This post is the tenth in our Stoic Philosophy book club series on Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Participants expressing interest are tagged at the end of the post, let us know if you're new and would like to join and be tagged!
Prior posts for context:

Book 10

Summary and Highlights

Book 10 was a rather easy and delightful read for me. I appreciated a mix of longer, deep meditations along with shorter quips belying the history of the time and Marcus' personal circumstances. Here are my highlights.
Marcus leads off #1 with a poetic and moving entry addressed to his own soul, expressing the longing for spiritual perfection, bhakti, devotion, mixed with a degree of self criticism. I'll quote it here in its entirety:
To my soul:     Are you ever going to achieve goodness? Ever going to be simple, whole and naked -- as plain to see as the body that contains you? Know what an affectionate and loving disposition would feel like? Ever be fulfilled, ever stop desiring -- lusting and longing for people and things to enjoy? Or for more time to enjoy them? Or for some other place or country -- "a more temperate clime"? Or for people easier to get along with? And instead be satisfied with what you have, and accept the present -- all of it. And convince yourself that everything is the gift of the gods, that things are good and always will be, whatever they decide and have in store for the preservation of that perfect entity -- good and just and beautiful, creating all things, connecting and embracing them, and gathering in their separated fragments to create more like them.     Will you ever take you stand as a fellow citizen with gods and human beings, blaming no one, deserving no one's censure?
I like this one because it's human and relatable. I find myself often trying to convince myself that if circumstances were just a little bit tweaked, all would be well with the world. He also expresses an impatience with himself, that he has not integrated the qualities he associates with "the Good". Reminds me of a meditation teacher who said that the soul of Buddha had spent countless lifetimes serving others, building within itself the quality of compassion to the point where it was ready to perform his task. This road is possibly longer than we expect and we can't always put the foot on the gas to make ourselves develop or change any faster.
  1. "Focus on what nature demands, as if you were governed by that alone. Then do that, and accept it, unless your nature as a living being would be degraded by it. Then focus on what that nature demands, and accept that too -- unless your nature as a rational being would be degraded by it."
This one seems to be to subtly encourage the embrace of the "shadow" quality as Jung puts it. Marcus says to inspect our own judgments about good and bad, right and wrong (degradation) and names that also as Nature. He also highlights a recursive, onion-like relationship in nature -- living beings to rational beings.
  1. Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it's endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. If it's unendurable ... then stop complaining. Your destruction will mean its end as well. Just remember: you can endure anything your mind can make endurable, by treating it as in your interest to do so. In your interest, or in your nature.
Anyway you cut it, STFU. We could all be doing a lot less complaining, I know I can. However, I'm also struck with the extreme implication of this since I've been watching Netflix shows recently about drug trafficking in Columbia and Mexico. Witnessing depictions of some of the heinous, torturous treatment of people by the cartels has me considering my own limits of "endurance" under torture. There is a scene in Narcos where a torturer is being tortured himself and he tells his captors that the way to resist capitulation under torture is to convince yourself that whatever information you are protecting is incredibly valuable. Perhaps there is a weird parallel here -- the ultimate value being your Soul, integrity or Nature.
I'm struck again with the Narcos in #6 where Marcus includes this statement:
That's a trait shared by all natures, but the nature of the world is defined by a second characteristic as well: no outside force can compel it to cause itself harm.
Drama being drama, imagining the compulsions the drug cartels use to manipulate people is challenging. Forcing new members to commit murder by threat of death, or using the lives of family members as leverage, it's hard to imagine the "Good" way to act in these situations, much less how I, myself, would actually respond. In some situations, living with integrity requires a god-like quality of fearlessness and faith in the laws of Nature.
I liked that #8 was titled "Epithets for yourself" which insinuates Marcus is writing his own tombstone. He goes on to say, "If you maintain your claim to these epithets -- without caring if others apply them to you or not -- you'll become a new person, living a new life." Obviously this has a Resurrection theme, which I find artistic in writing, as well as in message.
In #10, a historical fragment comes through, "Spiders are proud of catching files, men of catching hards, fish in a net, boars, bears, Sarmations ... Criminal psychology." LOL. I had to look up the Sarmations to get that they were a group of Iranian nomads allied with the Germanic tribes and invading Roman territory during the time of Marcus. He expresses his frustration with the harassment along with a despising joke.
11a. He has stripped away his body and -- realizing that at some point soon he will have to abandon mankind and leave all this behind -- has dedicated himself to serving justice in all he does, and nature in all that happens. What people say or think about him, or how they treat him, isn't something he worries about. Only these two questions: Is what he's doing now the right thing to be doing? Does he accept and welcome what he's been assigned? He has stripped away all other occupations, all other tasks. He wants only to travel a straight path -- to God, by way of law.
This is a concise passage, so spot on, it could be describing Jesus. It has a very Christian ring to it -- the "straight and narrow path", and the Old Testament's focus on the law. Beautifully put.
12a. To follow the logos in all things is to be relaxed and energetic, joyful and serious at once.
Integrated polarities -- capable of both expressions, yet dominated by neither.
  1. To stop talking about what the good man is like, and just become one.
Talk is cheap. Be the change you want to see in the world (and yourself).
  1. Each of us needs what nature gives us, when nature gives it.
Remember this, especially when going through a rough patch. If you really surrender to Nature / God etc, then the rough patch and the lessons that come from it are actually what you need most. Be grateful for it/them and make the best use of the opportunity.
  1. Possibilities: i.) To keep on living (you should be used to it by now) ii.) To end it (it was your choice, after all) iii.) To die (having met your obligations) Those are the only options. Reason for optimism.
An intriguing place to find optimism.
My favorite entry is #25:
    When a slave runs away from his master, we call him a fugitive slave. But the law of nature is a master too, and to break it is to become a fugitive.     To feel grief, anger or fear is to try to escape from something decreed by the ruler of all things, now or in the past or in the future. And that ruler is law, which governs what happens to each of us. To feel grief or anger or fear is to become a fugitive -- a fugitive from justice.
I really like the symbolism here. Depicting the quality of slavery in a spiritual context both gives it a deeper meaning, and also servers to break up preconceptions we might have based on our historical class systems. It also normalizes the quality of surrender, and reminds us that our individual place in the hierarchies of Nature is not without subordination.
Related is #28:
People who feel hurt and resentment: picture them as the pig at sacrifice, kicking and squealing all the way. Like the man alone in his bed, silently weeping over the chains that bind us. That everything has to submit. But only rationals beings can do so voluntarily.
Here we have Amor Fati -- to love one's fate, a classical Stoic principle. Again, too, with the slavery / chains theme. Freedom here, and free will, is the choice to accept our circumstance, our fate.
The conclusion to #33 carries a faith and trust in the structure of Nature using the allegory of a city and its citizens,
And keep in mind that nothing can harm one of nature's citizens except what harms the city he belongs to. And nothing harms that city except what harms its law. And there is no so-called misfortune that can do that. So long as the law is safe, so i the city -- and the citizen.
This reminds me of the power of the Hebrew Law through the history of the Jewish people. Throughout the diaspora, the law and its traditions kept the religion and cultural identity intact.
Finally, #36 caught me feeling rather guilty.
It doesn't matter how good a life you've led. There'll still be people standing around the bed who will welcome the sad event... How many traits to you have that would make a lot of people glad to be rid of you?... And yet, don't leave angry with them... It was nature that bound you to them -- that tied the knot.
It's pretty crazy to imagine the death scene of somebody with whom I've had many difficulties. To realize those feeling of anger, resentment, aversion would be recognized in that moment as a selfish wish to have them gone so that my life would be easier. Perhaps death is such a tragic event because of these latent, semi-conscious realities in relationship, perhaps dealing with these feelings is part of what grief is? Either way, better to confront them now, and consciously, so as not to build up all that emotional debt for later, and to make the best out of the remaining time we have to explore the purpose Nature has intended for those connections.
Thanks for reading.


