“Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the
color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where
life is possible at all, a right life is possible.”
~ Marcus Aurelius from Meditations
Marcus Aurelius the Roman Emperor From 161 to 181 AD. He wrote these Meditations as a personal journal.
Distilled by Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Notes. Quotes are from the Book. Comments are my own.
VISIONS OF A LIFETIME
“Never confuse yourself by visions of an entire lifetime at once… remember that it is not the
weight of the future or the past that is pressing upon you, but ever that of the present alone.”
THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS
“The approval of such men, who do not even stand well in their own eyes, has no value for him.”
Aurelius was the first guy to say, ‘don’t worry about what other people think.’ It doesn’t do you any good. It’s not worthy of my time and effort to worry about what everybody thinks. That’s liberating.
RETIRE WITHIN YOURSELF
“Men seek for seclusion in the wilderness, by the seashore, or in the mountains – a dream you have cherished too fondly yourself. But such fancies are wholly unworthy of a philosopher, since at any moment you choose you can retire within yourself. Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul; above all, he possesses resources in himself, which he need only contemplate to secure immediate ease of mind – the ease that is but another word for a well-ordered spirit. Avail yourself often, then, of this retirement and so continually renew yourself.”
I am always captured by the thought of escaping to a resort, in the mountains, on the beach, on a deserted island. It appeals in ways of detaching from the regular daily routines. But, quieting myself to retire within is difficult for me. It requires so much effort to focus and not allow anything else to distract and enter the flow of thoughts. I’m great at organizing my room, my desk, my house, my car, my garage, even my calendar, but organizing my thought is a toughy.
BEING IN TUNE WITH EVERY NOTE
“O world, I am in tune with every note of thy great harmony. For me nothing is early, nothing late, if it be timely for thee. O Nature, all that thy seasons yield is fruit for me.”
I love the beauty that is in nature. The seasons are beautiful. My favorite magazine is Trail Runner. It has amazing beautiful photographs of epic places and epic people running across it. To feel in tune with the world and harmony with nature, I get that feeling when I’m working hard and the efforts are paying off. Either in running and feeling great afterwards, or on investing, doing the research and diligently following through with paperwork and contracts.
TIME IS A RIVER
“Time is a river, the resistless flow of all created things. One thing no sooner comes in sight than it is hurried past and another is borne along, only to be swept away in its turn.”
“Reflect often upon the rapidity with which all existing things, or things coming into existence, sweep past us and are carried away.”
“Even while a thing is in the act of coming into existence, some part of it has already ceased to be.”
Change is always happening. It’s okay. Get used to it. Keep changing with it. Flexibility and adaptability are charming traits to acquire. There’s humility in not expecting everything to settle into a regime and stay that way forever.
FOR WHAT WERE YOU MADE?
“Everything – a horse, a vine – is created for some duty… For what task, then, were you yourself created? A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for.”
YOUR ONE DELIGHT
“Let your one delight and refreshment be to pass from one service to the community to another, with God ever in mind.”
What are you made for? Wonderful questions. As a Christian, the answer is first in the Greater Catechism: to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Back with boots on the ground, I was made to do what? I know I love to learn and hack. I love to swim, bike, run. I love to organize things and events, and people, and projects. I have a knack for medical device design. I love to simplify and teach people what I love. Running is a counter example. I don’t love it out right, but I love what it does for me and how I feel afterwards. I love my wife and kids. They are life. I know I’m here, that I was created to be married to this lovely woman and raise these precious kids.
THE EQUANIMITY GAME
“When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.”
Equanimity is state of psychological stability. Life throws curve balls. Some times you see them coming, like taxes. Some times you don’t see them coming, like a layoff at work. Recovering your self-control is harmony. Even when life is crazy, I don’t have to go crazy. A couple nights ago, I had to deal with a pile of tax questions for my side businesses. I was stressed and the tax lady was peppering me with emails. Chief wandered into the office to help me. I kinda snapped and freaked out. But, within an hour or two, it all blew by. I sought him out and hugged and kissed his forehead. I thanked him for coming to help me. Habitual recurrence to harmony. That’s a great place to be. The stability is the typical not the atypical. Counter point: I can think of a close friend that the typical is instability and life is always flying off the cliff. I cannot stand to be in their circle of crazy for more than a couple hours. I have to get out. Much better to be psychologically stable, eh?
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
Pain can be self-induced by your own reaction to what is going on. The actual world isn’t causing your pain, just your own crazy thought are driving the pain. I have the power to decide it’s not gonna hurt. Moving on…
I SEEK THE TRUTH
“I seek the truth… it is only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance that does harm.”
Declaration of Truth Finding. Who on board for that? ME! I seek the truth. No hidden agenda to push. Self-delusion is having your own views that don’t match up to reality. Take life for what it is. Don’t pretend in your mind it’s really something else. Ignorance is lame. Truth seeking has brought me to reading all these books. They’re beyond the scope of the Bible, but there is truth that I can know. It can improve my mind, body, and soul. There are truths that can improve my life, my family life. Cool.