The "Meditations" of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius are a readable exposition of the system of metaphysics known as stoicism. Stoics maintained that by putting aside great passions, unjust thoughts and indulgence, man could acquire virtue and live at one with nature.
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Also part of the "Great Ideas" series, this is the writings of the Roman philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius, and it was very, very interesting. Oddly enough, there was a lot of it that meshed with the Zen that I had been reading about earlier - no past, no future, only now. You can only control yourself in this world, so do that. What other people think or do is of no importance. And besides, you're all going to be dead soon anyway.
Yeah, he talks a lot about death. But he uses it to provide perspective, something it is nice to know was lacking even two thousand years ago. Rather than worrying about living up to the examples of your forebears - who are dead - or being a good example to your descendants - who will never even meet you - do the right thing, the best thing, right now.
It's a beautiful, if somewhat repetitive, philosophy on how to live a good and contented life. I can understand how it lasted so long....
An Essay on Marcus Aurelius by Matthew Arnold
Marcus Aurelius and Stoicism