Jan 26, 2015

Monday Morning Quote (Aurelius, 1/26/15)

"Reflect often how all the life of today is a repetition of the past; and observe that it also presages what is to come. Review the many complete dramas and their settings, all so similar, which you have known in your own experience, or from bygone history: the whole court-circle of Hadrian, for example, or the court of Antonius, or the courts of Philip, Alexander, and Croesus. The performance is always the same; it is only the actors who change."

Marcus Aurelius (trans. Maxwell Staniforth)
121-180
Emperor of Rome, 161-180

taken from Meditations book X


I'm starting to really think that much of our life is preordained by the social and political structures that we live in. Even my judgments on good and bad are based on it. I have no real freedom to decide from a rational, non-biased standpoint. I honestly don't think a tabula rasa type starting point is even achievable in mind, yet alone a real world thing. I find myself perpetuating irritating standards in my private life with my girlfriend; someone whom I should feel comfortable and free around. I'm not entirely sure what it is I'm trying to express. Aurelius above seems to think we are all just going through the motions of a script that has already been written long ago and will never change. He was thrust into the most important and powerful position in the ancient world: Emperor of the world-state of Rome, and even he found it difficult to be who he wanted to be; he was always being dragged this way or that by powers outside his control.

Marcus Aurelius is considered to be the last of the 'good' emperors before the start of a string of 'bad' emperors. All the good emperors immediately preceding him, and he himself, became emperors by being adopted by the current emperor and obtaining the position by legal heredity. The next emperor was Aurelius's genetic son Commodus who began the string of bad emperors. Aurelius's trust in nature (he says in the Meditations that "in the ways of Nature there is no evil to be found") betrayed him. He would have been better off personally selecting an appropriate successor than let the system of heredity choose for him.

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