All of these were great. With Richard Wagner, we read about a man that rose into greatness: how he overcame a myriad of obstacles on his journey. With PT Barnum, we get advice on financial matters – how to increase your wealth and, subsequently, your life. And with Marcus Aurelius, we read about the worldview of a famous Roman leader: and we find how his theories are closely related to Buddhism.
Today’s wisdom is from Marcus Aurelius and Meditations. I’ve been delving into this book lately, and it’s been delivering in spades: the advice a sage, transported to the postmodern world. The following quote is relevant to all of us:
The art of true living is more like a wrestler’s, than a dancer’s practice.
So very true.
You’re fighting a war. The sooner you realize this, the better. And you’re surrounded by people that want to destroy you…to see your happiness lying in waste. They despise your happy wife, your sexual pleasure, and your healthy children.
Who are these people? A miserable lot, one and all. They stare at you from the television screen, watching your every move. They wait for you in the pages of a newspaper, or the darkness of a movie theater. They hang a seditious bait in front of your face, hoping that you’ll grab it. They can only be satisfied when your life is living hell…much like theirs.
So you must rise, my soldier. Kick out of the chokehold! Break free of the leg lock! You’re a wrestler…a grappler in the game of life. You strive for a championship belt? Then make it a reality today! Know every moment is a battle…every second a firefight.
Today we continue with the wisdom of ages. A favorite quote of mine from Marcus Aurelius in Meditations…one that I’ve shared with others for two decades:
Where does the common man go? Where does he live?
They [the common men] seek for themselves private retiring places, as country villages, the sea-shore, mountains; yea thou thyself art wont to long much after such places.
Yes, so true. We think that the mansion on the hill will make us happy. We believe that the Time Share in the Tropics will bring us inner peace. We seek the “country village, the sea-shore, mountains” and so forth. The more things change, the more they stay the same. In Ancient Rome, many thought that they could buy their way into happiness.
And he continues…
But all this thou must know proceeds from simplicity in the highest degree. At what time soever thou wilt, it is in thy power to retire into thyself, and to be at rest, and free from all businesses. A man cannot any whither retire better than to his own soul;
Retire into thyself and be at rest.
The mansion is lying within your breastplate…the stairwell to Xanadu, leading into your consciousness. We turn on the television, hoping for answers. We thumb the pages of a periodical, praying for solace. Yet so much is futile. The search will always lead to a mirror.
The greatest mansion you have is lying within your soul.
More wisdom from Marcus Aurelius. A few days ago, I shared for you a quote of his regarding reading and writing. Well today, I want to share another one of his ideas – on the composition of a man: how he walks…how he speaks.
What kind of man is he?
“…a wrestler of the best sort, and for the highest prize, that he may not be cast down by any passion or affection of his own; deeply dyed and drenched in righteousness, embracing and accepting with his whole heart whatsoever either happeneth or is allotted unto him.”
Wonderful words from the wisdom of yesterday.
Stand up straight. Live the Golden Rule and be a man of action. Avoid the gossip of old wives and weak-minded men. Remove wasteful thoughts from your mind. Set a lofty goal for yourself and attack it with diligence. Know that your victories are seen by others and that your ACTIONS say the most about you.
And moreover, be a fair man. Treat others with charity, even when some might not deserve it. Speak with honesty and passion to the people around you. Avoid the hedge maze of sophistry. In short…
Marcus Aurelius was a sage. He gave advice on many practical matters, including composition. Here’s one of my favorites:
That I did not use to walk about the house in my long robe, nor to do any such things. Moreover I learned of him to write letters without any affectation, or curiosity; such as that was, which by him was written to my mother from Sinuessa: and to be easy and ready to be reconciled, and well pleased again with them that had offended me, as soon as any of them would be content to seek unto me again. To read with diligence; not to rest satisfied with a light and superficial knowledge, nor quickly to assent to things commonly spoken of. (from Meditations).
Finding a writing style is difficult. We’re surrounded by some many voices in this regard. And it’s easy to lose our path…to mimic the phrasing or wording of others. So what’s the solution?
Be direct and to the point: i.e. write without affectation. By doing so, you’ll capture the normal pattern of speech. You’ll directly address the reader (as opposed to having your literary representative speak to them).
And when it comes to reading…do it with diligence! Another nice reminder. It’s so easy to skim, to skip, etc. As the modern acronym goes, TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read). But what do we gain, really? It’s better to read five pages with passion than fifty with ambivalence.
Meditations is a book for all times. It’s a Bible of practical philosophy. And it becomes more relevant with each passing day…