I kid you not, it took me a whole bloody year to finish the Introduction alone. Without a doubt, it aided my book slump since the lack of progress made me feel like super-ultra-platinum-crap as opposed to the regular cardboard variety.
I could have ignored it and went on full speed ahead, however, I take this philosophy thing seriously and, besides, context is always good. It wasn’t torture by any means (actually damn interesting) it’s heavy stuff, intensive reading since I’m relatively new to this type of thing.
Publisher: Random House
Edition: 2003, Modern Library Papaerback Ed.
Translater: Gregory Hayes
Page count: 190+
Stoicism has just a few central teachings. It sets out to remind us of how unpredictable the world can be. How brief our moment of life is. How to be steadfast, and strong, and in control of yourself. And finally, that the source of our dissatisfaction lies in our impulsive dependency on our reflexive senses rather than logic.
Stoicism doesn’t concern itself with complicated theories about the world, but with helping us overcome destructive emotions and act on what can be acted upon. It’s built for action, not endless debate.
Anyway, I finished and figured the actual reading is going to be another kind of beast. A lightbulb went off this morning as the fog of sleep lifted from my head (mind you, this was after breakfast) and I was like why not do an entry a day? Maybe I’ll have something to say, maybe not. It’ll be like actively reading I figure.
The introduction touches briefly on a number of “facts”: what little is known of his early childhood, his family background, his ascension as Emperor of Rome; his military and diplomatic conquests, and political climate of the time. It goes on to tell how the philosophy migrated from Greece to Rome; the basics on Stoicism, Marcus’s known and possible influences, to the structure and critique on the Meditations itself, and notable individuals who were known to have read it religiously.
It should be said that not only did he not see himself as a philosopher, but the Meditations was also his personal diary and not intended to be published at all.
I suspect that Marcus would have been surprised (and perhaps rather dismayed) to find himself enshrined in the Modern Library of the World’s Best Books. He would have been surprised, to begin with, by the title of the work ascribed to him. The long-established English title “Meditations” is not only not original, but positively misleading, lending a spurious air of resonance and authority quite alien to the haphazard set of notes that constitute the book.Gregory Hayes, Meditations: Introduction, xxxvi
Yes, so an entry a day ought to do just fine, starting with book one. What attracts me to this school (other than being mostly unproblematic) is it encourages independence, awareness, and strength of spirit and will, cutting through the bullshit, misleading influences of appearances.
We react to stimulus, often irrationally and causing more problems. If it’s important enough to us that we gain some semblance of control and direction, perhaps it’s worth it to attempt to contextualize what exactly we are reacting to and what it should mean to us.
I don’t expect this to be a bandaid for what I’m going through and I’m sure there will be several points I wouldn’t agree with, it’s early days yet. But it’s a place to start.