Unless someone is a prodigy or outright genius, I don’t believe readings in philosophy, of any kind, have a meaningful impact at an early age. Even in high school, it takes a broad mind to understand how certain ideals relate to knowledge of the world and life as we know it.

It was in my late 20’s, after a fateful marriage and a period of Odysseus-type wandering, that I found myself in Boston, surrounded by a vibrant writing community. At the recommendation of several acquaintances, I read the Greek and Roman poets, early 20th century European poets, and tracts of all kinds in all subjects. As best as I can remember, it was then I first came across the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

I’m not quite sure if I was taken in by the writing style (based largely on whatever translation I read) or the themes. After picking it up again within the last year, I relate more to the worldly weariness of its viewpoint, the notion that the writer (a philosopher-emperor and general) could easily review his life in quiet contemplation. Very few of us do so these days, regardless of our backgrounds. Perhaps I was using the book to force myself to look inward as I approached the age of sixty.

There are far too many critics that focus on the nature of the man who is writing rather than what is being written. When I recently took it up again, I did my best to avoid reviewing the biography of Marcus Aurelius, hoping to focus on the impact of the Meditations themsleves. I also found a vibrant online community of Stoics who have embraced the ideals as they seek something equating with peace in their lives.

What I found fascinating is the impact of the words to my nearly 30 year old self versus that of my nearly 60 year old self. Most philosophies fit differently upon a person as they grow and change in life. It will be interesting to see how I feel about the old emperor should I be fortunate enough to make it to 80.


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