Seeking the Truth with Marcus Aurelius

ζητῶ γὰρ τὴν ἀλήθειαν, ὑφ’ ἧς οὐδεὶς πώποτε ἐβλάβη, βλάπτεται δὲ ὁ ἐπιμένων

ἐπὶ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ ἀπάτης καὶ ἀγνοίας. –Marcus Aurelius, Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν 6.21.1.

For I seek the truth, by which no one was ever harmed, but he is harmed who remains in his self-deception and ignorance. –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.21.1.

My wife sent me this on a note card before we started dating, at the beginning of our freshman year of college. She couldn’t even write Greek yet and she transcribed it perfectly. I still have that note card here in a book on my desk.

I didn’t know at the time that it was from Marcus Aurelius. Funny, because a few years before that a good friend of mine had given me the Meditations in English translation in a nice clothbound edition with a ribbon for Christmas. I used to keep it next to my pillow and read it every night. I was a Stoic in those days, and it was the Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius that I looked to as the best alternative to suicide most nights. Others in the same house did not have such a deterrent.

One night my younger brother came unexpectedly into my room. It was very late. He was just standing there at the bottom of the stairs to the unfinished attic where I slept and hid. “Do you love me?” he said with no introduction.

I looked at him. I was sitting at my desk. I could tell that something terrible was happening. “Yes.”

“I took all of my pills.”

He was fourteen. He didn’t die that night. But it wouldn’t be the last time someone would overdose in that house on the drugs the doctors were using to keep the crazy people from interfering with the sane people of the world.

I got a call from my older brother this morning, very early, that brought me back to those nights. I hope all will be well.

Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for being my gadfly.

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About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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