Marcus Aurelius: Meaning and Message
First, the meditations are about the character of a statesman. We don't always tie Marcus Aurelius to the persecution of Christianity, or to the wars he led in the north - or the several children he both had and lost (childbirth, and childhood, in the days of Marcus Aurelius - were a bit more dangerous than they are today and to his wife's great credit - she was able to both survive and raise north of six kids and save at least one or two - almost alone). His writings were meant to be meditations and not published - he worked his way through the lessons of his teacher, a stoic - and through the lessons of war, survival, and perseverance.
His writings reflect a character of the man - a way in which omnipresent death had no sway - in which the harshness of the world was put into perspective. The elements do not struggle against themselves -they transform and transmute from one to another. Perhaps because he was faced with war - leading his men to wars in the north. A war against the Goth. A savage and brutal siege that lasted for years. But one in which ultimately the armies under his command, persevered. Its hard to gauge exactly what one would do , given severe hardship - how does one really respond? And its surprising to see what people actually do.
I've seen strong evidence that humanity can endure and prosper in almost any environment - and it makes me wonder if, in fact, this is an element of life itself. Perhaps billions of years ago the comet that seeded life on earth, fell into a new ocean and the mote that learned to pass from some undersea volcanic vent - back and forth - eventually developing a synthesis process for storing energy , abiogenesis - had a similiar set of challenges to someone starting a business in 2010, or trying to survive in a harsh emotional or physical landscape - or otherwise trying to do whats right. Lighting one candle against the darkness.
Marcus Aurelius should not be summarized I suppose; his is a body of constituent work that speaks to the hacker, artist, arc welder, tennis player, poet, tinker, tailor, soldier -spy. They are, one supposes, simple meditations that help us to find our way. It doesn't mean that we are lost. Perhaps something like road signs - and my use for them is as much a check against what I am doing as they are to let me know what may be coming in advance.
We should consider the thing in itself and ask - what is its nature? Its origin? What, in its very essence - is the thing itself? In this we can defeat hopelessness.
Earlier this week, I saw a truly scary and kind of disturbing film called 'Funny Games'. I realized , after seeing the film - that the people in the film who were essentially the victims - the family that had been attacked by the two well dressed young men - were in fact deeply mistaken in their approach to evil - when presented with it. It is this character that seems to be able to save me from depression - the film truly disturbed me and it was my careful reflection of what must have been the right action, and at the right moment would it were that I were in their position -that helped me to gain perspective. For example, when two young men are set against an older man, a woman, and a child - with only one weapon between them - even if the first blow is a surprise you can essentially overwhelm your captors by clawing and thrashing against them. The husband who was rendered powerless by being struck in the leg with a golf club, could well have communicated to his wife to attack no holds barred. All they had to do was drive the two captors out the door that was only 2 meters away - in order to be able to secure a fallback position where they could have been locked out. Then, only 2 meters away from the kitchen, they could have armed themselves and held siege.
I will not destroy the movie for you. Its a good one. But to conclude, the idea that you can be presented with almost any condition, and persevere - is attractive to me. And its part of the reason why I am so happy that today turned out so well. The music of Sopranos Two by Two was unbelievable. I loved it.