Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Father shows best

  • 03 September 2020
‘There was in him nothing harsh, nor implacable, nor violent, nor, as one may say, anything carried to the sweating point; but he examined all things severally as if he had abundance of time, and without confusion, in an orderly way, vigorously and consistently.’

Those ‘chilled’ yet inspiring words by venerated Stoic philosopher and Caesar of the Roman Empire, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (describing his imperial adoptive father), are from his Meditations. They are widely held as a wise source of counsel.

Marcus A knew his stuff. Edward Gibbon referred to Marcus Aurelius’ regal stint as ‘possibly the only period of history in which the happiness of a great people was the sole object of government’.

As a Dad himself, however, how did MA measure up? The record suggests that even the best advice in the world doesn’t necessarily stick.

I have been thinking for several months about fathering and wisdom. To my surprise, I found some of Marcus Aurelius’ truisms to be reflected, if erratically, by the pronouncements of my own pater familias, Kenneth Hugh Gittins.

Ken is a garrulous, bucolic eccentric who worked hard in a thankless job while we grew up. He ensured we had food in our bellies, clothes on our back, shoes on our feet, God in our imaginations, music in our hearts and books in our hands.

'I learnt how to treat other people by looking at what my dad did, helping them with compassion and kindness (not necessarily by hearing what he said to them or about them). I hope one day my kids can make something of the same claim.'

Our Dad largely devoted his working years and retirement to his church, his neighbours, his community and public service, and since being widowed he’s spent significant time helping various churches and family members.  

Truth be told, I am much more likely in daily life to quote the sagacious Jedi Master Yoda, his Dudeness Jeff Lebowski, or Rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef (aka Jesus Christ); but for this coming Fathers Day I offer you the opportunity to compare and contrast the ancient wisdom of Marcus Aurelius and the latter variations of Ken.

When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love. —Marcus Aurelius

Get out of bed you sluggard; wash up, look after yourself and watch your toes. — Ken Gittins

Whereas Marcus Aurelius was raised in luxury and plenty before