Roman Emperors and Car Alarms

12 Jan

I like this quote by Marcus Aurelius, one of the greatest Roman emperors:

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

People often create troubles for themselves because at some level they identify too much with their circumstances. Or they think that other people are always judging them, as if they were the center of other people’s worlds. They take situations personally even when they can’t possibly have any deeper meaning behind them.

Imagine someone taking a nap on a Sunday afternoon. Then a car alarm goes off outside. What is the “normal” reaction? Anger, cursing, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

What purpose does that anger serve? Did the car alarm go off in order to insult and disrespect the napper?

I’m not saying that I would remain calm if a car alarm woke me up from a nice nap. On the contrary, if there happened to be a brick and an open window next to my bed…

There is a tendency within all of us to take too many things personally. I think this contributes to the very common fear of worrying about what other people think. Also things like road rage.

In that quote by Marcus Aurelius, it seems like he recognized that a lot of stuff was just out of his control, and so he didn’t “sweat it”. It’s an interesting perspective coming from someone who was probably the single most powerful human on the planet at the time.

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