This week, I finished Donald Robertson’s new book How To Think Like a Roman Emperor. And, what a remarkable book it is.
It succeeds in being a practical introduction to Stoicism whilst combining biography, history, psychotherapy and philosophy. Each chapter uses a period in Marcus’s life to illustrate an issue, for example, conquering desire or relinquishing fear. It describes Marcus’s situation, then demonstrates Stoic exercises that deal with the topic in question.
The result is both engaging and practical. It takes you beyond a “words to live by” approach and towards a Stoic routine and practice.
If you want to make progress, put up with being thought foolish and silly with regard to external things, and don’t even wish to give the impression of knowing anything about them; and if some people come to think that you’re somebody of note, regard yourself with distrust.
The first rule is, to keep an untroubled spirit; for all things must bow to Nature’s law, and soon enough you must vanish into nothingness, like Hadrian and Augustus.
The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are, remembering that it is your duty to be a good man. Do without flinching what man’s nature demands; say what seems to you most just – though with courtesy, modesty and sincerity.