Category Archives: Meditations

Meditations on Meditations – 1:4

It’s been a little over six months since my last meditations post. Let’s pick up where we left off, shall we?

To avoid the public schools, to hire good private teachers, and to accept the resulting costs as money well spent.

(Hays, 1)


My parents were huge believers in this method. As the story goes, they took me at the age of three or four to see Linda Silverman at the Gifted Development Center. Linda ran some tests on me and said something to the effect of, “this child has a real mind for learning, but you’re going to need to send them to some very expensive schools.”

My parents spent the next twenty-some years going in to debt on my and my sister’s behalf. We both attended private schools – namely, Rocky Mountain School for the Gifted and Creative. At RMS, as we affectionately called it, each student had an individualized learning plan, and teachers were careful to foster creative thinking, critical assessment, and a broad worldview.

I did not do well in public school. I spent six months at the public Red Oak Elementary in California and became so depressed, angry, and self-harmful that I can’t really even remember that time. I’m sure it was a wonderful school, but I was a really weird kid – extremely sensitive and emotional about everything – and couldn’t handle the “real world” of a 30-student classroom. I spent one year at Boulder High School before leaving for a private boarding school in Wisconsin.

I’m incredibly grateful to my parents and to my privilege that I’ve been able to attend private schools and have individualized education. I fully acknowledge that my position is only possible because I have parents who cared about my education enough to throw the full weight of their financial support in my direction.

I fully support the public school system and know that it’s a great option for thousands of students in our country and worldwide. I’m sure there are students in places around the world who would love to have a chance to go to public school. But for those who can afford it – and I work toward making that more accessible every day – I think that having an individualized, validating education with a focus on creative, social, critical, and abstract thinking is worlds better.

Someday I’m going to build that school.

Meditations on Meditations – 1:3

Some rather late-night rambling here, but a post nonetheless, so that I may move forward with this exercise. I attended a talk on blogging today by @jessejiryudavis which encouraged writing as practice for writing, so I’m taking that to heart.

Her reverence for the divine, her generosity, her inability not only to do wrong but even conceive of doing it. And the simple way she lived – not in the least like the rich.

(Hays, 1)

Marcus demonstrates agnostic tendencies later in his Meditations, but here praises his mother for her worship. However, in the Casaubon translation, the first clause is rendered “Of my mother I have learned to be religious”, which has a wildly different meaning.

A skeptic myself, I am fond of Hays’ translation – he allows that religion has a place in some peoples lives, and even more praises it, but (in Hays’) doesn’t say that he himself needs to follow.

I’m fascinated with the idea of Marcus’ mother not even conceive of doing wrong (pregnancy puns aside). I attended quite sheltered private schools for my entire education. For me, to cheat on a test was literally unthinkable – I didn’t even consider it. I remember being shocked the first time I thought “wow, I could cheat on this and nobody would notice.”

I don’t share this story to brag, but to examine myself and wonder in what ways I’m following what I think is right without making a conscious decision away from wrong. And: more worryingly, which ways I’m committing small wrongs every day without making a conscious choice to do so.

To live simply is something that originally attracted me to Buddhism. (As an aside: I enjoy Stoicism because it echos many of the tenants of Buddhism without requiring a belief in the divine, or reincarnation, both of which bothered me). The idea that with simple living comes clarity of thought and purpose strikes me. Try to purchase only that which you will actually use.

Meditations on Meditations – 1:2

Integrity and manliness.

(Hays, 1)

Marcus’ lost his father at three. I am fortunate to have ever attended just one funeral. We can say what the average life expectancy is for our day and age only for those that die during it; perhaps the first person to live forever is already doing so.

We will see the philosophy of this in book two.

Integrity. We know someone with integrity when we see them: they do not lie, cheat, swindle, or back down from bullies. They do what they say they will do, and they do not stray from it except to improve.

Integrity is wholeness in ones self. If you do not know something you may unintentionally lie about it. If you want a thing more than your willpower can handle, you will cheat or swindle it. If you are not assured in your own power and strength, you will back down from bullies.

Integrity is having a coherent philosophy. It is understanding where you fit in to the web of all things, connected. It is power that comes not from adoration, or wealth, but from within.

