Yes, I know, I know. I’ve blogged about Meditations by Marcus Aurelius more than a few times over the past handful of years. Here’s the thing: of all of the books I’ve read in my life it is easily on my personal Mount Rushmore of influential books (most likely accompanied by The Book of Joy, New Seeds of Contemplation, the Bible, Essentialism, and The Obstacle Is the Way – yes, that’s more than four, but I’d also modify the true Mount Rushmore slightly if I had the chance).
There’s been something rolling through my head often this week… I’ve been focused on answering a very specific question that is one that seems incredibly simplistic. Aren’t those some of the most frustrating yet energizing questions? One that seems way to simple when you first read it that your brain kind of glosses over it, gives the easy surface answer, and then starts to move on… and then you have that, “HOLD ON, WAIT A SECOND!!!” thought that causes you to stop in your tracks. You pause, re-read the question, and quickly realize there will be no quick answer to it. Next thing you know your brain is going a thousand miles an hour trying to figure out the insanely complex question you almost blew right past without a thought. That’s what I’ve been having go through my head. I’m really hoping you understand, if not I just might have shown a first stage of insanity 😉
After our run this morning I could almost answer the question but it wouldn’t quite roll off my tongue. I paused for a second, looked at my book shelf of my most influential books (yes, they have a special shelf in my bedroom) and BAM!!! I had it! In a few feverish moments I cruised through a couple of books just to make sure I had it right and there it was… another awesome piece of wisdom from Meditations that almost answered the question.
Objective judgement, now, at this very moment.
Unselfish action, now, at this very moment.
Willing acceptance – now, at this very moment – of all external events.
That’s all you need.
The interesting thing about Meditations was that this wasn’t something Marcus necessarily wrote for anyone else. It was his personal notes to himself, the lessons he’d learned about how he felt life should be lived. The writings were meant to be a guide for him to study as he added new thoughts and observations while living his life.
Some of what hit home so deeply in this were not only the points themselves, but also the focus on now, the present. That is definitely one of the keys to my answer. Staying in the now, being present, focusing on what’s at hand.
I would love to be able to go back to talk with him as he wrote this. There’s a piece that I’m not quite seeing but I feel he would say it is woven in it. How amazing it would be to sit and ask him his thoughts. Seeing as I can’t I’ll have to do the next best thing… guess. Either way, I am thinking that the only thing that is not clearly (or at least cleanly) threaded into his answer is gratitude.
Marcus, thank you so much for taking the time to write your thoughts so that others may learn from them. Today your words of advice helped me answer a question I was struggling with.