I am A Man of Letters. I’ve been reading lately, and I have found some words I would like to share. Today, The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Here are The Meditations Book Eight, Part Fifty-Three through Book Nine, Part Two.
Do you wish to be praised by a man who curses himself three times every hour? Do you wish to please a man who does not please himself? Does a man please himself who repents of nearly everything that he does?
No longer let your breathing only act in concert with the air which surrounds you, but let your intelligence also now be in harmony with the intelligence which embraces all things. For the intelligent power is no less diffused in all parts and pervades all things for him who is willing to draw it to him than the aerial power for him who is able to breathe it.
Generally, wickedness does no harm at all to the universe, and particularly the wickedness of one man does no harm to another. It is only harmful to him who has it in his power to be released from it as soon as he will choose.
To my own free will, the free will of my neighbor is just as indifferent as his poor breath and flesh. For though we are made especially for the sake of one another, the ruling power of each of us has its own office. Otherwise, my neighbor’s wickedness would be my harm, and God has not willed that my happiness may depend on anyone else.
The sun appears to be poured down, and in all directions. Indeed it is diffused, but it is not exhausted because this diffusion is extension. Accordingly, its rays are called Extensions because they are extended. One may judge what kind of a thing a ray is if he looks at the sun’s light passing through a narrow opening into a darkened room. It extends in a straight line, and when it meets with any solid body which stands in the way it is divided and intercepts the air beyond. Where the light meets a solid body it remains fixed and does not slip or fall off. Such then ought to be the outpouring and diffusion of the understanding. It should in no way be an exhaustion, but an extension. It should make no violent or impetuous collision with the obstacles which are in its way, nor slip nor fall off, but be fixed, and enlighten that which receives it. A body will deprive itself of illumination if it does not admit it.
He who fears death either fears the loss of sensation or fears a different kind of sensation. But if you will have no sensation, neither will you feel any harm. And if you will acquire a different kind of sensation, you will be a different kind of living being and you will not cease to live.
Men exist for the sake of one another. Teach them then, or bear with them.
In the way an arrow moves, so moves the mind. The mind indeed, both when it exercises caution and when it is employed about inquiry, moves straight onward to its object.
Enter into every man’s ruling faculty; and also let every other man enter into yours.
He who acts unjustly acts impiously. For since the universal nature has made rational animals for the sake of one another to help one another according to what they deserve, and in no way to injure one another, he who transgresses Her will is clearly guilty of impiety towards the highest divinity. He who lies is guilty of impiety to the same divinity. The universal nature is the nature of things that are, and things that are have a relation to all things that come into existence. This universal nature is named truth, and is the prime cause of all things that are true. He who lies intentionally is guilty of impiety inasmuch as he acts unjustly by deceiving. This is also the case for he who lies unintentionally, inasmuch as he is at variance with the universal nature, and inasmuch as he disturbs the order by fighting against the nature of the world. He fights against it, who is moves by his own choice to that which is contrary to truth. He had received powers from nature, but through neglect of these powers he is not able now to distinguish falsehood from truth. Indeed, he who pursues pleasure as good, and avoids pain as evil, is guilty of impiety. Of necessity, such a man must often find fault with the universal nature, alleging that it assigns things to the bad and the good contrary to what they deserve, because frequently the bad are enjoyable and pleasurable and they procure pleasure, while the good can cause pain and procure things which cause pain. He who is afraid of pain will sometimes also be afraid of which will happen in the world, and this is impiety. He who pursues pleasure will not abstain from injustice, and this is plainly impiety. Now, with respect to the things towards which the universal nature is equally affected (for it would not have made both, unless it was equally inclined towards both) those who wish to follow nature should be of the same mind with nature, and equally inclined. With respect to pain, and pleasure, and death, and life, and honor, and dishonor, and all which the universal nature employs equally, whoever is not equally inclined is manifestly acting impiously. I say that the universal nature employs them equally, instead of saying that they happen alike to those who are produced in continuous series, or saying they happen to those who come after them by virtue of a certain original movement of Providence, or saying according to which it moved from a certain beginning to this ordering of things, or saying having conceived certain principles of the things which were to be, or saying having determined powers productive of beings and of changes and of such like successions.
It would be a man’s happiest fate to depart from mankind without having had any taste of lying and hypocrisy and luxury and pride. However, to breathe out one’s life when a man has had enough of these things is the next best voyage, as the saying goes. Have you determined to abide with vice, and has not experience yet induced you to fly from this pestilence? The destruction of understanding is a pestilence, much more than any such corruption and change of the atmosphere which surrounds us. For the corruption of the atmosphere is a pestilence of animals so far as they are animals, but the other is a pestilence of men so far as they are men.
Thank you for listening. For more information about the words I have read and the music to follow, please visit A Man of Letters. amoletters.com.
Until I return, I am… A Man of Letters.
Richard Himber and His Ritz-Carlton Hotel Orchestra – If I Had a Million Dollars (Victor BS-84442 1934)
Red Norvo – Hole in the Wall (Brunswick 6562 1933)