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 Six, Parts Eighteen through Thirty-Six.
How strangely men act! They will not praise those who are living at the same time as themselves. Instead, they set much value on themselves being praised by those whom they have never seen nor will ever see. It is the same as if you should be grieved because those who have lived before you did not praise you.
If a thing is difficult to be accomplished by yourself, do not think that it is impossible for all men. If a thing is possible for any man and conformable to his nature, think that this can be attained by yourself too.
Suppose in the gymnastic exercises a man has gouged you with his nails, and with his fists has inflicted a wound on your head. Well. We neither show any signs of vexation, nor are we offended, nor do we suspect him afterwards as a treacherous fellow. But we are on our guard against him, not as an enemy, nor with suspicion, but we quietly get out of his way. Let your behavior be something like in all the other parts of life. Let us overlook many things in those who are like antagonists in the gymnasium. For it is in our power, as I said, to get out of the way, and to have no suspicion nor hatred.
If any man is able to convince me and show me that I do not think or act rightly, I will gladly change. I seek the truth, by which no man was ever injured. He is injured who abides in his error and ignorance.
I do my duty. Other things trouble me not, for they are either things without life, or things without reason, or things that have wandered and know not the way.
As to the animals which have no reason, and generally all things and objects, since you have reason and they have none, make use of them with a generous and liberal spirit. But towards human beings, as they have reason, behave in a social spirit. And on all occasions call on the gods, and do not perplex yourself about the length of time in which you shall do this. Even three hours so spent are sufficient.
Alexander the Macedonian and his slave were brought to the same state by death. Either they were received among the same seminal principles of the universe, or they were alike dispersed among the atoms.
Consider how many things in the same indivisible time take place in each of us, things which concern the body and things which concern the soul. Then, you will not wonder if many more things, if all things which come into existence in that which is the one and all, which we call Cosmos, also exist in it at the same time.
If any man should ask you how the name Antoninus is written, would you with a straining voice utter each letter? What then if they grow angry, will you be angry too? Will you not go on with composure and speak every letter? Just so then, in this life also remember that every duty is made up of certain parts. It is your duty to observe them, without being disturbed or showing anger towards those who are angry with you, to go on your way and finish that which is set before you.
How cruel it is not to allow men to strive after the things which appear to them to be suitable to their nature and profitable! And yet, in a manner, you do not allow them to do this when you are vexed because they do wrong. They are certainly moved towards things because they suppose them to be suitable to their nature and profitable – to them. If it is not so, teach them then, and show them without being angry.
Death is a cessation of the impressions through the senses, and of the pulling of the strings which move the appetites, and of the discursive movements of the thoughts, and of the service to the flesh.
It is a shame for the soul to be first to give way in this life, when your body does not give way.
Take care that you are not made into a Caesar, that you are not dyed with this dye; for such things happen. Keep yourself simple, good, pure, serious, free from affectation, a friend of justice, a worshipper of the gods, kind, affectionate, strenuous in all proper acts. Strive to continue to be such as philosophy wishes to make you. Reverence the gods, and help men. Life is short. There is only one fruit of this terrene life: a pious disposition and social acts. Do everything as a disciple of Antoninus. Remember his constancy in every act which was conformable to reason, and his evenness in all things, and his piety. Remember the serenity of his countenance, and his sweetness, and his disregard of empty fame. Remember his efforts to understand things, and how he would never let anything pass without having first most carefully examined it and clearly understood it, and how he bore with those who blamed him unjustly without blaming them in return. Remember how he did nothing in a hurry, and how he listened not to falsehoods, and how exact an examiner of manners and actions he was. Remember he was not given to reproach people, nor was he timid, nor suspicious, nor a sophist. Remember with how little he was satisfied, such as lodging, bed, dress, food, servants. Remember how laborious and patient he was, and how he was able on account of his sparing diet to hold out to the evening. Remember his firmness and uniformity in his friendships, and how he tolerated freedom of speech in those who opposed his opinions, and the pleasure that he had when any man showed him anything better. Remember how religious he was without superstition. Imitate all this, that you may have as clear a conscience, when your last hour comes, as he had.
Return to your sober senses and call yourself back. When you have roused yourself from sleep and have perceived that they were only dreams which troubled you, now in your waking hours look at the things about you as you looked at the things in dreams.
I consist of a little body and a soul. Now to this little body all things are indifferent, for it is not able to perceive differences. But to the understanding those things only are indifferent which are not the works of its own activity. But whatever things are the works of its own activity, all these are in its power. And of these however only those which are done with reference to the present; for as to the future and the past activities of the mind, even these are for the present indifferent.
Neither the labor which the hand does nor that of the foot is contrary to nature, so long as the foot does the foot’s work and the hand the hand’s. So then neither to a man as a man is his labor contrary to nature, so long as it does the things of a man. If the labor is not contrary to his nature, neither is it an evil to him.
How many pleasures have been enjoyed by robbers, patricides, tyrants.
See how craftsmen accommodate themselves up to a certain point to those who are not skilled in their craft, while nevertheless they cling to the principles of their art, and do not endure to depart from it. Is it not strange if the architect and the physician have more respect to the principles of their own arts than man to his own reason, which is common to him and the gods.
Asia and Europe, are corners of the universe. All the sea a drop in the universe. Athos is a little clod of the universe. All the present time is a point in eternity. All things are little, changeable, perishable. All things come from the same source, from that universal ruling power either directly preceding or by way of sequence. And accordingly the lion’s gaping jaws, and that which is poisonous, and every harmful thing such as a thorn, such as mud, are after-products of the grand and beautiful. Do not then imagine that they are of another kind from that which you venerate. Instead, form a just opinion of the source of all.
Thank you for listening. For more information about the words I have read, please visit A Man of Letters. amoletters.com.
Until I return, I am… A Man of Letters.