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Translation by George Long revised by Duncan Steen.
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By David on 10-22-16
Excelent reading of an excellent classic
Marcus Aurelius seems often to be regarded as the "father of Stoicism" and his Meditations as a sort of Stoic Bible. Neither of these things is true - Stoicism was founded centuries before his time, in Greece, and the emperor's "meditations" were basically his study notes and personal journals. He was writing only for himself, and never meant for his writings to be published after his death as a guide to others on how to live their lives.
Nonetheless, the Meditations are worthy of a deep, thoughtful read. Much of what Aurelius "teaches" can be considered common sense guidelines to approaching life, even if you are not a capital-s Stoic.
"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."
This is Stoicism in a nutshell: You cannot control other things and people - you can only control yourself. Aurelius belabors this point at length - that whatever happens is meant to happen, that you have no power to change what has happened or will happen, and that therefore your only choice is how you will react to it. And that reacting with emotion is foolish.
Much of his philosophy also boils down to telling oneself to rise above insults, injuries, and idiots.
Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.
Stoicism often seems close to fatalism - one could conclude that if your life is basically out of your control and that everything and everyone will act according to their natures, there isn't much point in making plans or having hopes and dreams. But that isn't what Stoicism teaches, because the one thing you are in control of - yourself - is still a powerful agent in your life. Maybe you are (according to Stoic principles) fated to live a certain way and only that way, but you can choose to enjoy it or not, be miserable or not, be fulfilled or not.
Stoicism is powerful and requires a lot more study than just reading a Wikipedia summary or the meditations of one long-dead philosopher-emperor. But it appeals to me a lot, and so I really enjoyed reading Aurelius's words, even when he was expressing things that don't jive with my modern sensibilities. He was a pagan, of course, so he speaks of the gods as arbiters of our fates and the source of all that is good (a paradox I have always found amusing, given what fickle, spiteful jerks the gods are typically in Greco-Roman mythology), but sometimes he also refers to "God" as if he had also assimilated some monotheistic ideas.
Not everything in Aurelius's Meditations will resonate with everyone, but even if you are not interested in Stoicism per se, this is still a great philosophical and literary classic that is worth reading in its own right, for insights as to why an emperor from two thousand years ago is still so highly regarded.
The audiobook reading was pitch-perfect. I could listen to this guy speaking Stoic philosophy all day. Obviously Marcus Aurelius did not have a rich British accent, nor did he speak English, but still, it's easy to imagine his voice being like this, his accent being the equivalent, just as the words in translations probably don't use the exact same metaphors and figures of speech he did (and of course, in translation it's still quite deliberately stilted and archaic in cadence and sentence structure and vocabulary, when obviously Aurelius would have sounded more contemporary, if formal, to his own ears and those of his peers) but sound authentic.
75 of 78 people found this review helpful
By John J. on 02-28-15
SO BRILLIANT, I BOUGHT THE HARD COPY...!!
If you could sum up Meditations in three words, what would they be?
A magnificent read...!!
What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?
A compilation of writings never intended for publication, you receive a candid insight into the man himself, his values, principles and ponderings. Seeking balance in his life as a ruler, a warrior, spouse, father and human being - I found his perspectives fascinating...
Have you listened to any of Duncan Steen’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
No - but I am a new fan. His verbal inflections reflect an obvious mental and emotional immersion into the topic matter and do great credit to the writings and meditations of Marcus Aurelius...
If you could give Meditations a new subtitle, what would it be?
"Wisdoms & Guidance for Life..."
Any additional comments?
A magnificent compilation of historical wisdoms, historically articulated through many cultures and various systems of belief, most of us have had handed down to us through the course of our own lives. Welcome caveat being, these wisdoms are offered through the prism and perspective of the man himself, which brings depth and dimension to Marcus Aurelius as a man and insight into how his wheels turned. As an "average Joe," and casual student of philosophy, I found this book so worth my time, I play it repetitiously, like a favorite movie from which you catch something new each time you watch it...!! Narrator, Duncan Steen - CHERRS...!!
88 of 92 people found this review helpful
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By James Riley on 12-02-15
Important text on self-reflection and improvement
Would you listen to Meditations again? Why?
I would. It is one of those books that you don't just listen to once, or listen to in one sitting. Because the structure of the book is the multiple self-reflections of Aurelius, you can dip in and out. Listen to 3 minutes and you will get something to think about for the next 3 hours. If you are 'seasoning' this book, you are doing it wrong. Reflect on his reflections!
Aurelius constantly stresses the importance of acting in the most stoic way, how to improve yourself and those around you without being dominating nor imposing. The great little gems of knowledge are interspersed with some comments on the science / worldview of the time, which makes it a nice historic account and truly set in its time. Nonetheless, the importance of a stoic attitude to life is still relevant today.
Without a doubt it is one of the important texts in history about being a good human being.
25 of 25 people found this review helpful
By Paschal on 01-07-17
A matter of life and death.
It's amazing to think that Marcus Aurelius was wiser 2000 years ago than most of are today.
I listened to this while I was waiting for news regarding a life threatening disease.
It calmed me.
It helped me realise that whatever happens will be ok.
It is difficult to keep concentrating on the words all of the time but that does not matter because the important things are repeated in many different ways.
It is stoicism in the extreme.
But I like that.
It certainly helps one to keep ones feet on the ground.
And all that coming from a Roman Emperor.
53 of 56 people found this review helpful
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By C. R. Grice on 03-25-17
Great introduction to Philosophy
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I would, as it discusses topics that naturally turn into good conversations with friends.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Meditations?
The thought processes on death which emphasises that we are only on this earth for a short time and not to get to caught up with the successes of this life as for all mortals the result is inevitably the same no matter how much some people have been able to accomplish. The author encourages readers to accept that we are going to eventually pass away. Once we accept this we can learn to enjoy the time we have on this earth without creating unnecessary expectations on ourselves and therefore maintaining a good life balance.
What does Duncan Steen bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
I have enjoyed listening to Duncan. He is very passionate when reading this book and he makes it his own by incorporating this when reading the book.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
By Henry on 01-30-18
The book we need right now
2000 years ago, the ancients dealt with the same issues we deal with now. The Stoics found what it meant to lead The Good Life. Of those, the personal thoughts of Marcus Aurelius give an incredible insight into understanding the philosophy, and how to apply it to day to day life.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful