Solace of the Soul
It was somewhat of a surprise to me when I read these lines from
' Meditations' — a pseudo diary of the thoughts of Marcus Aurelius — one of the good Caesars from the time of the Roman empire of approx. 2,000 years ago:
“ No longer wander at hazard; for neither wilt thou read thy own memoirs, nor the acts of the ancient Romans and Hellenes, and the selections from books which thou wast reserving for thy old age. Hasten then to the end which thou hast before thee, and throwing away idle hopes, come to thy own aid, if thou carest at all for thyself, while it is in thy power.”
First, I was rather taken back by the idea of Romans having private libraries. I imagine I was like most people, tending to think of them as wearing togas and strutting around with a sword in their hands, ready to cleave someone from breastbone to navel.
Secondly, if they did tend to want to read as much as the then-Caesar describes, then why dissuade them of the practice.
So I did a little background reading.
Seems there were many private libraries in ancient Rome, as they became a sign of prestige and it was highly fashionable to own one. Excavations at both Rome and Herculaneum uncovered such private library rooms, and they contained papyrus or leather scrolls, inscribed on wax and clay tablets or bound in parchment.
So, the second part of Marcus Aurelius's comments, re: “…throwing away idle hopes…” began to make more sense. He was saying, don't own books just for the sake of gaining prestige.
Which was a relief to me.
For I tend to abide by Samuel Johnson's old saw instead:
“ The only end of writing is to enable readers better to enjoy life or better to endure it.”
Continued on Page 5
By Robert L. Hall ROBERT HALL (cont.)
“ Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea- shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself. For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul.”
Again, we might be misdirected by a first reading of the test.
It is not that “houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains,” are of necessity a bad thing. What Caesar is trying to tell us is that it is not the
And in today's world, it is so easy to get off-track on the road of life.
We go to school, then to work, all to earn money for ourselves and our families.
Or as one old pop song goes: “ The powers that be “ That force us to live like we do “ Bring me to my knees “ When I see what they've done to you “ And put us back on the train, yeah “ Back on the chain gang”
Aurelius is saying, “to retire into thyself.” In other words, find satisfaction in your own deeds…that life is in your hands and only you have the right and ownership of it. Do not be distracted by outward appearances, but by the guidance of your own mind.
And that mind seeks guidance. That's where reading comes in…and self-reflection… and self-assessment.
It is a shared experience of people-even those who have gone before us in the recent and distant past. It is a legacy we inherit without cost and without debt.
The thing is, all of us will one day get older-
willing, of course.
But why wait until then, when fleeting concerns will be gone and you will want more of life?
You need to develop your soul now.
You know, I used to laugh at a couple once at church.
Now, I see their point. Let me explain further.
They said they had stopped watching television and some movie entertainments.
got rid of distractions in their lives.
Now, nothing is wrong with entertainment…don't get me wrong.
But too much of anythingespecially when it takes away from your personal journey of discovering yourself and refining your soul-robs one of the richness of life. (Whether that be television, computer games, food, alcohol, sex, work, etc.,) I heard a recent internet podcast that put it like this. Our bodies in their natural states are insatiable.
Like when you go by a donut shop and you know you shouldn't stop, but you do.
that donuts are a bad thing.
But, you go inside and there is a l-o-n-g line. But you go to the end of it, because you body is saying, “Donuts, donuts, donuts. Gotta have donuts!”
At last you reach the head of the line and order donuts, but on your way out of the front door, you eat the last one in your hand.
And your body screams, “ MORE… MORE DONUTS!”
So you get back in line again for more donuts.
That is our natural state.
For our natural proclivities are insatiable.
Controlling it is the domain of our mental/spiritual powers.
And what we do is a daily fight for dominion over our actions, a war between body and soul. The modern age makes that a supreme challenge. Yet, I hope you can find your way to retire into your own soul, as Marcus Aurelius wrote so many centuries.
Robert L. Hall is aresident of Marion and has a Bachelor’s Degree in music from the University of Memphis and a Master’s Degree from Florida State University. He is the pianist for Avondale Baptist Church and a writer of fiction on Amazon eBooks.