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By: Marcus Aurelius
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Meditations is a series of writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor 161–180 CE, setting forth his ideas on Stoic philosophy. A central theme to "Meditations" is to analyze your judgement of self and others and developing a cosmic perspective. As he said "You have the power to strip away many superfluous troubles located wholly in your judgement, and to possess a large room for yourself embracing in thought the whole cosmos, to consider everlasting time, to think of the rapid change in the parts of each thing, of how short it is from birth until dissolution, and how the void before birth and that after dissolution are equally infinite". He advocates finding one's place in the universe and sees that everything came from nature, and so everything shall return to it in due time. It seems at some points in his work that we are all part of a greater construct thus taking a collectivist approach rather than having an individualist perspective. Another strong theme is of maintaining focus and to be without distraction all the while maintaining strong ethical principles such as "Being a good man". His Stoic ideas often involve avoiding indulgence in sensory affections, a skill which will free a man from the pains and pleasures of the material world. He claims that the only way a man can be harmed by others is to allow his reaction to overpower him. An order or logos permeates existence. Rationality and clear-mindedness allow one to live in harmony with the logos.
If you are apt to reading philosophy, profound books that give you insight into the universe and your place in it, I cannot think of any greater book than the Meditations. Marcus Aurelius has been called Plato's philosopher-king, and though I disagree with this, I see the point: he ruled the Roman Empire near its greatest extent with the virtues of fundamental stoicism. He did not want or consent to Plato's Republic, but he put his duties, his loved ones, and his country before his own interests. He rejected luxury and comfort. He wrote to remind himself to lead by example, that he is the master of himself, that emotions cannot puppeteer him, and that pleasures cannot warp his logic and his will to do good. He reminded himself to always be favorable to all that came by him, even those that disagreed with him and spoke ill of him, for he believed they were brought to the earth to work together. He rejected unreasonable condemnation and unhelpful criticism as well as praise and arrogant pride. He looked to correct, not condemn, the ignorant, and stand agreeable and thankful, not prideful and bashful, when corrected. He praised the universe for her inner-workings, borrowing from Plato's idea that all that is natural must in turn be good, if not for the individual, then for the whole, which then must still be good for the individual regardless. His metaphysics are not scientifically sound, the same for Plato, a large influence, but they do tap into the imagination.
He ponders most on death. Death is natural, and all that comes from nature must be good, therefore death is good. He reminds himself to never fear death as he would never fear breathing, or his eyes never fear seeing, or his hands ever fear writing. Death is a product of life, as sight is a product of the eyes, and writing all product of the hands, all natural consequences of being. What is there to fear? Nothing. What is there to be angry about? Nothing. When irritated, whose fault is it? Yours, for allowing exterior happenings you cannot control affect your inner peace.
My favorite part of the entire book is when he ponders on inner peace. Many would seek peace retiring to a calm village, a seaside home, or in the mountains far from the busy cities. Marcus argues he who has not inner peace in himself wherever, will never have inner peace whatever. Surroundings matter not, only your attitude. This is the biggest lesson of the Meditations, the greatest wisdom Marcus has to offer: it is your reaction to life, not life itself, that creates happiness. This was the principle Nelson Mandela stuck to when he was imprisoned. This is the principal that is the core of stoicism.
"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."
Pick up this book. It would be unfortunate going through life, pondering how to bring yourself happiness, when the secret to happiness was found 2,000 years ago. You do not have to accept all Marcus says, I do not agree with him on all things. But his wisdom is invaluable.
Long's translation is very difficult to read. It reminds me of Shakespeare. I spend 10 seconds reading each paragraph, and then 30 seconds trying to figure out what it may mean. I am an average reader, and this book was very tough for me. Only an avid reader or somebody in acedemia may want this version.
The Greg Hayes translation is much easier to read. It's in everyday English. This version can certainly be comprehended by an average reader. I would highly recommend the Hayes translation.
