Study Group: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – 01
Thank you very much for joining us on our adventure to better understand the Classical work of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Together, we will meet every Sunday at 3:00 p.m. EST on Twitch <https://www.twitch.tv.projectmindfulness> and Discord <https://discord.gg/FKWFeYq>
Due to the complicated nature and nuance of Philosophy, I will avoid defining definite terms within the Philosophical or Stoic world, in attempt to purely understand the opinions and nuances of Marcus Aurelius. To begin, it’s important to remember who is Marcus Aurelius, or as I should say, Emperor Marcus Aurelius; also known as, the last of the Five Good Emperors of Rome. A man born with every right to consider himself above others, whether in the realm of education, wealth, status, connections, prestige or position; instead found value in humility, a spare diet and labor. The Philosophy we begin to embark upon is exceptional; not only due to its content, but because of the man holding the pen. Let’s begin.
The First Book:
When preparing for a book, written by a man with such exceptional qualities; one would expect the author to begin with stories detailing the triumphs leading to his success. Nonetheless, Marcus Aurelius opens by detailing the qualities of his family and teachers, who helped mold and craft him into the man he was.
Marcus Aurelius’ father passed away when Marcus Aurelius was a child and therefore begins with discussions of the man who raised him, his grandfather Marcus Annius Verus II. Marcus Annius Verus II was the father-in-law of Emperor Antoninus Pius and fulfilled many obligations for Rome. From such a man he learned the qualities of gentleness, humility, refraining from anger and passion. From his mother Domitia Lucilla, he learned to be faithful, to give and to avoid excess. From his great-grandfather, Marcus Annius Verus I, he learned to avoid the nonsense of the mob; whether concerning their celebrities, gossip or battles; instead, focusing on enduring hard labor, to not pass off his responsibilities or interfere with the business of others. These three individuals raised Marcus Aurelius as a child and he opens his treatise safeguarding their traits.
From Diognetus, Marcus Aurelius learned to avoid the superstition and conspiracy of the nonsensical mob and instead apply himself to Philosophy; teaching him to avoid the drunken forests of Bacchius an instead find comfort upon the feet of Philosophers. From Rusticus, he learned to avoid the intellectual celebrities and superficial understandings in favor of Truth, nuance and persistence. Trading oratory for discourse and poetry for grammar. From Apollonius, he learned the art of balancing personal attributes and characteristics. One needs to be attached and strong at times; as well as, humble and remiss at others. To be patient with those seeking Truth and kind to one’s friends. From Sextus, he learned paternal affection and the joys of intelligent conversation. To avoid those with ill-intent and those seeking personal gratification over Truth. From Alexander the Grammarian, he learned to be honest and direct; not only in matters of law or discussion, but in all matters. From Fronto, he learned to judge a person not based on his or her upbringing, but upon their actions and thinking. From Alexander the Platonic, he learned to take responsibility for his actions and offer aid for those who needed it. From Catulus, he learned to not be involved in the trite tangents and protests of your friends, but to reduce your friend to his normal disposition.
The level of Marcus Aurelius’ humility is exceptional. A man who at one time had jurisdiction over nearly the entire known world, chose instead to refrain from from matters outside of himself. A person who had access to all the wealth and food of the world, chose instead to give liberally and avoid excess. Marcus Aurelius is a rare breed of individual from which we can learn from and model ourselves. As we continue our studies, we will discover further how raises him- or herself to this level.