Marcus Annius Verus was born on ante diem V kalendas Maias (‘the fifth day before the start of May’) in the year DCCCLXXV ab urbe condita (‘875 years after the founding of Rome’) in Hispania Baetica near Corduba.
The boy came to be called Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (or just ‘Marcus Aurelius’ to us). The date is now just called April 26th. The year is now called 121 CE. The region is now called Andalusia, Spain (Marcus moved to Rome when he was three)
By our count, this year marks Marcus’s 1900th birthday—that’s pretty neat! (though by Roman inclusive count, we missed it by a year… oops).
As I said in a post last month, I think commemorating Marcus’s ‘deathday’ may be more important from a Stoic perspective. That being said, any opportunity to celebrate a role model and consider their character should be taken. In that vein, I wonder if folks would like to share a passage from Marcus Aureilus’s Meditations—not necessarily your absolute favorite, but one that is resonating with them today. What can we learn from it? What character traits (or virtues) does it exemplify? What are things we can do to internalize those character traits?
Here’s a passage that is resonating with me this week:
Constantly think of the universe as a single living being, comprised of a single substance and a single soul; and how all things issue into the single perception of this being, and how it accomplishes all things through a single impulse; and how all things work together to cause all that comes to be, and how intricate and densely woven is the fabric formed by their interweaving.Med. 4.40, trans. Robin Hard
In this passage, I see Marcus Aurelius commanding himself (probably for the hundredth time) to remember a fact about the world and about his place in it. As human beings, we are deeply interconnected and interdependent with everything and everyone around us. I fear that we may acknowledge this intellectually, but are prevented from internalizing this fact by many things. If Marcus actually took this to heart I think it would exemplify wisdom and justice—wisdom that manifests as prudent, thoughtful action and justice that manifests as patience and compassion towards others. How can we do what Marcus is asking of himself; how can we “[c]onstantly think of . . . how all things work together to cause all that comes to be, and how intricate and densely woven is the fabric formed by their interweaving”? I’m going to start by going on a walk and being more quiet and observant—that’s how I’ll be celebrating Marcus’s birthday.
2 Replies to “The Big One-Nine-Oh-Oh”
Yesterday I read this: “Not just that every day more of our life is used up and less and less of it is left, but this too: if we live longer, can we be sure our mind will still be up to understanding the world — to the contemplation that aims at divine and human knowledge?” Aurelius, Meditations 3.1.
I have been giving this some thought since yesterday morning. My mental capacities are not up to me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything. So what is up to me? I can do some things every day to stimulate my mind, exercise it. This is especially important now that I’m retired. Towards that end I am recommitting to a half hour of contemplation every morning on at least one Stoic principle. Other things I plan to do: learn new recipes to cook, work on some jigsaw puzzles, learn more about a new economic paradigm called the “Donut Economy” and get more involved in it, exploring “Scientific Pantheism”, and learning about volunteer opportunities that I can get involved in when it is safe to do so.
A short one: “And why should we feel anger at the world. As if the world would notice!”
Majooooor. I think with isolation and a year spend roaming the corners of our own minds, it’s easy to fall into the trappings of ‘Main Character Syndrome.’ A humble reminder that you are only your active part in the universe. Small, but by no means insignificant.