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 Ten, Parts One through Seven.
Will you, then, my soul, never be good and simple and one and naked, more manifest than the body which surrounds you? Will you never enjoy an affectionate and contented disposition? Will you never be full and without a want of any kind, longing for nothing more, nor desiring anything, either animate or inanimate, for the enjoyment of pleasures? Nor yet desiring time wherein you will have longer enjoyment, or place, or pleasant climate, or society of men with whom you may live in harmony? Will you not be satisfied with your present condition, and pleased with all that is about you, and will you convince yourself that you have everything, and that it comes from the gods, that everything is well for you, and will be well whatever will please them, and whatever they will give for the conservation of the perfect living being, the good and just and beautiful, which generates and holds together all things, and contains and embraces all things which are dissolved for the production of other like things? Will you never be such that you will so dwell in community with gods and men as neither to find fault with them at all, nor to be condemned by them?
Observe what your nature requires, so far as you are governed by nature only. Then do it and accept it, if your nature, so far as you are a living being, will not be made worse by it. Next you must observe what your nature requires so far as you are a living being. And all this you may allow yourself, if your nature, so far as you are a rational animal, will not be made worse by it. The rational animal is consequently also a political, social animal. Use these rules, then, and trouble yourself about nothing else.
Everything which happens either happens in such a way as you are formed by nature to bear it, or as you are not formed by nature to bear it. If, then, it happens to you in such way as you are formed by nature to bear it, do not complain, but bear it as you are formed by nature to bear it. But if it happens in such a way as you are not formed by nature to bear it, do not complain, for it will perish after it has consumed you. Remember, however, that you are formed by nature to bear everything, with respect to which it depends on your own opinion to make it endurable and tolerable, by thinking that it is either your interest or your duty to do this.
If a man is mistaken, instruct him kindly and show him his error. But if you are not able, blame yourself, or blame no one.
Whatever may happen to you, it was prepared for you from all eternity; and the implication of causes was from eternity spinning the thread of your being, and of that which is incident to it.
Whether the universe is made of isolated atoms, or whether the universe is a system, let this first be established, that I am a part of the whole which is governed by nature. Next, I am (in a manner) intimately related to the parts which are of the same kind with myself. For remembering this, inasmuch as I am a part, I will be discontented with none of the things which are assigned to me out of the whole. Nothing is injurious to the part if it is for the advantage of the whole. For the whole contains nothing which is not for its advantage, and all natures indeed have this common principle. The nature of the universe has this principle besides, that it cannot be compelled even by any external cause to generate anything harmful to itself. By remembering, then, that I am a part of such a whole, I will be content with everything that happens. And inasmuch as I am in a manner intimately related to the parts which are of the same kind with myself, I will do nothing unsocial, but I will rather direct myself to the things which are of the same kind with myself, and I will turn all my efforts to the common interest, and divert them from the contrary. Now, if these things are done so, life must flow on happily, just as you may observe that the life of a citizen is happy, who continues a course of action which is advantageous to his fellow citizens, and is content with whatever the state may assign to him.
The parts of the whole – I mean everything – which is naturally comprehended in the universe, must of necessity perish. Let me be understood in this sense, that they must undergo change. If this is naturally both an evil and a necessity for the parts, the whole would not continue to exist in a good condition, the parts being subject to change and constituted so as to perish in various ways. When did Nature Herself design to do evil to the things which are parts of Herself, and to make them subject to evil and of necessity fall into evil, or have such results happened without Her knowing it? Both these suppositions, indeed, are incredible. If a man should even drop the term Nature, and should speak of these things as natural, even then it would be ridiculous to affirm at the same time that the parts of the whole are in their nature subject to change, and at the same time to be surprised or vexed as if something were happening contrary to nature, particularly as the dissolution of things is into those things of which each thing is composed. For there is either a dispersion of the elements out of which everything has been compounded, or a change from the solid to the earthy and from the airy to the aerial, so that these parts are taken back into the universal reason, whether this at certain periods is consumed by fire or renewed by eternal changes. Do not imagine that the solid and the airy part belongs to you from the time of generation. For all this received its accretion only yesterday and the day before, as one may say, from the food and the air which is inspired. This, then, which has received the accretion, changes, not that which your mother brought forth. Believe that this which your mother brought forth implicates you very much with that other part, which has the peculiar quality of change, this is nothing in fact in the way of objection to what is said.
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Until I return, I am… A Man of Letters.
Lys Gauty – L’Heure Du Reve (1933)