Thank you everyone who has been reading Meditations, and participated in the discussions. Feel free let me know if you don't want to be on the tag list anymore :)
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This is my favorite book of all time.
Know what an affectionate and loving disposition would feel like? Ever be fulfilled, ever stop desiring -- lusting and longing for people and things to enjoy? Or for more time to enjoy them? Or for some other place or country -- "a more temperate clime"? Or for people easier to get along with? And instead be satisfied with what you have, and accept the present -- all of it. And convince yourself that everything is the gift of the gods
Growing older is a strange experience, and I find myself thinking in the above terms more and more. When I was in my 20-30s I was very driven, searching always for more money, better wine, food, travel, cars, etc. That started to stop in my 40s and I started to think far more in the above terms: Just accepting what life is giving without constantly seek to "fix" or improve it.
It reminds me of this line from Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon. Its estimated that his annual income was 25 tons of gold each year for his lifetime. So his wealth was pretty unimaginable:
I accomplished great things. I built myself houses and planted vineyards. I planted gardens and orchards, with all kinds of fruit trees in them; I dug ponds to irrigate them. I bought many slaves, and there were slaves born in my household. I owned more livestock than anyone else who had ever lived in Jerusalem. I also piled up silver and gold from the royal treasuries of the lands I ruled. Men and women sang to entertain me, and I had all the women a man could want. Yes, I was great, greater than anyone else who had ever lived in Jerusalem, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I got. I did not deny myself any pleasure. I was proud of everything I had worked for, and all this was my reward. Then I thought about all that I had done and how hard I had worked doing it, and I realized that it didn't mean a thing. It was like chasing the wind—of no use at all. Ecclesiastes 2:4
I agree, it's easier and more approachable to relate with some age and experience. Love that quote from King Solomon, thanks!
Children change your priorities
What a book! It's becoming my favourite book of all time for learning about life and related. Thanks all the contributors.
Yes, thank you very much. Marcus Aurelius is absolutely one of my household gods.
Thanks for sharing it! I wish I could share but my limitation of time doesn't allow me as of now.
Bug this is something very true happening here. Love it.