Dissecting Meditations, a personal journal by Marcus Aurelius Part #11

What you are getting into: 553 words, 3mins read

Here, I will share my contemplations upon reading the published personal journal of Marcus Aurelius, a roman emperor from 161-180 AD. Thoughts mainly stemmed from Stoicism, and Marcus Aurelius used the notes for guidance and self improvement. It’s a translated book by Gregory Hays, or you can read it online.

For this and upcoming posts I attempt to dissect quotes I favour upon reading the book.

Photo via Unsplash

How have you behaved to the gods, to your parents, to your siblings, to your wife, to your children, to your teachers, to your nurses, to your friends, to your relatives, to your slaves? Have they all had from you nothing “wrong and unworthy, either word or deed”?

Consider all that you’ve gone through, all that you’ve survived. And that the story of your life is done, your assignment complete. How many good things have you seen? How much pain and pleasure have you resisted? How many donors have you declined? How many unkind people have you been kind to?

This is an invitation to reflect on your own behaviour. I like how Marcus Aurelius followed a hierarchy down from the gods to his slaves.

  1. God — Omniscience being
  2. Parents — Two divine human beings who brought us to life
  3. Siblings — Human beings who shared the same womb
  4. Wife — Our lifelong companion
  5. Children — Miracle of life we are able to create
  6. Teachers — Mentors who impart knowledge to us so we can do good
  7. Nurses — Altruistic people who take care of our health and well-being when we need it the most
  8. Friends — Not by blood, but comrades nevertheless
  9. Relatives — Sharing the same bloodline, they are family
  10. Slaves — Selfless friends born of lesser stature, serving us for greater good

It invites us to contemplate if the 10 people were to speak of us, would they describe our behaviour as ‘wrong and unworthy’, or ‘benevolent and great?’ Every single person is in our lives, but why do we treat each differently? Even if each is ranked, what does giving a different treatment serves us? To be demeaning to your slaves and then turn around loving your children, what would our children think of us?

Second, jump to the end of your life, how would you measure your life? Have you done well? Could you have done better? Can you do the things you ought to have done, now? Can you change? Do you know what you need to change? Are you willing to change? Do you want others to change or do you wish to change your bad habits away? Do you even need to change? Or others need to change to suit your needs? What is a good life? What is a meaningful life? What kind of life do you want? Even if you do not know what kind of life will pan out, do you have any immediately goals to achieve?

These are all good questions to reflect upon from time to time. Some of the questions do not have an answer, but instead it serves as a prompt for us to rethink, restrategize, and to take action.

Consider this a reflection on our own virtues.

Try it, you will get insights you never thought of.

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