Date: May 6, 2003
0.57in x 8.02in x 5.30in
Written by Roman philosopher/emperor Marcus Aurelius, this book is full of useful wisdom and practical philosophy. The book was written by Marcus for his eyes only as a way to contemplate his thoughts and organize his ideas. Marcus admits openly that he’s not a fan of flawless logic and believes it hinders ones ability to concentrate on the underlying purpose of all philosophy: to serve as an ointment. As a result, some of his arguments are wisdoms rather than proofs.
"If there were anything harmful on the other side of death, they would have made sure that the ability to avoid it was within you. If it doesn't harm your character, how can it harm your life? Nature would not have overlooked such dangers through failing to recognize them, or because it saw them but was powerless to prevent or correct them. Nor would it ever, through inability or incompetence, make such a mistake as to let good and bad things happen indiscriminately to good and bad alike. But death and life, success and failure, pain and pleasure, wealth and poverty, all these happen to good and bad alike, and they are neither noble nor shameful-and hence neither good nor bad." page: 20
Because Marcus wrote it as an elderly man, the most commonly recurring themes are purpose of life, death, and afterlife. Nature, Marcus says, would never do anything to harm its creations without giving them a way to avoid it. Therefore, since death is inevitable, it cannot be harmful. This argument is repeated throughout the whole book in various forms.
"The world is nothing but change. Our life is only perception." page: 38
Another theme that is contemplated often is role of various human temperaments in society. Marcus argues that because Nature would never create anything without some sort of purpose, every kind of individual is necessary. Fools, thieves, and sinners all fulfill an equally important role in this universe as scholars, inventors, and missionaries.
"It's normal to feel pain in your hands and feet, if you're using your feet as feet and your hands as hands. And for a human being to feel stress is normal-if he's living a normal human life." page: 76
Finally, Marcus contemplates about the true meaning of life and what makes a man successful. Money, knowledge, and vanities, according to Marcus, are nothing. Fame is also meaningless, since everybody, including one’s followers, dies eventually. Forget the books, says Marcus, and realize what’s most important in this life: to be a good person. Be reliable, flexible, open minded, and treat everybody as they deserve to be treated (a lot more spring up throughout the book, but most are very similar). I’d like to point out the fact that Marcus never says to treat everybody equally, but rather as they deserve. Not everybody is created equal, and therefore deserves different treatment.
"Straight, not straightened." page: 87
This book is an easy read, and recurring themes make it easy to follow the overall ideas of the book, even if certain segments do not connect logically. For example, I did not agree with the fact that wives should be obedient and live for their husbands, nor did I agree with the use of five elements (that has been disproved long ago) to explain the inner-workings of our universe. I do, however, agree that philosophy should not guide ones life, but rather serve as a helping-hand in times of need, and this book was definitely enlightening.
"External things are not the problem. It's your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now." page: 110