Meditations is a philosophical and literary classic written by the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius. The book is a collection of personal writings that chronicle different periods of Aurelius’ life. It contains his reflections on virtue, desire, rationality, emotions, the nature of the gods, and more.
The main themes of the book include change, death and the shortness of life; the role and importance of the rational mind and will; dealing with others and accepting their shortcomings; avoiding the chase for pleasure and fame; and living according to nature and fully accepting its course.
The book has been described as a prototype of reflective practice and a manual of devotion. It offers insights into why an emperor from two thousand years ago is still highly regarded. Meditations reveals that Marcus remained in control of his emotions through the beliefs that nature unfolds in a perfect way and that one must accept that they cannot change the past or what other people feel in their hearts.
Useful takeaways from the book include the importance of being in control of our thoughts and actions, remembering death to stop worrying about what people think, and accepting that we cannot change things that are not within our control.
What I Liked
I loved so much about this book. I think more philosophy should be written like this – via personal reflections. I love how it puts you directly into the mind of a Roman General – how crazy rare is that! He’s a smart, well-read guy who explains the philosophy of Stoicism better than any professional or academic philosopher.
What I Did Not Like
It’s the personal diary of a Roman General, so it was never meant for publication and has a very personal perspective. It requires a bit of effort to read.