Manliness is archaic. We should discard this old, tired, gendered word and simply say, humanness. Why should a man act like a man? You should act with compassion, grace, strength and thought. None of those are reserved for men.

Seek humanness in your daily action. Stand proud and tall, regardless of stature. Stand your ground when you are threatened, but do not be so stubborn that you do not retreat when defeat is certain. This is humanness – a desire to live with purpose beyond filling a grave.

I seek integrity by reaching out to the world around me. My integrity comes from my ability to speak up when something is wrong. I am not perfect with this. Nobody is. But it is something to practice and remember. Only if we have integrity can we be certain in our humanness. Otherwise we will be offensive and rude.

From Brooklyn,


Meditations on Meditations – 1:1


This will be a series of blog posts, time permitting, in which I examine each chapter of Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations”, as translated by Gregory Hays, Meric Casaubon, and George Long. I will use Hays’ translation mainly, as I find it the most approachable.

The posts will be personal and most likely wandering, like Aurelius’ writings.

I’m embarking on this exercise to better understand Stoicism, which I find fascinating, and to better understand myself in the context of this ancient philosophy. To any readers of these posts who have not read the Meditations: I recommend Hays’ translation, but also a book titled “A Guide to the Good Life” by William B. Irvine. Irvine lays out an approachable foundation of modern Stoicism without preaching, and I found the book both easy to follow and enlightening.

Without further ado, the first section of the first chapter.

Character and self-control.

(Hays, 1)

I always enjoy when the first sentence of a work reflects the body of the work in its entirety. It’s hard to ascribe foreshadowing to a journal – Marcus himself at this point would not have known that this would be the main topic of his Magnum Opus. Yet here it is: Character and self-control.

I found it interesting to compare here the different translations. I find that in this primary section, myriad meanings surface:

Gregory HAys (2002) 1:1. MY GRANDFATHER VERUS
Character and self-control.
 George Long (1862) FROM my grandfather Verus I learned good morals and the government of my temper.
Meric Casaubon (2008) 1. Of my grandfather Verus I have learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion.
maxwell staniforth (1964) 1. Courtesy and serenity of temper I first learnt how to know from my grandfather Verus.

I gravitate toward Hays’ for a variety of reasons. His is concise, almost terse. The adjectives he chooses are generally considered attributes of strength (contrast the Casaubon translation, which almost seems the opposite). Someone who has character and self control is assertive.

Long’s translation falls short as well. Morals are subjective and often well intended but misguided. “Self Control” is a cleaner version of “government of my temper”.

I cannot read Greek, so attempting my own translation would be futile. I have to put my trust in one of the translators to be “the most correct”. I’ll attempt to insert references to other translations when they vary wildly in the future.

It’s somewhat ironic that I write this now, at 1:30am on a weeknight. If I had better self-control, I would have skipped on browsing Reddit and Imgur for hours earlier (and when Greta was wanting my attention as well! I’ve apologized since), written this article during that time, and been in bed by a normal hour.

My roommate Levi and I chatted about philosophy for three hours as well tonight, but I will save our arguments for more appropriate chapters of “Meditations”.

What is it to have character? Perhaps our best example comes from Calvin’s Father. Character is built through work, courage, and determination. A person who has character is someone who has been through trials and emerged stronger.

To imagine someone without character: they are ineffectual, lazy, awkward, not confident. If you ask them to work, or to motivate themselves they are unable to muster more than the minimum effort. I cannot say that I do not sometimes fit this description, yet by acknowledging a lack of character in those times, I am able to pull myself into action, and therefore into a fuller implementation of my self.

My friend Evan told me a story about his grandfather. He smoked and drank for many years, but on the day that Evan’s father was born, he put his last bottle of whiskey and pack of cigarettes on top of his dresser, and never touched them again.

We cannot verify this story but I believe it – there is a fulfillment that comes from simple acts of self-control. To delay gratitude, to spare some free time to share others’ burdens. Acts of self-sacrifice made for love. These are things that allow us to find self-actualization. People are addicted to a plethora of things. For example, I find it difficult to stop from visiting Reddit or Imgur when I’m bored.

When your basic needs are taken care of, you have no excuse to not search for self-actualization. Self control and character building take energy, inspiration, and practice. If you waste the time given to you to practice, you will find yourself unable to overcome the most minor of obstacles.

From Brooklyn,