“Newly Translated and Introduced by Jacob Needleman & John P. Piazza” as noted by the cover,The Essential Marcus Aurelius is a truncated (the highlight reel, if you will) translation of the Roman emperor‘s (160-180 AD) original collection of books, Meditations.
Not since my first Stephen King book have I read words and felt like they were pulled directly out of my head. And that’s not to say that I’m as articulate or totally 100% in accordance with all the things Aurelius is writing to himself, but–that’s just it–these are passages Emperor Marcus only intended to ever view on his own. Whether or not I agree isn’t the point, its the fact that someone thousands of years later can still relate. Even though reading the personal reflections of a man ruling an empire now dead felt like handling a relic out from under the glass for the first time.
Within the intimate and thoughtful passages were lines of poetic prose that called for man to be better, a being more in tune with the “spark of the divine” that we all contain within ourselves. Communing with the you inside can bring clarity of thought, resilience against emotional outbursts, and well-guided action reflecting a strategic mind. Definitely a man after my own mind.
Here is one passage in particular that struck me the second I read it as delightfully profound, because of its striking and bold (if only for being so simple) imagery.
The sun seems to pour itself down and pours itself in every direction, but is not emptied. For this pouring is an extension, and its rays are so named because of their extension. You can observe this if you watch sunlight shining through some narrow crack in a dark room. It extends itself in a straight line until, it encounters some solid body which stops its extension. There the light rests and it does not move or fall off.
This is how the pouring and diffusion of the mind must be, for it is not a pouring out, but rather an extension of itself; and it should not make a violent or angry impact upon whatever stands in its way; nor should it simply fall away, but rather it should stand firm and illuminate whatever receives it. Whatever does not accept it and help it on its way only deprives itself of the light. [8.57]