A Manual for Adversity: Nearly 2,000 years after it was written, Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations is rediscovered by each succeeding generation. (Darran Anderson, Winter 2024, City Journal)

The centuries of acclaim are, in many ways, well deserved. No revisionist Cadaver Trial need be held here. Meditations is full of sage advice. Its espousal of “wisdom, temperance, justice, and courage” rings true in these infantilized, puritan times. At its heart is autonomy and the responsibility that comes with it. “If you regard anything that is independent of your will as good or bad for yourself,” he writes, “it will necessarily follow that whenever you fail to escape such an evil or attain such a good, you will cast blame on the gods and hate the people who are responsible for your failing.” The key to breaking the cycles of misdirection and resentment that ensue is to find “contentment” in one’s “own just conduct and benevolent disposition.” The answer, that is, lies not outside but within, “for nowhere can one retreat into greater peace or freedom from care than within one’s own soul.” Meditations urges flexibility, the ability to adapt to being wrong, and a generosity toward the less advantaged. It discourages tribalism, fallacious thinking, and dogma, and promotes a healthy skepticism toward critics.