Lao Tsu – Tao Te Ching

I struggle with the idea of inaction. Letting things stand. Finding the strength to endure and not directly confront injustices in the moment.

And because I feel compelled to respond to almost every moment of my life, I’m kept from considering the core motivation behind my actions, as I oftentimes act out of fear.

Fear that I’ll be taken as a fool if I let a transgression stand. Or fear that I’ll be perceived as weak for not fighting back.

Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching presents a series of eighty poems that again and again remind me that this desire driving my actions is often directing me towards my own folly.

The path Lao Tsu recommends is one of virtuous inaction. I can’t count the amount of times Lao Tsu suggests doing nothing, thinking nothing, draining your desires, emptying your cup and accepting the world as it passes around you.

Not as you fear it might be, or as you fear it might see you.

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Marcus Aurelius – Meditations

Here’s a guy that lived for a mere 59 years on Earth, managing to become the emperor of Rome, and writing a journal that remains one of the most heavily recommended books of all time.

Why is Meditations so good? I’d assume the reason might be his relatable perspective of self, and the briskness and focus of his messages. The Hays translation also brightens up the conversational nature of Aurelius’ passages.

This guy understood the relative insignificance of his own existence when measured against all of eternity, but within that humility he found a razor sharp perspective on what to value in life.

It might sound silly to say that the emperor of Rome could teach the plebeians about perspective. But then again, reading this book written around 150 A.D. still feels as relevant as ever in today’s world.

That’s really saying something.

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Plato The Symposium

The value of an idea might be defined by its resonance over time.

I present Plato’s The Symposium as the first addition to the reading list. One of the oldest books I’ve read, the power of the ideas found here have fundamentally changed my life.

That’s why it’s so shocking for me to consider that this was written a staggering 2,400 years ago! The translation I happened to choose, the Walter Hamilton translated 1951 edition for Penguin Classics, deserves credit for this impact as well.

This story is told by Apollodorus of Phaleron talking to Plato about a conversation he had with an acquaintance about a dinner party that Socrates attended.

Most of the story of this dinner revolved around a conversational game played by the men around the table. Each was to give their best defense of love.

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