At one time, I kept a Roman Emperor’s ‘Meditations’ on the corner of my desk at work so I had ready access to a consoling or restraining line from a wise and gentle counsellor. Flicking through the pages at random for a minute or two could always give me the boost I needed.
Marcus Aurelius ruled in a time of currency devaluation, war, flooding, starvation, infectious diseases, plots and coup attempts. His wife gave birth to at least 13 children. Only five were alive when he died. His words are directed to himself: we overhear them and can interpret them as we choose. I have always liked the idea that he lived at the extreme end of a bell curve – he understood glory, sadness, responsibility, politics and power and held on to his humanity under pressure that dwarfs anything I hope to understand or experience. Here are some of my favourite Marcus Aurelius quotes:
1. You will not easily find a man coming to grief through indifference to the working of another’s soul; but for those who pay no heed to the motions of their own, unhappiness is their sure reward.
2. Dig within. There lies the well-spring of good: ever dig, and it will ever flow.
3. Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.
4. Today I have got myself out of all my perplexities; or rather, I have got my perplexities out of myself, for they were not without, but within; they lay in my own outlook. Continue reading