“Peace is liberty in tranquility.”–Marcus Tullius Cicero
I stumbled across the Cicero statement by accident yesterday and it stopped me dead in my tracks. His definition of peace felt like a cup of refreshing cool water that is offered to quench the thirst. There is a lot of beauty in his sentence to enjoy.
When we ponder the nature of liberty, we visualize freedom from external control. Liberty is a form of independence. One is free from restrictions, obligations, and confinement. Liberty is the absence of dictatorship and control-freaks.
We can combine liberty with the mental state that includes serenity, quiet, and calmness. It’s a state of being when we are not harassed while not menacing others. Peace is a manifestation of love. Peace is living our authentic selves while accepting the authenticity of others.
It’s helpful to consider the state of peace from such a viewpoint. There is no coercion nor strife in such peace. Peace does not come about through forcing or manipulating others to submit to our beliefs and desires. Violence and dishonesty are the enemies of peace.
“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson
It has been said that to enable peace at large, we must be at peace with ourselves. If we have inner conflicts, we manifest them through our interpersonal activities. So if we desire peace in the world, it helps to first be at peace with ourselves.
There are many ways to personal peace. We discover our path freely. It cannot be wisely imposed by fear of damnation or suffering. For some it is a straight and narrow path. For others it is a meandering trail through the mountains. For still others it is a wide, inclusive freeway through a bustling, metropolitan cityscape. The path is filled with opportunities for discovery and delight. Such a path is paved with reverence and love.
“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.”–Marcus Aurelius
One of the most wise emperors of Ancient Rome, Aurelius, put a fine point on personal peace. He understood that peace is not just some idealistic notion that we chase, but is the means by which we achieve a fulfilling life. Being in charge of an ancient empire was a tough job. In order to be an effective emperor, Aurelius understood that he had to maintain a peaceful personal foundation. He busied himself with purposeful introspection.
Aurelius understood that to keep relative peace across the Empire was to reflect upon objective observations of his citizens and himself. He was that rare head of state who was also a philosopher. His future biographers agree that Marcus Aurelius detested cruelty, loved justice, was sympathetic and kind-hearted.
It’s interesting to note that Aurelius did not intend to propagate nor proselytize his philosophical points of view. He did not intend for his meditation diaries to be released to the public. This private aspect makes his writings all the more special. When we think of important world literature, most of it has been composed for an audience of readers and listeners. Literature by definition is a type of performance. However, the Emperor’s writings can be seen as an ancient form of journaling. Almost every night he wrote as a form of philosophical exercise as a way of perfecting himself.
Certainly, everlasting peace was never achieved during the rule of Marcus Aurelius. However, he did manage to continually work towards personal, internal peace and his personal efforts influenced his enhancement of Ancient Rome to a great extent. He has been remembered as the last of the “Good Emperors” of the Roman Empire.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders another proverb from Marcus Aurelius. “Not to live as if you had endless years ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you’re alive and able, be good.”