“Nostalgia for a time you never lived in is by nature bound to be quite false. And, as it was experienced by a different you, even the times you lived through will in memory be quite different to actual reality, in memory filtered through later emotions and selectively noted in an ephemeral book limited by its pages. As such, nostalgia will always tell you more about the current than the past.”
“Honour, and perceptions of it, does not by itself in any way prevent men from doing evil. In fact, the opposite can be just as true. It can encourage it.”
“Men are born for the sake of each other. So either teach or tolerate.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Another good one, which sums up a lot of his core philosophy…
I find his so called “meditations” a bit of a tough read due to its repetitiveness and dominant focus on death, but it is a journal after all, and the obsession with death perhaps not so strange given how many children he lost. And there a good number of chunks of gold in there, so a good read still.
Still trying to figure out the logical reasoning underneath his stoicism, but I think I finally begin to see it. It’s all about nature, and living in chime with it. Not so sure I agree with that definition of natural, though.
Trying to wrap my head around how to be indifferent and compassionate at the same time. I don’t think that is how nature works, but he differentiates between animals and humans in this. We don’t have the same nature, so to speak, and responding emotionally is ‘beastly’. In a way, I feel that he actually argues for acting unnaturally, against our nature, but he seems to think it is about releasing a different aspect of our nature, not distracted by the material.
That, of course, doesn’t relate much to the above quote, but more to the philosophy expressed in his “meditations”.
As a sidenote, being a journal, some of the passages I like the most, are where his flaws and humanity shines through, with contempt for others and grim darkness taking over, like when he writes:
“Just as you see your bath – all soap, sweat, grime, greasy water, the whole thing disgusting – so is every part of life and every object in it.”
“How worthless are these little men in the public eye who think their actions have anything to do with philosophy! They are full of snot. And who will change their views? Without a change of view, what alternative is there to slavery?”
Clearly, he was struggling, and while much of it seems so serene and… stoic, the odd passage is not and sticks out. He was just a man, struggling with much the same issues as anyone, seeking solace and guidance in philosophy, trying to define things for himself.
“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
– Galatians 4:16, the Bible
“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
– Albert Einsten, in letter to Jost Winteler, ca 1901
The most devious form of extremism is the one that hides in plain sight and masks itself as something else, as something commonplace and benign, similar to you, and thus agreeable and sensible. This you will have great difficulty in distinguishing from yourself and your kin, as they are not likely to be arriving in uniform or wearing symbols that mark them. They will be like your friend, your brother and sister, kind or harsh, witty or boring, funny or serious, clever or dumb, attractive or ugly. Human. And an absolute terror if given the power to unleash their demons.