Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What I'm Reading now - The Meditations

What I’m reading Right Now:
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, the Penguin Classics edition from 1964, translated by Maxwell Staniforth

Stoic philosopher, Roman Emperor

Why I’m reading it:

A friend of mine who teaches classics at a local private school suggested that I read it. 

What I think of it:
It is not a long or thick book, but as a collection of Aurelius' observations about life the text does not flow smoothly - he jumps from one topic to another, and some of his meditations are about things of his own experience, which he did not explain. This makes sense as he was writing the Meditations for himself, but it leaves the reader wondering.

Will I finish it?
Yes, eventually. This isn't the sort of book that I can just plow through in an evening, like a mystery novel. I have to read it in small chunks, so that I can think about all of the ideas Aurelius presents. 

Would I recommend it?
Yes. I intend to have my sons read it, and have already discussed a few of Aurelius' ideas with them. Aurelius was an adherent of the Stoic philosophy. The Stoics had a lot of good advice on clear thinking, especially on ethical questions. Ethical issues often provoke strong emotional responses. This is not bad in itself, but strong emotion frequently clouds critical judgement. The Stoics tried to keep a firm rational control of their emotions so that they could think 'dispassionately'.

Many modern folk talk of being passionate or having passion for some activity as being a good thing. I think that it can also be a bad thing, as enthusiasm can blind a person to the complexities of human endeavors. 

Gimme a quote:
"Do not copy the opinions of the arrogant, or let them dictate your own, but look at things in their true light." 

Image source: 
By User:Steerpike (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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