In the life of a man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his senses a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, and his fame doubtful. In short, all that is of the body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapours; life, a warfare, a brief sojourning in an alien land; and after repute, oblivion.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (2.17)
Principles can only lose their vitality when the first impressions from which they derive have sunk into extinction; and it is for you to keep fanning these continually into new flame… You have only to see things once more in the light of your first and earlier vision, and life begins anew.
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.