I absolutely love Marcus Aurelius, I’ve never met him of course (I’m much too young for that), but I’ve read his works and in a sense, the spirit of the man lives on. His spirit is noble, simple, lonely and kind.
Marcus is my favourite stoic, I admire him because he put his duty to the people and senate of Rome before all other things. His devotion to his office is why we remember him as one of the Four Great Emperors of Rome.
What’s also evident in his notes to himself (the Meditations), is that Marcus was full of love.
Love comes in many forms, most people dwell on the romantic kind of love that begins and ends in chocolates and flowers, seduction and intrigue. Yet not all love is the same. It is perfectly possible to love life and the experience of being alive.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
Marcus Aurelius – Meditations
The kingdoms and empires of the ancient world pale into utter insignificance when compared to Imperial Rome, yet Marcus took nothing for granted, knowing full well that Rome would one day be consigned to the dustbin of history and that all of his labours could not protect the empire from the entropy of human activity.
“Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.”
“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.”
“We live only now. Everything else is either passed or is unknown.”
A lesser man might have given in to melancholy or drank themselves stupid, but not Marcus, he doggedly demanded the best of himself and attended to duty, determined to meet the future with good grace and not before it was due.
“Do not act as if you had ten thousand years to throw away. Death stands at your elbow. Be good for something while you live and it is in your power.”
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
He was a man who could have anything he wanted, nothing was off limits to the Emperor of Rome. The resources that he had within his reach were practically unlimited yet above all things he prized the quiet value that comes with having good people around him.
“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”
When we think of stoics we don’t tend to imagine them as passionate or loving, caring or sympathetic. Instead, we are most likely to think of them as ultra-rational thinking machines denying themselves an emotional life, yet Marcus often dwells on the beauty of life and the need for all people everywhere to work together as the individual parts of a much greater whole so that all may prosper like the bees in a hive. In this case that would be the Empire of Rome.
Let us remember that…
“Each day provides it’s own gifts.”
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” ―
“To love only what happens, what was destined. No greater harmony.”