This is one of my favorite quotes from Marcus Aurelius who was the Roman Emperor 161 to 180 CE and a pretty awesome Stoic Philosopher. Let’s take a look at what this quote really means:
“It’s the truth I am after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”
Sometimes I like to draw a parallel between Stoicism and Buddhism, but in Buddhism, the truth is known and it is referred to as the Four Noble Truths. That doesn’t mean Buddhists don’t seek the truth, they certainly do, my reference is to what the Buddha taught as the ultimate truth in the Four Noble Truths. Here Marcus Aurelius is seeking the truth and reminding us that the truth cannot harm us. We can seek the truth or as he says we can live in self-deceit and ignorance. I think this quote by Marcus Aurelius is inspirational and prescriptive, seek the truth, and avoid fooling yourself and being ignorant.
What other way should you live your life, but seeking the truth? Seeking the truth means being inquisitive, learning, and not being satisfied with bullshit explanations. Don’t believe the stories people tell you, when they want you to do things, question them. Your favorite word as a truth seeker is “why”. As a truth seeker, your life will have more meaning and you will enrich your understanding of the world.
Go ahead my friend the world needs more Truth Seekers!
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About Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius ( or ; Latin: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was a Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors (a term coined some 13 centuries later by Niccolò Machiavelli), and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire. He served as Roman consul in 140, 145, and 161.
Marcus was born during the reign of Emperor Hadrian to the emperor’s nephew, the praetor Marcus Annius Verus (III), and his wife the heiress Domitia Lucilla. Following the death of his father, Marcus was raised by his mother and grandfather Marcus Annius Verus (II). After Hadrian’s adoptive son, Aelius Caesar, died in 138, the emperor adopted Marcus’ uncle Antoninus Pius as his new heir. In turn, Antoninus adopted Marcus and the son of Aelius, Lucius (later to rule as Emperor Lucius Verus alongside Marcus). Hadrian died that year and Antoninus became emperor. Now heir to the throne, Marcus studied Greek and Latin under tutors such as Herodes Atticus and Marcus Cornelius Fronto. He kept in close correspondence with Fronto for many years afterwards. Marcus married Antoninus’ daughter Faustina in 145. Antoninus died following an illness in 161.
The reign of Marcus Aurelius was marked by military conflict. In the East, the Roman Empire fought successfully with a revitalized Parthian Empire and the rebel Kingdom of Armenia. Marcus defeated the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatian Iazyges in the Marcomannic Wars; however, these and other Germanic peoples began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. He modified the silver purity of the Roman currency, the denarius. The persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire is believed to have increased during his reign. The Antonine Plague broke out in 165 or 166 and devastated the population of the Roman Empire, causing the deaths of five million people. Lucius Verus may have died from the plague in 169.
Unlike some of his predecessors, Marcus chose not to adopt an heir. His children included Lucilla, who married Lucius, and Commodus, whose succession after Marcus has become a subject of debate among both contemporary and modern historians. The Column and Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius still stand in Rome, where they were erected in celebration of his military victories. Meditations, the writings of “the philosopher” – as contemporary biographers called Marcus, are a significant source of the modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy. They have been praised by fellow writers, philosophers, monarchs, and politicians centuries after his death.