I’m reading up on Marcus Aurelius. I’ve had a quote of his on my wall for years – too long to not know much about him.
“Uh… he was a Roman Emperor philosopher…?”
Anyway, he lived a fascinating life in a fascinating way.
He, like all stoics, saw anger, hatred and the desire for revenge as irrational.
Yep – he didn’t see them as unwise or risky. Purely irrational. And acting on these passions, as they saw it, was literally madness.
How does that work? Surely anger is useful sometimes, right?
Consider this example:
When Marcus was getting on a bit, one of his generals seized control of Egypt, declared himself emperor of Rome and tried to overthrow him.
This general – Cassius – was someone he trusted with enormous power.
Someone he called a friend.
This was a threat to his life and his legacy. On top of that, it was a personal betrayal.
As soon as Marcus heard the news, he rallied his troops, got down to action… and pardoned Cassius.
And all his followers, including the soldiers fighting for him.
He even wrote to the senate to make sure there was no confusion. Personally and legally, he forgave the usurpers… before he even fought them.
Giving into his emotions would have been foolishness and weakness. Instead of wailing at the cruel injustice of it all, he took action. He didn’t waste a single moment thinking ill of his new enemy.
What would have been the point?
He mobilised by the time lesser minds would be still in shock.
And what happened to dear, old Cassius?
His soldiers saw two futures. In one, they would fight a formidable emperor with the full backing of the senate. In the other, Cassius dies and all is forgiven.
So the rogue general died of very much unnatural causes.
It turns out this forgiveness thing can be pretty powerful, huh?
Now, I’m not at this level yet.
I still succumb to the occasional fits of passion/madness.
I dwell on destructive thoughts, bitterness, revenge fantasies…
But I do so far, far less than I used to. And this change has gotten we through some wildly difficult times. Instead of reacting and burning up my energy with anger, I got to work as best I could.
I didn’t accept the bad situations, but I didn’t surrender control over my emotions to them either.
And all of that progress is thanks to exercises like the Metta Meditation.
(Plus everything else on this page.)
Right now, it’s available to you at no cost. You don’t even need to sign up.
That will change some day. In the meantime, enjoy training your mind to think like one of history’s greatest rulers did.
You won’t know how vital that is until you need it.
Here’s the link: