“Keep these nine points in your mind – take them as gifts from the Muses! – and begin at long last to be a human being, while life remains.” – Marcus Aurelius
Things have a way of embedding themselves into our psychology through repetition, in turn reinforcing our beliefs or biases about the world, so if we are not selective about the quality of thoughts we regularly contemplate, then we may find ourselves at odds with the way things are by nature, and acting contrary to our best interest.
This sort of mindset seems to play a part in Marcus Aurelius’ undertaking of chapter eighteen in book eleven of his Meditations. Here he lays down 9 approaches by which to subdue the attacks (including those which exist in potential and of his own imaginings) that may derail him from his ethical orientation and/or philosophy.
My goal here is to summarize Aurelius’ method into a basic list for the sake of clarity. In addition, the associated video provides a reading of the actual chapter. Taken together these sources may help one to better understand his golden verse. Now in order to consolidate this presentation even further, feel free to share a relevant quote in the comment section that aligns with one or any of the nine items in the list below.
1. Interdependence demands action, forethought and leadership, so keep to primary principles to navigate the way.
2. Learn about the nature of others, right down to their base drives and instincts.
3. People also desire what is good and just; consider what disillusions them.
4. Empathize with others; acknowledge your own proclivity for vice.
5. Abstain from making a judgement without knowing the full story.
6. Remind yourself of the shortness of life whenever you feel exasperated with another.
7. Realize that the wrongful acts of others are unable to disturb us if we choose otherwise.
8. Suffering breeds more suffering than its original cause.
9. Show genuine kindness towards others, knowing that this virtue in particular possesses the power to calm even the most crude of individuals.
Click here or on the image above to hear the Meditations (11.8) of Marcus Aurelius being narrated by yours truly. Be free and expand your wings of liberty by sharing relevant quotes in the comment section that complement our capacity to adjust our mindset in view to those who try to harm us.
Good to see that you are thankful. Was there anything in particular that merited your appreciation?
You gave me an overview in a few seconds, saved me time and gave me insight 😃👍
Awe, yes, music to my ears. 😉
Jason, this is profound, and insightful. As we read, we become familiar with an author’s ‘voice’, but it is really nice to hear the author’s actual voice.
Great narration. Thanks. 🤗⚘
Thank you, Sally, reading the author’s words aloud as my own puts me in a certain kind of head space, in some respects similar to wearing gloves while operating a vehicle. 😉
Great comparison, Jason ! Thanks 😄⚘
Great post, Jason. I also enjoy that you provide a reading as it engages your followers’ interest in the actual book. I’ve had a copy for years and with the hundreds of books my wife and I keep in the house, it often takes years to come back to something and “re-read” it. But your continued posting about “Meditations” has incited me to dig up my copy and move it to the head of the queue.
Aurilius’ perspectives resonate with Zen Buddhism in a surprising number of ways, despite being based on Stoicism. I especially like a passage where he says, “He who does wrong does wrong against himself. He who acts unjustly acts unjustly against himself, because he makes himself bad.” It’s one of the most concise ways to say “Do good and be good” that I’ve read in recent memory.
I like how you’ve synopsized Aurilius’ list, and #5 definitely holds the top spot for me in this list. In my personal and professional life, it has always been of the utmost importance to know the full story before making any judgements, assumptions or conclusions. I recently had a friend hear about a rapper trying to release a pair of Nike sneakers with a satanic theme. Not sure if you heard about that or not, but my friend decided to throw out ALL her Nike shoes, boycott them and denounce them all over the internet the way most people seem to do nowadays. She was explained by multiple sources and friends that Nike did not endorse this rapper’s plans and were looking into a way to put a stop to it, but it didn’t deter her in the least. Days later, Nike issued a cease-and-desist order and she praised them for “doing the right thing.” The moral of the story is if she had listened to ALL the information and gotten the full story, she would have been able to draw that conclusion earlier. And without scrapping what was probably hundreds of dollars in footwear. It’s hard to know a full story when you skip chapters.
#8 basically echoes the Four Noble Truths in speaking about suffering. And it’s important to recognize that as humans, we usually make matters worse when something negative comes into our life to cause suffering. Staying calm and keeping a level head will usually prevail in such matters. Needless to say, the remaining points all have their importance and I’m sure I could overwhelm your comments section with my individual thoughts on all of them. But as usual, my Saturday morning coffee has been made all the more enjoyable by your take on this topic. I look forward to next week.
Keep ’em coming!
Scholars continue to make improvements to the Meditations, so you may appreciate an updated version instead.
Zen and Stoicism have much in common. Do good and be good would probably be at the heart of it.
Seeing that your friend had a taste of success, perhaps next she’ll try to close down Harley Davidson for endorsing the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
Thanks so much for comparing my summary with Buddhism; these sorts of connections help to expand our knowledge base.
I must admit I’m largely unfamiliar with this, but that sounds like some great advice from Marcus Aurelius.
“Things have a way of embedding themselves into our psychology through repetition….” That’s one thing I’m very aware of in America’s current political climate, although it’s certainly nothing new. When your friends, family, and associates assert the same beliefs, a person will likely go along with them and believe them whether they’re founded in reality or not.
Thank you Alden for your insight into this matter; perhaps the question at issue would reside in where your ‘friends, family, and associates’ are gathering and solidifying their knowledge base. The unexamined life is not worth living; Marcus constantly echoes Epictetus’ version of Socrates.