Book Two of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius had me contrasting his Stoic philosophy with the Epicurean philosophy of Lucretius, which I read just prior to this. The Emperor is very negative on pleasure and its pursuit. Giving in to pleasure (the phrase itself is derogatory) is unmanly (this was a common view for Roman ethicists and seems to have been St. Paul's view as well).
The Emperor expresses a view similar to Lucretius when it comes to the fear of death:
at all times awaiting death with the glad confidence that it is nothing more than the dissolution of the elements of which every living creature is composed.
I realized that Stoicism had been more influential in my own thinking in the late nineties through the mid-Aughts, but that I had embraced more Epicurean elements since then. This was not a conscious embrace of one ancient philosophy over another, but was more directly tied to embracing my identity and living well.
Marcus Aurelius wrote, "nothing harmful is in accordance with nature." That ludicrous.
I've been reading Ecclesiastes in my morning bible reading. I've read it a handful of times in my life, but this time it is really having an impact (is it that I'm older or am I more jaded?). There is a paragraph in Book II that sounds like something from Ecclesiastes:
In man's life his time is a mere instant, his existence a flux, his perception fogged, his whole bodily composition rotting, his mind a whirligig, his fortune unpredictable, his fame unclear. To put it shortly: all things of the body stream away like a river, all things of the mind are dreams and delusion; life is warfare, and a visit in a strange land; the only lasting fame is oblivion.
That paragrphy, while dark and cynical, is beautifully written.