Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is a collection of thoughts that the emperor wrote to himself about life and how we should think about all that happens. The philosophy to which Aurelius subscribed and laid out in his book is known as stoicism and it centers around becoming more present in our daily lives and becoming more aware of how we are living and thinking. Throughout his book Aurelius constantly focuses on the benefits and importance of self-awareness, and what we gain when we develop a meaningful practice of self-reflection. To that point he wrote, “Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt dig.”
His short quote reveal three key parts of Aurelius’ thoughts about the world. He is constantly optimistic about our place in the world and where we are heading in the future, he believes that we are all more inclined to be good people, and he believes that a greater ability to recognize our emotions and thoughts will help us become more complete and comfortable in the lives that we live.
What made Aurelius optimistic about the world was his ability to detach meaning from the events which happened to him and around him. On his journey inward he recognized that he had the power to interpret any situation in the way which would suit him the best. He could see The things which happened around him as good or bad, but until he attached a meaning and decided whether something was overall positive or negative, the thing itself was neutral. Living in this state of neutrality allowed him to find a space where he decided how he would respond to things, and where his own opinion was more powerful than the actions of others or the events around him. This gave him more control over his life and world, and it allowed him to approach the world in a more optimistic manner.
Looking inward Aurelius recognized that all of his actions were based on rational thoughts within his mind. He extended this thought to other people and managed to see people as rational beings. This sounds like an obvious observation, but I believe it is a thought that has been lost by many people in the world today. We often look at other people in society, especially those we do not know or those who we see making what we consider to be mistakes, and think of them as idiots or morons. When we approach others in this way we reduce their humanity and cease to see them as rational beings. Aurelius sought to understand people in a greater perspective, and he believed that everyone was taking actions that seemed the most logical to themselves.
Ultimately, looking deeper into ourselves through self-awareness can help us take a better view of other people around us and it will help us also better understand our place in the world. Once we begin to recognize the power of our mind and align ourselves with our ruling principles, we can grow in ways that help maximize our lives and the lives of those around us. Marcus Aurelius recognized this, and practiced self-awareness to help improve his life and the life of others.