As a new week dawns, we present the following Random Thoughts for Review:
He buried too many children. He was betrayed by those closest to him. He dealt with health issues. He was surrounded by the corrupt and inept and endlessly ambitious. He saw plagues and floods and war.
So yeah, there is a hint of world weariness in Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. It would be stranger if that didn’t color his writing. While critics are wrong to call Marcus depressing or negative, he was unquestionably in pain, tired, and frustrated. This was a man who quite understandably found himself, as we all do, tired of life.
Yet despite the role that suicide has played in the history of Stoicism and the more accepted place it had in Roman history, Marcus did not choose that route. He did not blame anyone, did not resent the hand he was dealt, or the painful cards he had to play. He soldiered on. He found respite in physical activity and his work. He tried, as we wrote recently, to focus on the beauty amidst the ugliness of the world. He was brave enough to ask for help, as we have also talked about.
Marcus Aurelius not only kept getting out of bed each morning, but he pushed himself to do it early. He reminded himself in those very same pages of Meditations the reasons why he was here on this planet, what his nature demanded of him, what his duty was. He carried on and found relief and purpose and even joy in this.
No matter who you are or what you’re going through, the same thing is available to you. Inside your soul, Marcus would remind you, is peace that you can retreat into any time you like. In philosophy, he would say, there is a soothing ointment as well as a shoulder to lean on. It’s ok that you’re tired–it’s understandable and perfectly acceptable.
Just use the resources available to you and most of all, stick around.