Note to Self

I’ve mentioned the “Meditations” of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius before – I’ve been writing this blog for over 450 hours, I’m not sure there’s anything I haven’t mentioned except my feelings on the season finale of Doctor Who, Series 7. (Eh.) Marcus Aurelius, philosopher, statesman, Roman, and Emperor wrote twelve “books” which were apparently never meant to be published. These are the private musings, notes to self, of a thoughtful man, written stoically and Stoically. When he lectures anyone, he lectures himself. He even poses questions to parts of himself: his soul, most notably.

There is much to admire in the simplicity and purpose of Marcus Aurelius’ thoughts. They are brief, because Emperors are busy people, especially when earning titles such as Germanicus (which usually involves squashing a nation state or two). They are direct, because he is talking to himself and he needs to be honest. He repeats himself for emphasis and to indicate importance, not out of forgetfulness.

Best, he writes for himself, for clarity, for the now and without thinking of a future audience.

There is a great deal to think about in this, because if you have read “Meditations”, you will know that every page contains a gem and some pages have jewels cascading from them. Yet these are the private thoughts of a person recording ways to improve himself and to keep himself in check – while he managed the Roman empire.

When I talk about improvement, I’m always trying to improve myself. When I find fault, I’ve usually found it in myself first. Yet, what a lot of words I write! Perhaps it is time to reinvestigate brevity, directness and a generosity towards the self that translates well into a kindness to strangers who might stumble upon this. The last thing I’d want to do is to stop people finding what zircons there are because the preamble is too demanding or the journey to the point too long.

Once again, I give my thanks to the writings of someone who died 2000 years ago and gave me so much to think about. Vale, Marcus Aurelius.

3 Comments on “Note to Self”

  1. Bill Barth says:

    Nick, do you have a favorite translation for the “Meditations”? I downloaded a free one from Amazon (a public domain version by Casaubon but lacking his notes, I think, and written in 1634 and 1635), and I’m finding the English anachronistic enough to be distracting. I might buy a version to leaf through if I could trust in a better, more modern translation.


    • nickfalkner says:

      Hi Bill,

      The only one I have is the orange covered Penguin classics but I find the translation to be very smooth and easy to read – you can dip your toe or dive in and still have a lot of fun. You can probably find a copy to look at in almost any bookstore in the Western hemisphere.



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