Books that Stand the Test of Time
I talk about books that have stood the test of time. Books that can be useful for people living in the 21st century. I do not talk to experts, professors, historian of philosophy. My target audiences are those who look for some practical pieces of advice. Or for some refection from such books. The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is such a book. For example, many contemporary books, texts, podcasts, blogs, and vlogs refer to it. Even a contemporary movement, Modern Stoicism, has appeared and gains popularity.
Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations
The Meditations, written two thousand years ago, shows us an important thing. Despite the technological, medical, and cultural developments, there are human issues that do not change that much. Now and then, people have questions about the meaning of life. Everybody tries to avoid pain and suffering. We want to be happy and successful. In the video, I talk about the ideas we can find in the book rather about the author. Although he was a very special figure: top politician at his time, Roman emperor of Rome (2nd century). At the same time, a thinker and philosopher. One of the most eminent representatives of stoicism.
What this high rank politician writes is compatible with what wrote an ex-slave, Epictetus, physically disabled. For Epictetus, his disability and slavery he had to face were not big problems! I mean, Epictetus did not complain much about the socio-political system. Or about injustice or about his maltreatment. Instead, he focused on his attitude towards the life in general so that he and his students – yes, he was a famous teacher! — could feel happiness independently of the conditions they happened to live.
Marcus Aurelius and Stoicism
Stoicism was, and still is, a philosophical movement. Marcus Aurelius was one of its most eminent representatives. It focused on thinking deeper about the division between what is in our individual power as agents and what does not depend on us. Marcus Aurelius and other stoics recommended that we deal with things that depend on us in the first place. It does not mean that we should ignore everything around. Just we should realize that many good things depend on us without too much intervention in the external conditions. It is possible to change the description of the reality by changing our attitude towards the external world.
Marcus Aurelius and the Pandemic
Marcus Aurelius lived during a long and terrible pandemic of his time (The Antonine pandemic). Reading his book, we can think what he would say about our present pandemic? Most probably something like this: we cannot have control the pandemic because it is independent of us. However, each of us can have control the risk of getting infected. One of the resources would be to listen to what experts say about self-protection against getting infected. Reliable knowledge would be a good start. And reducing emotions and phantasies about how terrible it is. Bad emotions cause panic, sadness, and do nothing good. Famous Stoic slogan says that fear does us more harm than the things of which we’re afraid.
Philosophy as a Therapy for the Soul
The stoics would take the medical term ‘therapy’ and apply it into the sphere of mental health. Medicine is effective in the treatment of corporal illnesses whereas philosophy can be helpful in the area of mental hygiene.