Marcus Aurelius’ meditations are a self-written reflection, a compilation of “books” recording his thoughts and principles on a number of topics regarding life in the second century A.D. It’s unlike most pieces of writing in that it was never meant to be published, or even read by another. It was more an ongoing written reminder to himself as he worked to align his beliefs with his actions.
The first book, “Debts and Lessons,” is unique in that it lends some perspective to the family, mentors and teachings that provided the stoic principles by which he lived his life. The longest entry is the sixteenth of seventeen, devoted to his adopted father. Antonius Pious clearly had a significant role in forming the emperor that Marcus was to become. “Debts and Lessons” also demonstrates that Marcus had a strong band who contributed to cultivating the “Philosopher King.”
From Rusticus he learned “The recognition I needed to train and discipline my character.”
From Sextus, “Kindness… His ability to get along with everyone… Not to display anger or other emotions…To be free of passion and yet full of love.”
From Fronto, “To recognize the malice, cunning, and hypocrisy that power produces.”
From Severus, “To love my family, truth and justice… And to help others and be eager to share, not to be a pessimist, and to never doubt your friends’ affection for you.”
And from Maximus, “Self-control and resistance to distractions. Optimism in adversity. A personality in balance: dignity and grace together. Doing your job without whining… Generosity, charity, honesty… A sense of humor.”
I believe the adage that we are the average of our five closest friends. Who are you surrounding yourself with? What principles are they imparting, and which are you choosing to bolt-on to your core? None of us is meant to go it alone. Choose your band wisely; Marcus did.