"There is but one thing of real value - to cultivate truth and justice, and to live without anger in the midst of lying and unjust men."
- Marcus Aurelius in 'Meditations'
My own ideas on the quote:
A wise person will not let fears and negative emotions guide one's life. This is the very central message of Stoicism and Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic. From his book 'Meditations' it is easy to understand that Stoic thinking did help him greatly in his extremely difficult job as the Emperor of Rome.
After all, Marcus Aurelius was the emperor of the mightiest empire of his time. He was expected to collaborate and get along with all kinds of people from all walks of life to do his work really well. By all known accounts he also succeeded in making this difficult and extremely demanding principle work in real life. Of course, no person can ever control his or her negative emotions fully, but at least giving it a try can also help.
The single most important and valuable single phrase for me in this quote is "without anger". The ability to remain calm in the most difficult moments of social interactions can also put one in a position of clear advantage compared to those who, for example, act in a state of anger.
So, Marcus is not speaking out just because of universal love for the whole of mankind. Of course, this kind of thing is incredibly more difficult to implement than to say. However, mere understanding the real value of patience is a start.
On the other hand, passion is a quite different animal than anger. Passion is a positive feeling and anger is normally a negative one. Passion drives you forward, but anger very often stops you on your tracks. However, when passion is let completely loose, one so easily gets stuck in the old and otherwise soon bygone mishaps and even just imagined wrongdoing of others.
If I let my anger guide me, I may end up spending my energy in wallowing in old and often quite meaningless insults and wrongdoing of others in the past. If i can get past this phase, I can concentrate on things that I am about to accomplish in the future.
(This piece was completely refurbished on 1st of August, 2012)
"The philosophy of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius can be found in a collection of personal writings known as the Meditations. These reflect the influence of Stoicism and, in particular, the philosophy of Epictetus, the Stoic. The Meditations may be read as a series of practical philosophical exercises, following Epictetus’ three topics of study, designed to digest and put into practice philosophical theory. Central to these exercises is a concern with the analysis of one’s judgements and a desire to cultivate a “cosmic perspective.”