8 Meditations : Mark McLaughlin Wrapped 2021

In 2021, I reread the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. He occupies an epic position in Western Culture. As the last of the "Five Good Emperors" of Rome, and the last Emperor of the Pax Romana, he would be memorable as a major historic figure. Yet, being the Roman Emperor was only his day job. "Meditations" is a book composed of his thoughts, reflections, and inspirations. It is upon the Meditations, that Aurelius' role as a giant of Stoic Philosophy rests.

In some ways, it resembles what we today would call a journal. It is a monument to Stoic philosophy and the concepts of duty and service. After my most recent reading, I've come to suspect that "the Philosopher" and I will have a lifelong relationship, and that a few minutes spent daily with the Meditations will become a regular part of my life. Here are eight reflections that hit me as I was reading the Meditations this past year. 

XII.32. "How small a part of the boundless and unfathomable time is assigned to every man. For it is very soon swallowed up in the eternal. And how small a part of the whole substance! And how small a part of the universal soul! And on what a small clod of the whole earth you creep! Reflecting on all this, consider nothing to be great except to act as your nature leads you, and to endure that which the common nature brings."

XII.17 "If it is not right, do not do it: if it is not true, do not say it. For let your impulse be in your own power."

XII.4 "I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others. If then a god or a wise teacher should present himself to a man and bid him to think of nothing and to design nothing that he would not express as soon as he conceived it, he could not endure it even for a single day. So it is clear that we accord much more respect to what our neighbors think of us than to what we think of ourselves."  

XII.1  "All those things at which you wish to arrive by a circuitous road, you can have now, if you do not refuse them to yourself. That is to say, if you will take no notice of all the past, and trust the future to Providence, and direct the present in the way of piety and justice: piety, that you may be content with the lot that is assigned to you, for nature designed it for you, and you for it; justice, that you may always speak the truth freely and without disguise, and do the things that are agreeable to law and according to the worth of each. And let neither another man's wickedness hinder you, nor opinion nor voice, nor yet the sensations of the poor flesh that has grwon about you; for the passive part will look to this. "

XI.4  "Have I done something for the general interest? Well then I have had my reward. Let this always be present to your mind, and never stop doing such good."

V.6  "One man, when he has done a service to another, is ready to set it down to his account as a favour conferred. Another is not ready to do this, but still in his own mind he thinks of the man as his debtor, and he knows what he has done. A third in a manner does not even know what he has done, but he is like a vine which has produced grapes, and seeks for nothing more after it has once produced its proper fruit."

V.1  "In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present—I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world?"

I.7  "and to write my letters with simplicity, like the letter which Rusticus wrote from Sinuessa to my mother"

I.8  "I learned freedom of will and undeviating steadiness of purpose; and to look to nothing else, not even for a moment, except to reason;"

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