Within a few pages of the beginning of the Meditations, Marcus Aurelius writes that nothing is more important than understanding “the true nature of the world, whereof thou art a part,” and he gives himself sober counsel:These things thou must always have in mind: What is the nature of the universe, and what is mine in particular: This unto that what relation it hath: what kind of part, of what kind of universe it is: And that there is nobody that can hinder thee, but that thou mayest always both do and speak those things which are agreeable to that nature, whereof thou are a part.
Again, in book 6, Marcus Aurelius writes:He that seeth the things that are now, hath seen all that either was ever, or ever shall be, for all things are of one kind; and all like one unto another. Meditate often upon the connection of all things in the world; and upon the mutual relation that they have one unto another. For all things are after a sort folded and involved one within another, and by these means all agree well together.
To “meditate often”—this was both the duty and the practice of Marcus Aurelius. Even in the midst of war, while waiting for the next day’s battle, he reflected on the “connection of all things” and attempted to understand the relation of himself, a part, to that nature of which he was a part.
He concerned himself with the problem of evil and considered whether death is evil. His conclusion was that...