“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” Marcus Aurelius
I came across this quote by this second century Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher. It blew me away as it seems to cover it from a belief perspective. It comes from a text called ‘Meditations’. Marcus Aurelius wrote this as an exercise in navel gazing, a journal for self improvement and reflection. It’s so inclusive but puzzling. For it was written at a time when Christian persecution in the Roman Empire was rife. Why wasn’t Marcus Aurelius acting on his thoughts and preventing this? After all it seems that he was regarded as a good ruler. Anyway the text lives on and is still studied today nearly two thousand years on. Perhaps it still contains truths for humanity that are just as pertinent today. Here’s another insight from the emperor that I found on Goodreads
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”
One reviewer on Amazon viewed ‘Meditations’ as an equal to Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ a favourite that has secured a rightful place in my rainbow bookcase. That sold it to me so I’ve just downloaded a bargain copy from Amazon. The free ones, older translations, had a lot of ‘thees and thous’ and addled my brain in making sense of them. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will be easier to read.
Disclosure: I may earn commission from purchases through a link in this post.