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    Virtues of a stoic life

    “Nowhere can a man find a quieter or more untroubaled retreat than in his own soul,” wrote Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius. His “Meditations of Marcus of Aurelius” is considered the most readable extent exposition of the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism.

    Stoicism can still be seen as an armour against hardships and misfortunes found in the contentment of a life lived modestly and virtuously. It was a philosophy suited to the times of Marcus Aurelius, when the Roman Empire began to crumble, with wars on the frontiers and plagues and hunger at Rome. Two thousand years later, it seems as well suited for today’s troubled times. It offers a defence against despair from the pains that assail our world: economic hardships; the violence of sectarian conflict, oppressive tyrants, and fanatical terrorists; the global warming threat to human life; the waning of American global hegemony. Rome could hardly have faced greater storms than these.

    A kernel of the stoic philosophy is found in this short passage from the Gutenberg text of his Meditations (www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2680).

    Never esteem of anything as profitable, which shall ever constrain thee either to break thy faith, or to lose thy modesty; to hate any man, to suspect, to curse, to dissemble, to lust after anything, that requireth the secret of walls or veils. But he that preferreth before all things his rational part and spirit, and the sacred mysteries of virtue which issueth from it, he shall never lament and exclaim, never sigh; he shall never want either solitude or company: and which is chiefest of all, he shall live without either desire or fear. And as for life, whether for a long or short time he shall enjoy his soul thus compassed about with a body, he is altogether indifferent. For if even now he were to depart, he is as ready for it, as for any other action, which may be performed with modesty and decency. For all his life long, this is his only care, that his mind may always be occupied in such intentions and objects, as are proper to a rational sociable creature.

    “Marcus Aurelius for Business Leaders,” a brief book from Montreal writer and communications consultant Lawrence Creaghan, offers another translation of selections from the Meditations. Here are two excepts:

    BE A GOD

    “It’s indeed very possible to be a god on earth, yet not be recognized by anyone! Remember that. And another thing. Remember that you really need very little to live a happy life. If you have abandoned all hope of being a great thinker or scientist, don’t make that an

    FICKLE FAME.

    “Perhaps that silly thing called fame will torment you. Remember how fast everything is forgotten. Look at the chaos of infinite time on each side of the present. And the emptiness of applause. And the fickleness and want of judgment in people who pretend to praise us.”

     

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