Aristotle – Golden Mean
The First Reading of Marcus Aurelius (AoM)
1. Every Man Has a Primary Battle
Marcus Aurelius was a warrior, emperor, father, and husband. As a child, he lost his father when he was just a few years old, and as was common practice for aristocratic families of that era, Marcus was raised largely by mentors, nurses (nannies), and grandparents. When Aurelius became a father himself, he endured the deaths of eight children. All of that leads to the main themes that can be found in Meditations. You’ll see the same topics come up again and again and again.
Why does Aurelius write so much about death? Because he was surrounded by it — his family, his soldiers, his friends. Why does he write so much about not letting other people’s bad actions and attitudes affect you? As an emperor, he was dealing with greedy politicians day in and day out, as well as naysaying citizens.
These meditations were written to himself as admonitions about how to think and behave in the midst of his specific environment and his specific struggles.
Aurelius likely battled with keeping a positive attitude in dealing with others. He, of course, mourned the death and needed reminders that it was a natural event that couldn’t be controlled. His Stoicism was a remarkably practical philosophy centered on simply surviving and staying sane in his world.
2. Every Man Should Take Lessons from Everyone Around Him
Our modern culture, however, has forgotten this ancient lesson. A moral failing by a modern business person, celebrity, politician, or even a company sparks internet outrage and calls for boycotts. Behaviors of historical figures now judged to be offensive, even if common to the time in which the men lived, are enough to write off all of their other admirable virtues and worthy accomplishments.
We don’t write ourselves off despite our flaws. Likewise, the wisest of men know that every person is a mosaic of virtue and vice, and that wisdom can be found in everyone, if only you’re willing to look.
3. Fate Plays a Role in Every Man’s Life — You Can Either Fight It or Accept It
“To the gods I am indebted for having good grandfathers, good parents, a good sister, good teachers, good associates, good kinsmen and friends, nearly everything good.”
“For all these [blessings in my life] require the help of the gods and fortune.”
4. A Man is Not to Be Consumed by the Actions and Attitudes of Others
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. . . . none of them can hurt me.”
“Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people . . . It will keep you from doing anything useful.”
“Why do you not rather act than complain?”
5. Strenuous Action is the Answer
“When thou hast trouble in getting up, say to thyself: I awake to do the work of a man; why then should I grieve for having to do the things for which I was sent into the world? Was I born to remain warmly in bed under my covers? But it is so pleasant. Wert thou born for pleasure, then? Was it not for action, for work?”
“On the occasion of every act ask yourself . . . Will I regret it?”
“Why were you born? For pleasure? See if that answer will stand up to questioning.”
6. A Man Should Think, Do, and Be Good
As Aurelius advises, “inquire of yourself as soon as you wake from sleep.” Start every morning by getting in a mindset where you’re prepared to look for opportunities to serve and be useful. Benjamin Franklin practiced this, asking himself every morning “What good shall I do this day?” Then, at the end of the day, review your actions and inquire of yourself, as he did, “What good have I done today?” By bookending your day with a meditation on goodness, you will orient your soul more and more towards virtue.
Make your art that of being good. Do not simply think on it or talk about it; do good.
Classical Education and People That Live A Classically Influenced Life
- How ancient philosophical texts have influenced Greiten’s governing and leadership style
- The ways Greitens used his own advice in Resilience during his campaign
- The lessons Governor Greitens takes from Teddy Roosevelt
- The importance of reading biographies
- Every man’s uneven courage, and why we should do things we’re afraid of
- Is getting into politics worth it anymore?
- Why criticism is inevitable when working to serve people
- Governor Greiten’s reading habits, and why it’s as important as exercise to him
- What Greiten’s learned from his recent reading of an Alexander the Great biography
- The governor’s favorite biographies
- How Greiten’s balances governing and raising young children