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Book Review: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Hands down, by far, one of the most inspiring, informative, challenging books I have ever read.

Over the course of a year, I truly began living the phrase “Knowledge is power.” I made it my goal to devour books of all kinds, to attain wisdom from various sources, because I believe that the act of reading in itself is one of the most beneficial acts of strengthening our brain, learning about ourselves and the world around us, as well as consuming knowledge that is applicable to our life so that our journey may be less turbulent.

Philosophy is unknown territory for me; I just knew the names, that’s all. But when I came across an interesting writer, Ryan Holiday, his post inspired me to read Philosophy. Among this reading was a book called Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Is there anything that we can learn from one of the powerful Roman emperors, untainted by wealth or power, able to make the right decisions under turmoil, and to focus on living a good life while being a good human being?

Absolutely. I will go as far as saying that his wisdom is the lifeblood of living a better life.

Below is a picture of my copy.

(Yes, those are all post-its with reminders on them so I can reference back to them or to find something that I found truly captivating. I also wrote on the edges and around the passages with my own thoughts. In short: I would never lend this book out.)

The book was written as a journal. Through his journey, he would write in his journal, during his travels, to remind himself to be human, to practice empathy, humility, kindness, and to realize that time is short in this world.

Below, I will quote a few passages that I found inspiring, and through this, you can get a general understanding of what Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself:

Concentrate every minute like a Roman — like a man — on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can — if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in this life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable. You se how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage this, that’s all the gods can ask of you.

Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.

“‘If you seek tranquility, do less.'” Or (more accurately) do what’s essential — what the logos of social being requires, and in the requisite way. Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better. Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?” But we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well. To eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow.”

You cannot quench understanding unless you put out the insights that compose it. But you can rekindle those at will, like glowing coals. I can control my thoughts as necessary; then how can I be troubled? What is outside my mind means nothing to it. Absorb that lesson and your feet stand firm. You can return to life. Look at things as you did before. And life returns.

Discard your misperceptions.
Stop being jerked like a puppet.
Limit yourself to the present.
Understand what happens — to you, to others.
Analyze what exists, break it all down: material and cause.
Anticipate your final hours.
Other people’s mistakes? Leave them to their makers.

I can easily say that if the world ended, this would be one of the books that I treasure. The book is inexpensive, so I highly recommend that you pick it up.

— PAUL JUN