Wednesday, 1 December 2021
Marcus Aurelius, Omar Khayyam and a New Beginning
Two of my favourite non military books - highly recommended for resetting one’s perspective on life
As we stare down the barrel of the fast approaching Christmas holidays I have often found myself reflecting over the various events of the last six months. There have been numerous ups and downs (rather more of the latter if truth be told) and I am not about to repeat the details of the various travails my family and I have experienced, and, to a certain extent, still are.
The inestimable value of the support of friends and family has never been more gratefully received and unconditionally given than now and that is worthy of high praise in itself. What then, of the times when the darkness seems all encompassing and no light to speak of shines in your direction? For sure I have had a few of those!
I have previously mentioned that in the absence of any dedicated hobby time I have caught up with a lot of reading which has helped me no end. Aside from the usual round of military history, fantasy and science fiction that constitutes my routine fare, there are a couple of other books in my collection that I seem to have used almost as a form of therapy and are therefore, certainly worth mentioning.
I have enjoyed the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam for many years and the book you see above was picked up at a boot sale sometime ago for 50p. It is unusual in that it features some 500 quatrains (4 line stanza with alternate rhyming lines) rather than the more usual 80 or so that formed Edward Fitzgerald's translation. E.H. Winfield was a translator of Persian literature and so his version is a more literal translation than the more popular Fitzgerald version. It is unlikely that all the 500 or so quatrains were written by Khayyam exclusively - more likely they have been lumped together as examples of a popular type of verse.
Khayyam's work has always appealed to me as it comes across as being unashamed of life and of living and of how we are but a part of it. I find it curiously settling.
I first came across the meditations of Marcus Aurelius via a penguin classic edition many years ago. The rather smart looking hardback you see above was published shortly after the release of the award winning film Gladiator starring Russel Crowe which featured the late Richard Harris playing the emperor Marcus Aurelius. The meditations are very much a list of guidelines as to how one should live one's life and are largely common sense based. Marcus Aurelius was described as being a 'Stoic' and the pages of his works certainly bear this out. Again, I have found many of his writings to be insightful and for me at least, aspirational in that logic and reason - two skills I am less than generously endowed with - should have an important part to play in one's life.
They say that wisdom comes with age and whilst I do not claim to be wise I do appear to have a better handle on the lessons that life has to give and how they impact on me. It also means that the words contained within those two books resonate far more effectively than in the days of my youth.
From the wargaming perspective both of these titles have featured as being support for a couple of projects that I had un days gone by. Many years ago I toyed with the idea of an Islamic Persian army for use with WRG 6th edition but reluctantly abandoned the idea as the painting would have been quite beyond me (at least to the standard I would have liked!). Marcus Aurelius and Gladiator - I had no interest in the armies of this period but I have long enjoyed gladiatorial combat games - it all started with Avalon Hill's Gladiator board game - as a great way to set up quick games that can add numerous players into the mix.
As an aside, another example of how my wargaming mind works goes back to when I first discovered WRG 6th edition ancients. I had a hankering for an Arab Conquest army so I duly undertook the appropriate research and as part of this decided to read the Koran - to see what drove the whole thing historically. It was quite a revelation and without going into detail I was quite taken with it.
Moving away from the above and the rather tenuous wargaming links, I have some other news to share. On the 13th December I shall be joining a new company and recruiting on an 'in house' basis rather than via the agency side. I have long wanted to do this but felt that at 61 years of age that particular ship had sailed. Aside from the very generous salary uplift the best news for me (especially given the current situation with Laurel and her back) is that the role is designed to be fully remote. This means that I will be saving some twelve hours so a week on travelling time as well some £4K a year on a train ticket. I will need to pop into town from time to time but certainly not on a regular basis. The company will supply me with a brand new laptop and mobile phone and any stationary requirements I need are delivered to my home.
I cannot tell you how pleased I am with piece of good news after the horror show of the last six months - for the record I have only touched on some of the 'stuff' we have been dealing with - and so hopefully we will be able to look forward to a 2022 that will be - god willing - better.
Let us hope so....