"Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust, or lose your sense of shame, or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill-will or hypocrisy, or a desire for things best done behind closed doors."
That’s something I wish I’d said or written. But it’s an admonition declared 1,859 years ago by Marcus Aurelius, a second-century Roman emperor who fell in love with philosophy.
Marcus Aurelius wrote about everyday life topics such as learning from mistakes, minding your own business, and controlling anger. Sound timelessly relevant?
Regarded as the last of the Five Good Emperors, Aurelius also pondered the wisdom of keeping the number of our commitments as low as reasonably possible, perhaps an early warning about multitasking.
The Stoic advised us to ask ourselves: Do I really need to say or do this? Rather, he suggested, it is better to do a few things well, and to speak only when necessary.
I'm convinced that Marcus Aurelius' wisdom, behind what I'd call “economy of action," has not faded in its journey across the millennia.
And as devoted worshippers at the altar of consumption, we want more and to do more, only to eventually realize how wrongheaded our decisions were.
Yes, Marcus Aurelius' advice still resonates with me. He reminds me that more is not always better than less. Indeed, less can give us more of what we really need — of what really matters.
Ocean Park, Washington