Interviews Marcus Aurelius Stoicism

Interview: Scott Perry on Marcus Aurelius

How would you introduce yourself and your work to our readers?

I’m a husband, father, teacher, and musician from Floyd, VA USA.

My lifelong study and affection for Stoic philosophy benefits my life, relationships, and work including my book, The Stoic Creative Handbook, my coaching practice, my membership site, my podcast, and my work as a coach in Seth Godin’s The Marketing Seminar. You can learn more about me and all these projects at BeCreativeOnPurpose.com.

How did you become interested in Stoicism?

My adventures in Stoicism began in a 7th grade Latin class where I was introduced to Marcus through translating passages from Meditations from Latin to English from my textbook (although Marcus originally wrote them in Greek). Encouraging my interest, my teacher gave me his copy of Meditations. I read and reread it until the book was tattered.

At the time, I didn’t know I was reading a definitive ancient Stoic text. I just loved the way Marcus spoke to himself. It was the same way I talked to myself. This is one thing purposeful work can do, it connects people disconnected by time and place.

What’s the most valuable thing we can learn about Stoicism from the life or writings of Marcus Aurelius?

This has changed over time. As a teenager, I was most affected by Marcus’ reminders to curb unhealthy desires and impulses. As a young adult, Marcus’ urging to apply oneself intentionally and generously to meaningful work became more important. As I enter middle age, it is the call to approach mortality with grace and to serve others while I still can that most resonate.

Do you have a favourite quote from The Meditations?

I have dozens of favorite quotes from Meditations, but the one I cite most frequently is, “Love the humble art you have learned and take rest in it.” – Meditations, 4.31

It is the art of living that I believe we are here to learn. Crafting our excellence through meaningful endeavors that serve others and a greater good is not the work we have to do, but the work we get to do. For this gift, we should be grateful and approach it with humility and purpose. This quote by Marcus above helps me keep this top of mind.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about Marcus Aurelius or Stoicism?

Although there are many great modern works about Stoicism, I find the primary ancient texts of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca are easy to access and understand. Why not begin with those?

What do you think is the most important psychological technique or piece of practical advice that we can derive from Marcus’ Stoicism?

Again, for me, this has changed as I’ve aged. As a young man premeditatio malorum, Hierocles Concentric Circles of Influence, journaling gratitudes and lessons, and other Stoic exercises helped me immensely. As a middle-aged person, memento mori has served as a call to action to focus on the here and now and do everything I can to enhance the lives of others while I still can. I reflect on my mortality and am inspired to do work that matters during my daily cemetery run.

Recently, I’ve meditated on this advice from Marcus, “People exist for one another. You can instruct or endure them.” – Meditations, 8.59 This has lead me to begin a new project called Wicked Conversations. Wicked Conversations challenge our beliefs and assumptions, but instead of spiraling into arguments, Wicked Conversations help us set aside agendas and cultivate understanding and the pursuit of deeper truths.

Do you have anything else that you wanted to mention while we have the chance?

The lessons of Stoicism are as pertinent today as they were in ancient times. Through the millennia, we’ve asked the questions “What does it mean to be human?” “What does it mean to be happy?” and “How can I be more of both?” Stoicism encourages us to answer these questions not just with ideas, but with action. In this way, we are afforded the opportunity to improve ourselves and enhance the lives of others.

All of my work at BeCreativeOnPurpose.com is informed by my longtime interest and study of Stoicism in general and Marcus Aurelius in particular. I’d love to have you join my newsletter and stay in touch there!

The digital age has added innumerable new Stoic resources, some more worthy than others. I advise starting with a thorough and thoughtful reading of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and applying this wisdom to your daily life, work, and relationships.

That said, here is a document where I share links to some of my favorite Stoic-related books, blogs, sites, videos, and apps. I’m always happy to connect via email with fellow Stoic travelers. You can reach me at scott@becreativeonpurpose.com.

For more information check out Scott’s Creative on Purpose website and podcast, which has featured interviews with me and other members of the Modern Stoicism team.

His book The Stoic Creative Handbook is available from Amazon.  Look out for his upcoming Stoicism Today article on Stoicism & Creativity publishing, due to be published in August 2018.

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