Even Angels Have Their Demons

From an early age, Marcus Aurelius seemed destined to become a philosopher-king.

The emperor Hadrian called him verissimus, meaning “most true and truthful.”

Adopted into the line of succession of the Roman Empire at the age of 17, Aurelius pursued knowledge of the truth with undying passion.

He’s often regarded as one of the wisest men to have ever lived, often ranking in second after Socrates, and one of the few virtuous and humble emperors of ancient Rome. Evidence of Aurelius’ pursuit of the truth lies in the image that is painted through a series of notes he wrote to himself, known by the name of Meditations.

Continue reading “Even Angels Have Their Demons”

Understanding Worship

One day, the French philosopher Denis Diderot came into possession of a beautiful scarlet dressing gown. He spent a long and silent time admiring its splendor.

And the more he analyzed the fabric, the more he understood that all his other possessions paled in comparison to this new dressing gown. This feeling became so uncomfortable that Diderot soon replaced all his furniture with more expensive options. He bought a new golden clock, a bronze sculpture, a console table, and more art pieces.

Crippled by debt, Diderot understood that he had forfeited his soul to an object of worship he couldn’t properly understand, “I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one.”

While this story may seem ridiculous, we often find ourselves worshiping whatever feeds our ego.

Continue reading “Understanding Worship”

Michelangelo and the Art of Perfection

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” 

Aristotle

There’s a myth about Michelangelo working on the Sistine Chapel.

One day, someone was watching the Italian artist spend an insane amount of time laboring over a small, hidden corner of the chapel’s ceiling.

Surprised by Michelangelo’s persistence to make that obscure corner as perfect as possible, they asked the artist, “Who is ever going to know if it’s perfect or not?”

Michelangelo replied, “I will.”

Continue reading “Michelangelo and the Art of Perfection”

The Rubicon Paradox

During the Roman Republic the river Rubicon acted as a sort of frontier line between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul to the northeast and Italy proper, controlled directly by Rome, to the south.

In 49 BC, perhaps on January 10, Julius Caesar led a single legion, Legio XIII Gemina, south over the Rubicon from Cisalpine Gaul into Italy. In doing so, he deliberately broke the law limiting his imperium, his authority to control his army.

As he led his army across the Rubicon river into Central Italy, Julius Caesar is credited to having said the following words, “Alea iacta est”.

“The die has been cast.”

Continue reading “The Rubicon Paradox”

Conquering the World: Choose One of Two Paths

In 336 B.C., a brash 20-year-old prince visited the Greek city-state of Corinth. During his stay, the prince visited the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope, one of the founders of the Cynic philosophy.

The philosopher was quite a controversial character, infamous for his open criticism of Plato and his rather shocking lifestyle; he begged for a living and often slept in a large ceramic jar, or pithos, near the gymnasium in Corinth.

The young prince decided to meet this eccentric character. He found the philosopher lying in the sun. The prince addressed him and asked if he wanted anything at all from him, to which Diogenes replied, “Yes, I just want you not to stand in the sun.”

The young prince was so impressed by the philosopher’s nonchalant demeanor that he stated, “But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes.”

Two years later, now a king in his own right, Alexander set out to conquer his way to the edge of the known world.

During the following decade, nothing stopped him. Nothing. Vastly superior armies, impregnable fortresses, mountains and rivers and deserts, hunger, thirst, the sea itself, the uttermost extremes of physical hardship and war. His body was littered with scars; everywhere that is, except his back. He never retreated, and he never lost a battle.

Continue reading “Conquering the World: Choose One of Two Paths”