Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor of the 2nd century, also known as the last of the Five Good Emperors, after Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius. During his 19 years of leadership, Aurelius gained a reputation as a philosopher king. Founding his beliefs on the teachings of Stoicism, the Roman emperor was also diligent in finding his own way of self-improvement. Stoicism is an ancient Hellenistic philosophy that teaches one to accept and surrender to what life brings, without seeking pleasure or having fear of pain, and to treat others in a fair and respectful manner. Marcus Aurelius wrote personal notes and ideas on Stoic philosophy and spirituality as a source of guidance for himself. These notes, originally written in medieval Greek, formed a collection entitled “Meditations.” Today, we will read from Book 3 in Marcus Aurelius’ book entitled, “Meditations.”
“Not just that every day more of our life is used up and less and less of it is left, but this too: if we live longer, can we be sure our mind will still be up to understanding the world — to the contemplation that aims at divine and human knowledge? If our mind starts to wander, we’ll still go on breathing, go on eating, imagining things, feeling urges and so on. But getting the most out of ourselves, calculating where our duty lies, analyzing what we hear and see, deciding whether it’s time to call it quits — all the things you need a healthy mind for… all those are gone. So we need to hurry. Not just because we move daily closer to death but also because our understanding — our grasp of the world — may be gone before we get there. “He does only what is his to do, and considers constantly what the world has in store for him — doing his best, and trusting that all is for the best. For we carry our fate with us — and it carries us. He keeps in mind that all rational things are related, and that to care for all human beings is part of being human. Which doesn’t mean we have to share their opinions. We should listen only to those whose lives conform to nature.