This paperback volume from the Skylight Illuminations series contains the meditations of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor whose Stoic approach to life has much to say to our contentious times. In a substantive introduction, Russell McNeil, a popular lecturer on the classics, claims that the meditations offer a philosophical orientation with spiritual consequences. He has organized the quotes (translated by George Long) into sections on virtue, vice, the body, the mind, the environment, society and government. According to McNeil, the emperor's Stoicism was characterized by a belief in the supremacy of reason, the value of virtue, the sacredness of nature, ignoring what others think, and regarding fame and fortune as false ideals.
Here is a sample meditation by Marcus Aurelius and an explanation by Russell McNeil:
"The art of life is more like a wrestler's art than the dancer's, in respect to this, that it should stand ready and firm to meet onsets which are sudden and unexpected."
"Why would Aurelius choose the wrestler's art as his simile for the art of life? What does this tell us about the struggle for success in life? For Aurelius, it is only the wrestler who is 'ready and firm to meet onsets that are sudden and unexpected.' The wrestler's art requires strength and cunning, as well as grace and balance. For the Stoic, the goal and end of life is virtue, the only good. But the path to virtue is strewn with trickery, deception, and falsehood, and navigating that path requires quick thinking, caution, and constant vigilance. The strength and cunning of the wrestler's art are analogues for the courage and wisdom required of the Stoic sage, and the cultivation of these is the goal of all meditation and prayer."