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Meditations Marcus Aurelius Summary

The second century AD marked the height of the Roman Empire. After a long period of internal turmoil and unrest, Rome settled into a period of relative peace and prosperity. The first five emperors of this period are called the Five Good Emperors, and the last of these five was Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius wasn’t only an emperor, but also a philosopher who based his ideas on the traditions of Greek Stoicism, a school of thought that viewed self-control and calmness as a way of overcoming negative emotions. Aurelius’s philosophy led to his gaining the title of the philosopher king. So what were his ideas? In this summary, I’ll share with you three key ideas that I learned from his book called Meditations.

Key Idea #1: Life is too short to waste your time complaining

Anybody can die at any time, whether from a heart attack, an accident, or simply old age. And since you don’t know when your death will come, it’s important to always be the best you can be. Letting yourself be annoyed by the things you have to do just takes away time that could be spent living. Nobody should waste their life complaining about how hard it is to live. For instance, even though Marcus Aurelius didn’t like having to hold court, he always did so happily because he believed that he shouldn’t spend a moment of his short life complaining about his responsibilities.

Key Idea #2: Emotions can kill our reasoning and cause us unnecessary harm

Marcus Aurelius values reason and a logical perception of the world over all else. He considered a calm and analytical mind better than one ruled by desires and feelings. He saw human emotions as a threat to reason. In fact, being obsessed with the idea that you’re unlucky or making decisions based on desires will create so much confusion in your mind that you’ll be unable to see the truth as it is. This is precisely why the author hated being driven by emotions like revenge, hate, and lust. Keeping his mind calm, collected, and reasonable was essential for him to be a good emperor.

Key Idea #3: The only pain you can truly suffer is the pain you inflict upon yourself

Ancient Rome was full of dangers, especially for an emperor. Marcus Aurelius lost nearly all 13 of his children and his wife eventually joined them, dying at a young age. But by reminding himself that all things happen for good and a reason, the author was able to remain calm through these hardships. Marcus Aurelius believed that the only thing people who face pain can do is accept it and move on without complaining. Complaining simply inflicts more pain and is useless.

So in summary, Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor believed that the universe and life are governed by a force that orders the world. And that all things happen for a reason. Therefore, there is no reason to fear death, complain, and suffer, as each is part of a greater, flawless plan.

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