Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations

I am reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations at the moment. He had a rather Spartan outlook on life (to say the least), but his thinking is attractive nonetheless. I cannot say that it will change the way that I live my life, or that I feel compelled to live like a true stoic, but it does remind me to ignore the less important ephemera.

I should admit that I have come to this book from a brief reference in “The Silence of the Lambs” and the character in the movie “Gladiator”, rather than as a result of some learned classical education. I find the character in the second movie particularly amusing.

The final line of “Gladiator” is something along the lines of “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” I guess that the slave rebellion story and the early democracy were to flatter a modern western audience: the way we live now is similar to the way it was then. Transporting modern values to a previous age in fiction is at worst dishonest propaganda and at best boring; if I wanted to know about today, I could look out of my window.

I have not found much like that in Marcus Aurelius’ writing. The opposite is to be found in fact. He repeats over and over how the events and trials of our lives are insignificant compared to the eternities before and after our lives and how everything gets washed away in the flood.

A Hollywood movie that made that the central point of the plot might be interesting, but I doubt that the hardness of the Stoic philosophy would sell as well as schmaltz and being told that our current system of government is in some way universal and eternal.

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