Today, I want to talk about the first book of Meditations.
When's the last time we thought about why we are thankful for people in our lives? Sure, we may be thankful for our parents and loved ones, but how many of us can sit down and say why, exactly, we are? I sure as hell couldn't.
That's why, even though it's a little boring, the first book is, when considered all at once, one of the more interesting books. He was able to sit and list various people in his life and consider what it was that made them so important.
It isn't just that his mother was his mother that he was thankful. He accredits her for teaching him reverence, generosity, and living simply. He thanks his great-grandfather for teaching him the importance of good private tutors. He even thanks a man named Rusticus for showing him he needed to learn discipline, a man he later states he was often upset with.
Isn't that interesting? He thanks people that, with good odds, butted heads with him often. When's the last time we felt thankful for people in life that upset us that much? Never, I'm willing to say.
And get a load of some of the things he thanks the gods for:
- that he had a good family
- that he didn't lose his virginity too early (and as he puts it, delayed losing it)
- that he wasn't more talented in rhetoric or poetry, because if he had improved, he wouldn't have given them up
- that his body held out
- that he never did anything to Rusticus (you know, the one that pissed him off) that he would have regretted
- that his mother spent her last few years with him, despite dying young
- that he could always lend money without worrying about being told no
- that he had dreams that helped him cure illnesses he had
- and, lastly, “All things for which 'we need the help of fortune and the gods.'”
This is why I have a hard time thinking that Marcus was as depressed as some made him sound. Someone that takes the time to be thankful for so much had to realize a reason for thankfulness. This was a man that was thankful for putting off the loss of his virginity, something I think would surprise most young men these days.
I think, even if we read no other part of this book, we can learn more than enough from this.
It got me to wondering, though. Did he write this part all at once? The rest of the books was sort of like an undated journal, him just writing when the fancy hit him. I wonder if he does the same for this book. Was it written over time? One week? One year? An hour? Who knows.
I think we can all learn something here about being thankful. Here was the most powerful man in Rome thanking others for teaching him a sense of humor or showing strength in illness. And yet we of lesser status get mad that the fast food clerk forgot a packet of ketchup.
So, who can we be thankful for in life?