Building Virtue with Marcus Aurelius—Part 1

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Marcus Aurelius is one of the all-time great philosophers, but what makes him one of the true greats is that he’s humble enough to credit much of his perspective to the teachings of his elders and mentors.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look into and expound upon the most valuable teachings from Aurelius’ greatest philosophical work: Meditations. I’ll do my best to bring his ancient wisdom into modern parlance. Our first installment will focus on the teachings of his tutor:

“To be neither of the green nor of the blue party at the games of the circus, nor to be a partisan of the Parmularius or the Scutarius of the Gladiator games”

It happens all the time.  Be it politics, entertainment, or sports, powerful people use distractions to enrage, manipulate, and pacify the masses.  Aurelius was taught to see these for what they were and to avoid taking the bait.

We have choices everyday that may not seem obvious to everyone, but they are plain as can be if you have your focus where it needs to be.  You can choose yourself, your family, your community or you can choose to try to live vicariously through athletes, entertainers, and politicians who have no idea who you are.

Keep a level head, focus on yourself, and don’t get caught slippin’.

Gladiator (2000)

“To endure pain”

Simple enough, right? There’s plenty of pain to go around, so enduring pain at some point is an inevitability.  But what Aurelius is describing here is much more profound.  Can you endure pain without letting it take you off course?

Can you embrace the pain as a right of passage to the next step in your growth? Can you use it to fuel your drive? Can you use it to strengthen your resolve?

Shit happens.  Life hurts.  Deal with it.

“To want little”

This one may seem a little trickier, but let me give you a visual to make it clear.  Our world is so full it is utterly plagued by men confused about the difference between wants and needs.

Tough to complain about the woke left taking over the culture when you’re buying a bass boat and sending your kids to public school.  Or drowning yourself in beer, wine or whiskey while your kids watch whatever social programming Disney has scheduled. Or buying new rims while your kids eat ramen.  Or spending the weekend playing golf while your kids eat junk food and play video games.

How often do you forego needs to satisfy wants? What are you running from? Are you willing to stop running and turn around and face it?

“To work with my own hands”

Not much compares to creating something with your own hands.  It’s what we were created to do.  We were created, at least in part, so that we could participate in creation.

When we mix our labor with the natural resources around us, we create something new and we begin to build our own world.  The more we neglect this natural inclination, the more we are forced to rely on the production of others and the more we become dependent on living in THEIR world.

But it goes beyond that. When we suppress our natural instinct to build and create, we stifle our own growth and invite atrophy and decay.  If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

“Not to meddle with other people’s affairs and not to be ready to listen to slander”

Again, the orders are simple: FOCUS ON YOURSELF! If you haven’t been asked to help someone and you’re preoccupying yourself with someone else’s drama, you’re neglecting something that will bring you closer to your goals and giving attention to something that is bound to bring drama right to your doorstep.

Take care of your own business and let other people handle theirs.

Part 2

Part 3

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