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 Nine, Parts Three through Twenty.
Do not despise death, but be well content with it, since this too is one of those things which nature wills. For such as it is to be young and to grow old, and to increase and to reach maturity, and to have teeth and beard and gray hairs, and to beget and to be pregnant and to bring forth, and all the other natural operations which the seasons of your life bring, such also is dissolution. This, then, is consistent with the character of a reflecting man: to be neither careless nor impatient nor contemptuous with respect to death, but to wait for it as one of the operations of nature. As you now wait for the time when the child will come out of your wife’s womb, so be ready for the time when your soul will fall out of this envelope. If you require also a vulgar kind of comfort which will reach your heart, you will be made best reconciled to death by observing the objects from which you are going to be removed, and the morals of those with whom your soul will no longer be mingled. It is no way right to be offended with men, but it is your duty to care for them and to bear with them gently, and yet to remember that your departure will not be from men who have the same principles as yourself. This is the only thing, if there be any, which could draw us the contrary way and attach us to life: to be permitted to live with those who have the same principles as ourselves. But now you see how great is the trouble arising from the discordance of those who live together, so that you may say, Come quick, O death, lest perchance I, too, should forget myself.
He who does wrong does wrong against himself. He who acts unjustly acts unjustly to himself, because he makes himself bad.
He often acts unjustly who does not do a certain thing, and not only he who does a certain thing.
Your present opinion founded on understanding, and your present conduct directed to social good, and your present disposition of contentment with everything which happens – these are enough.
Wipe out idle thoughts. Check desire. Extinguish appetite. Keep the ruling faculty in its own power.
Among the animals which have not reason one life is distributed. Among reasonable animals one intelligent soul is distributed. Just as there is one earth of all things which are of an earthy nature, and we see by one light, and breathe one air, all of us that have the faculty of vision and all that have life.
All things which participate in anything which is common to them all move towards that which is of the same kind with themselves. Everything which is earthy turns towards the earth, everything which is liquid flows together, and everything which is of an aerial kind does the same, so that they require something to keep them asunder, and the application of force. Fire indeed moves upwards on account of the elemental fire, but it is so ready to be kindled together with all the fire which is here, that even every substance which is somewhat dry is easily ignited, because there is less mingled with it of that which is a hindrance to ignition. Accordingly, then, everything also which participates in the common intelligent nature moves in like manner towards that which is of the same kind with itself, or moves even more. For so much as it is superior in comparison with all other things, in the same degree also is it more ready to mingle with and to be fused with that which is akin to it. Accordingly, among animals devoid of reason we find swarms of bees, and herds of cattle, and the nurture of young birds, and in a manner, loves. Even in animals there are souls, and that power which brings them together is seen to exert itself in the superior degree, and in such a way as never has been observed in plants nor in stones nor in trees. But in rational animals there are political communities and friendships, and families and meetings of people, and wars, treaties, and armistices. In the things which are still superior, even though they are separated from one another, unity in a manner exists, as in the stars. Thus the ascent to the higher degree is able to produce a sympathy even in things which are separated. See, then, what now takes place. Only intelligent animals have now forgotten this mutual desire and inclination, and in them alone the property of flowing together is not seen. But still, though men strive to avoid this union, they are caught and held by it, for their nature is too strong for them. You will see what I say if you only observe. Sooner, then, will one find anything earthy which comes in contact with no earthy thing, than a man altogether separated from other men.
Both man and God and the universe produce fruit. At the proper seasons each produces it. If usage has especially fixed these terms to the vine and like things, this is nothing. Reason produces fruit both for all and for itself, and there are produced from it other things of the same kind as reason itself.
If you are able, correct by teaching those who do wrong, but if you cannot, remember that indulgence is given to you for this purpose. The gods, too, are indulgent to such persons, and for some purposes they even help them to get health, wealth, reputation, so kind they are. It is in your power also – who hinders you?
Labor not as one who is wretched, nor yet as one who would be pitied or admired, but direct your will to one thing only — to put yourself in motion and to check yourself, as the social reason requires.
To-day I have got out of all trouble, or rather I have cast out all trouble, for it was not outside, but within and in my opinions.
All things are the same, familiar in experience, and ephemeral in time, and worthless in matter. Everything now is just as it was in the time of those whom we have buried.
Things stand outside of us, themselves by themselves, neither knowing aught of themselves, nor expressing any judgment. What is it, then, which does judge about them? The ruling faculty.
Not in passivity but in activity lie the evil and the good of the rational social animal, just as his virtue and his vice lie not in passivity but in activity.
For the stone which has been thrown upward it is no evil to come down, nor indeed any good to have been thrown upward.
Penetrate inwards into men’s leading principles, and you will see what judges you are afraid of, and what kind of judges they are of themselves.
All things are changing: and you yourself are in continuous mutation and in a manner in continuous destruction, and the whole universe too.
It is your duty to leave another man’s wrongful act there where it is.
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.
Sam Lanin Orchestra – It’s a Great Life If You Don’t Weaken (1930)