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What We Were Designed For: From Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, Part 1 of 2



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Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor of the 2nd century, also known as the last of the Five Good Emperors, after Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius.

Marcus Aurelius wrote personal notes and ideas on Stoic philosophy and spirituality as a source of guidance for himself. These notes, originally written in ancient Greek, formed a collection called “Meditations.” Today, we will read a selection from Marcus Aurelius’ book “Meditations.”

“The world’s intelligence is not selfish. It created lower things for the sake of higher ones, and attuned the higher ones to one another. Look how it subordinates, how it connects, how it assigns each thing what each deserves, and brings the better things into alignment.”

“Why are you still here? Sensory objects are shifting and unstable; our senses dim and easily deceived; the soul itself a decoction of the blood; fame in a world like this is worthless. — And so? Wait for it patiently — annihilation or metamorphosis. — And until that time comes — what? Honor and revere the gods, treat human beings as they deserve, be tolerant with others and strict with yourself. Remember, nothing belongs to you but your flesh and blood — and nothing else is under your control. You can lead an untroubled life provided you can grow, can think and act systematically. Two characteristics shared by gods and men (and every rational creature): 1. Not to let others hold you back. 2. To locate goodness in thinking and doing the right thing, and to limit your desires to that.

“Nature is pliable, obedient. And the Logos (the Word of God) that governs it has no reason to do evil. It knows no evil, does none, and causes harm to nothing. It dictates all beginnings and all endings. Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honored. Dying… or busy with other assignments. Because dying, too, is one of our assignments in life. There as well: ‘to do what needs doing.’”
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