Simon Kelner: An ancient philosopher for the Twitter generation

Kelner's view

Share
Related Topics

The Romans were a pretty clever bunch, what with inventing the calendar, central heating, concrete, roads and civic society. It is possible that they also pre-figured the advent of Twitter.

In yesterday's i, among the 10 best self-help books we featured was a collection of the thoughts of Marcus Aurelius, who, as well as his day job as Roman Emperor, was a devoted student of philosophy. Some of the pieces of knowledge he bequeathed were more than 140 characters long, but it is pretty remarkable that his Meditations, written when he was waging war in central Europe AD170, should still pack a punch almost 2,000 years later. Not only was Marcus Aurelius the Alain de Botton of his day, he's a best-seller today; Bill Clinton, a man noted for his his interest in matters spiritual, pronounced it his favourite book, and it's there in the best-sellers chart.

It is very much philosophy for the Twitter generation. No time to wade through a dense tract of complex thinking when you've got to keep up with Facebook, and the Euros are on? Well, Marcus Aurelius is your man. His tome is a compilation of aperçus and observations that you can dip in and out of, taking a lesson then getting on with your life.

There are 12 books that make up Meditations and it is thought that Marcus Aurelius wrote them for his own elucidation, not intending them for a wider audience, never mind the Amazon rankings. I am convinced that a few minutes with the old Roman every day, while not necessarily making you a better person, would certainly help you to get more sense in your life. "Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact," he wrote. "Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." How about that? A little profundity for for the age of spin, PR and political manipulation.

One of my favourites is the following – "When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. That's because they can't tell good from evil." Blimey. Even Roman Emperors must have had to deal with the banks.

There's a modern relevance in almost everything he says. "The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts" doesn't present too much of a challenge in a sound-bite culture, and, as a live-now, ask-questions-later man myself, I am particular gratified to get some guidance: "Do not act as if you are going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good."

And for those of us who have the burden of a column to shoulder every day: "When you arise in the morning, think of what a privilege it is to be alive." I'm sure Marcus Aurelius would never have imagined someone writing this, but Meditations is available at all good bookshops, priced £4.99.

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An Iraqi security officer guards a church in Bartala, after Mosul fell  

Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

Patrick Cockburn
 

Note to footballers: doing the right thing is more than a PR job

Simon Barnes
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin