Dissecting Meditations, a personal journal by Marcus Aurelius Part #8

What you are getting into: 832 words, 5mins read

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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.

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

— But it’s nice here…

So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best as they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

— But we have to sleep sometime…

Agreed. But nature set a limit on that — as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. You’ve had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota.

You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.

Is helping others less valuable to you? Not worth your effort?

My favourite quote in the book of Meditations. If there’s nothing you took from all the posts on Stoicism, take this quote away.

It’s so straight forward. I want to sleep more, but I have yet to hit our quota for work. Doing good for myself, love ones, and the world is working. Why do I want to indulge in more sleep as compared to doing good?

By reading this over and over again it reframes my mind from lazing to being a workhorse. “The time for lazing is over, it is time to work,” I should remind ourselves the moment I wake up from slumber. If I compare the quota of sleeping and working with eating and drinking, it brings me clarity. At times I overeat, then I hate myself for doing so. But the times I sleep above my quota, I don’t feel guilty. Why? Because I neglected loving myself. If, I love myself enough, I will take care of my body. This capsule that I reside in, called ‘body’, takes me from birth to death. If, I love myself enough, I will have adequate sleep. If, I love myself enough, I will give my body the nutrients it needs so I have energy to work. If, I love myself enough, I will exercise my body to keep it fit and healthy. If, I don’t have proper nutrition and exercise, I may have troubles sleeping, resulting in irregular sleeping cycles. And in turn I am not able to show up and do my best work.

My point: Take care of yourself before taking care of others.

Most people who only leech without providing any value have some form of care and concern from someone else. What about those people who are able to provide care? It takes work to provide care. They must have taken good care of themselves didn’t they? Why don’t I take care of myself so I can take care of others?

Once you I yourself enough, I will understand that working gives me meaning. It gives me a sense of purpose. Purpose cannot be found. Purpose is found by doing. Don’t listen to the millions of blogs and books that preach ‘find your passion’. Show up and do the work. If don’t I know what to work on, then the work is finding work I can lose yourself in. Passion cannot be discovered by tests, questionnaires, or travel1 — it’s an abstract concept, much like love. There’s no one true definition, everyone holds a different opinion, yet we all have a common understanding on what it is.

So stop with the hedonistic behaviours. Get disciplined and go get stuffs done.

  1. This is the biggest misconception. “Finding yourself through travel” may be the second most outrageous slogan after “diamonds are forever”. Believing this hype may be disastrous.

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