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 Twenty-Three through Thirty-Four.
Let this always be plain to you, that this piece of land is like any other; and that all things here are the same with things on the top of a mountain, or on the sea-shore, or wherever you choose to be. For you will find just what Plato says: dwelling within the walls of a city is as in a shepherd’s fold on a mountain.
What is my ruling faculty now to me? and of what nature am I now making it? and for what purpose am I now using it? is it void of understanding? is it loosed and rent asunder from social life? is it melted into and mixed with the poor flesh so as to move together with it?
He who flies from his master is a runaway; but the law is master, and he who breaks the law is a runaway. He who is grieved or angry or afraid, is dissatisfied because something has been or is or will be of the things which are appointed by him who rules all things, and he is Law and assigns to every man what is fit. He then who fears or is grieved or is angry is a runaway.
A man deposits seed in a womb and goes away, and then another cause takes it, and labors on it and makes a child. What a thing from such a material! Again, the child passes food down through the throat, and then another cause takes it and makes perception and motion, and in time, life and strength and other things; how many and how strange! Observe then the things which are produced in such a hidden way, and see the power just as we see the power which carries things downwards and upwards, not with the eyes, but still no less plainly.
Constantly consider how all things such as they now are, in time past also were. Consider that they will be the same again. Place before your eyes entire dramas and stages of the same form, whatever you have learned from your experience or from older history; for example, the whole court of Hadrianus, and the whole court of Antoninus, and the whole court of Philippus, Alexander, Croesus. All those were such dramas as we see now, only with different actors.
Imagine every man who is grieved at anything or discontented to be like a pig which is sacrificed and kicks and screams.
Like this pig also is he who on his bed in silence laments the bonds in which we are held. And consider that only to the rational animal is it given to follow voluntarily what happens; but simply to follow is a necessity imposed on all.
Several times, on the occasion of everything that you do, pause and ask yourself if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives you of this.
When you are offended at any man’s fault, forthwith turn to yourself and reflect in what like manner you, yourself do the same. For example, in thinking that money is a good thing, or pleasure, or a bit of reputation, and the like. By attending to this you will quickly forget your anger, if this consideration also is added: that the man is compelled, for what else could he do? But if you are able, take away from him his compulsion.
When you have seen Satyron the Socratic, think of either Eutyches or Hymen, and when you have seen Euphrates, think of Eutychion or Silvanus, and when you have seen Alciphron think of Tropaeophorus, and when you have seen Xenophon, think of Crito or Severus, and when you have looked on yourself, think of any other Caesar, and in the case of every one do in like manner. Then let this thought be in your mind, Where then are those men? Nowhere, or nobody knows where. For thus continuously you will look at human things as smoke and nothing at all, especially if you reflect at the same time that what has once changed will never exist again in the infinite duration of time. But you, in what a brief space of time is your existence. And why are you not content to pass through this short time in an orderly way? What matter and opportunity are you avoiding? For what else are all these things, except exercises for the reason, when it has viewed carefully and by examination into their nature the things which happen in life. Persevere then until you have made these things your own, as the stomach which is strengthened makes all things its own, as the blazing fire makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it.
Let it not be in any man’s power to say truly of you that you are not simple or that you are not good. Let him be a liar who thinks anything of this kind about you. This is altogether in your power. For who is he that will hinder you from being good and simple? Determine to live no longer unless you are good and simple. Reason does not allow you to live, if you are not.
What is the way most conformable to reason that, as to our life, can be done or said? Whatever this may be, it is in your power to do it or to say it, and do not make excuses that you are hindered. You will not cease to lament until your mind is in such a condition that, what luxury is to those who enjoy pleasure, such will be to you, in the matter which is subjected and presented to you, the doing of the things which are conformable to man’s constitution. A man ought to consider as an enjoyment everything which it is in his power to do according to his own nature. And it is in his power everywhere. Now, it is not given to a cylinder to move everywhere by its own motion, nor yet to water nor to fire, nor to anything else which is governed by nature or an irrational soul. The things which check them and stand in the way are many. But intelligence and reason are able to go through everything that opposes them, and in such manner as they are formed by nature and as they choose. Place before your eyes this facility with which the reason will be carried through all things, as fire upwards, as a stone downwards, as a cylinder down an inclined surface, and seek for nothing further. All other obstacles either affect the body only, which is a dead thing, or, they affect opinion and the yielding of the reason itself. They do not crush reason nor do any harm of any kind, for if they did, he who felt it would immediately become bad. Now, in the case of all things which have a certain constitution, whatever harm may happen to any of them, that which is so affected becomes consequently worse. In this case, a man becomes both better, if one may say so, and more worthy of praise by making a right use of these accidents. Remember that nothing harms him who is really a citizen which does not harm the state, nor yet does anything harm the state which does not harm law, and of these things which are called misfortunes not one harms law. What, then, does not harm the law does not harm either the state nor the citizen.
To him who is penetrated by true principles even the briefest precept is sufficient, and any common precept, to remind him that he should be free from grief and fear. For example: “Leaves, some the wind scatters on the ground / So is the race of men.” Leaves, also, are your children; and leaves, too, are they who cry out as if they were worthy of credit and bestow their praise, or on the contrary curse, or secretly blame and sneer. Leaves, in like manner, are those who will receive and transmit a man’s fame to after-times. For all such things as these “are produced in the season of spring,” as the poet says. Then the wind casts them down, then the forest produces other leaves in their place. A brief existence is common to all things, and yet you avoid and pursue all things as if they would be eternal. A little more time, and you will close your eyes. And he who has attended you to your grave, another will soon lament.
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Until I return, I am… A Man of Letters.
Durium Dance Band – She Didn’t Say Yes (Durium Products E 1040 B 1933)