I had to go to a local book store to buy the Hayes version. It is worth it.
The George Long version has a black cover with a picture of a roman statue on it, and white text near the bottom. The Greg Hayes translation has a white cover with statues of several people, and the text at the top.
"MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS turned into born on April 26, A.D. 121. His actual name was M. Annius Verus, and he changed into sprung of a noble own family which claimed decent from Numa, 2nd King of Rome."
I was also surprised at the many references to Marcus Aurelius's many web pages:
"on the very first web page of his book..."
This collection of sublime thoughts compiled as a book (originally titled as "Eis Heauton", meaning: "To Himself"; original language was Greek) has never gone out of print since circa AD 161. The writer, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, was a Roman emperor and the most renowned stoic philosopher of antiquity. My review though is not about the book itself but about the various available translations of the book.
There are three noted translations which are most readily available in market:
1. A. S. L. Farquharson's Everyman's Library hardcover edition.
2. Martin Hammond's Penguin Classics edition.
3. Gregory Hays' Modern Library edition.
The first one is the most revered edition published in 1944. Though the physical appearance of this edition is the most eye-catching with an elegantly produced hardcover binding and handsome printing, the translation seems dated and old-fashioned. If you want to exhibit your book collection in front of people, you may buy this edition. Though for reading pleasure and better understanding of the philosophy, I'll not recommend it.
The second edition by Penguin (2006) is better than the Farquharson's as far as readability is concerned, but avoid this one too. This translation is more inclined to the exactness of the original text than the readability or understandability of the writing. As it seems, this is the bestselling edition of "Meditations" as far as the Amazon's Indian website is concerned. Thanks to the Penguin Classics tag attached to it, perhaps. No matter what, this is NOT the best edition in comparison.
The last edition which is by Hays (2002), in my opinion (and as per the general consensus as well), is the best edition available. This is the most comprehensible translation of "Meditations" for the modern readers. The language is fluid and contemporary. If you want to study the thoughts of Aurelius more profoundly then get this Gregory Hays edition, paperback published by Modern Library (snapshots attached).
" ... MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS become born on April 26, AD 121. His actual name changed into M. Annius Verus , and he changed into sprung of a noble own family which Claimed descent from Numa, 2d King of Rome. Thus the maximum spiritual of emperors Got right here of the blood of the maximum pious of early kings. His father, Annius Verrus, had held excessive office in Rome, and his grandfather, of the identical call, were thrice Consul..."
My first reaction was "WTF?"... it appears like it was machine translated and not edited at all. Later it gets worse:
"His body changed into knowledgeable to hardihood through way of wrestling, searching, and outside video video video video games; and no matter the truth that his charter have become susceptible, he confirmed superb personal courage to encounter the fiercest boars. At the same time he changed into stored from the extravagancies of his day. The tremendous delight in Rome end up the strife of the Factions, as they have been known as, inside the circus. The racing drivers used to undertake clearly one in every of 4 shades—pink, blue, white, or green—and their partisans confirmed an eagerness in helping them which no longer some element can also furthermore additionally want to surpass."
"... outside video video video video games" (?!?!?) Seriously?
So, it's basically unreadable. No idea how this was translated, or by who, but it's clearly not what I thought I was buying. No faith that the actual meditations which follow have been faithfully translated, and I've requesting a refund.
Best avoid this one and pick a version from a reputable source.
As far as being "able to change your mindset" is concerned, I believe that the ideas written here can influence the outlook on many aspects of one's life, especially if they are already thinking along similar lines.
If you are interested in learning about Stoicism, this is a great place to start.
I recommend just to read a page or two per day, as it can be a little difficult to understand. A wide range of wise and interesting quotes and thoughts
The book has little structure as such. It is however, a wealth of personal reflection. The key thing is that Marcus would never have thought this book would be published, as it was written as his own journal and thoughts.
Highly recommended if you can handle the English that is written in!