Marcus Aurelius said this. He was a Roman Emperor who lived and ruled almost 2,000 years ago.
“Everything harmonizes with me, which is harmonious to thee, O Universe. Nothing for me is too early or too late, which is in due time for thee. There is one light of the sun, though it is interrupted by walls, mountains and infinite other things. There is one common substance, though it is distributed among countless bodies which have their several qualities. There is one soul, though it is distributed among several natures and individual limitations. There is one intelligent soul, though it seems to be divided.”
This is from Aurelius‘ Meditations, a collection of his philosophical thoughts. In addition to being an emperor, he is considered one of the great Stoic philosophers. Can you imagine any modern leader being remembered for anything in 2,000 years?
Part of the reason why we find it hard to imagine the emergence of a modern version of Marcus Aurelius is the issue of diminishing IQ. To put it bluntly, people just aren’t as smart as they used to be. Ever-declining IQ — not just in the U.S. where it is down at least 3 points just since 1950, but worldwide — should be a serious concern for all of us. Read more about it here.
But the real stumbling block is the ever-increasing shallowness of American life, where philistinism is a badge worn proudly. A man like Marcus Aurelius would be laughed off the podium, derided as a dreamer, a metaphysical fruit loop, a thinker not a “doer.” To fire up a crowd these days all you have to do is sip a Big Gulp at CPAC.* Meanwhile, the supposed ‘leader of the free world,’ in an over-populated, over-heated world screaming for sustainability, is still banging the drum for the clearly obsolete growth model of economics. The longer I live the more Idiocracy looks like hard science fiction instead of farce.
Where is the America that produced Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet Common Sense so deeply inspired America’s early revolutionaries? Paine was an anti-Christian deist, occultist, and Freemason who had a fascination for Druidism and was a close friend to the famous poet, visionary, and mystic William Blake. I bet he read Aurelius, and there is at least a chance he’ll be spoken of in the year 3776 (assuming Earth still has an atmosphere).
Aurelius endures. As for the leaders of the 21st century, I see none of them withstanding a 2,000 year test of time.
*For the record, I’m not a fan of bans on big sugary drinks — even though I know they’re horrible for your health — because I’m a fan of personal freedom. I just think that public political figures should get standing ovations for substantive positions not theater.