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 Twelve, Part Twenty-Five through Thirty-Six.
When you are troubled about anything, you have forgotten this: all things happen according to the universal nature. And you have forgotten this: another man’s wrongful act is nothing to you. And further you have forgotten this: that everything which happens has always happened so and will happen so, and now happens so everywhere. You have forgotten how close is the kinship between one man and the whole human race, for it is a community, not of a little blood or seed, but of intelligence. You have forgotten that every man’s intelligence is a god and is an efflux of the Deity. You have forgotten that nothing is a man’s own, but that his child and his body and his very soul came from the Deity. You have forgotten that everything is opinion. And lastly you have forgotten that every man lives the present time only, and loses only this.
Constantly bring to your recollection those who have complained greatly about anything, those who have been most conspicuous by the greatest fame or misfortunes or enmities or fortunes of any kind. Then think: where are they all now? Smoke and ash and a tale, or not even a tale. Let there be present to your mind also everything of this sort, how Fabius Catullinus lived in the country, and Lucius Lupus in his gardens, and Stertinius at Baiae, and Tiberius at Capreae, and Rufus at Velia. Think of the eager pursuit of anything conjoined with pride, and how worthless everything is after which men violently strain. Think of how much more philosophical it is for a man in the opportunities presented to him to show himself just, temperate, obedient to the Gods, and to do this with all simplicity. For the pride which is proud of its want of pride is the most intolerable of all.
To those who ask ‘where have you seen the Gods, and how do you know that they exist and so worship them,’ I answer, in the first place, they may be seen even with the eyes. In the second place, neither have I seen even my own soul, and yet I honor it. Thus then with respect to the Gods, from what I constantly experience of their power, from this I comprehend that They exist, and I venerate Them.
The safety of life is this, to examine everything all through, what it is itself, what is its material, what the formal part; with all your soul to do justice and to say the truth. What remains is to enjoy life by joining one good thing to another so as not to leave even the smallest intervals between.
There is one light of the sun, though it is interrupted by walls, mountains, and other things infinite. There is one common substance, though it is distributed among countless bodies which have their individual qualities. There is one soul, though it is distributed among infinite natures and individuals. There is one intelligent soul, though it seems to be divided. Now in the things which have been mentioned, all the other parts, such as those which are air and matter, are without sensation and have no fellowship. And yet even in these parts the intelligent principle holds together and the gravitation is towards the same. Intellect, in a peculiar manner, tends to that which is of the same kin, and combines with it, and the feeling for communion is not interrupted.
What do you wish—to continue to exist? Well, do you wish to have sensation, movement, growth, and then again to cease to grow, to use your speech, to think? What is there of all these things which seems to you worth desiring? But if it is easy to set little value on all these things, turn to that which remains, which is to follow reason and God. But it is inconsistent with honoring reason and God to be troubled because, by death, a man will be deprived of the other things.
How small a part of the boundless and unfathomable time is assigned to every man, for it is very soon swallowed up in the eternal! And how small a part of the whole substance; and how small a part of the universal soul; and on what a small clod of the whole earth you creep! Reflecting on all this, consider nothing to be great, except to act as your nature leads you, and to endure that which the common nature brings.
All resides in how the ruling faculty makes use of itself. Everything else, whether it is in the power of your will or not, is only lifeless ashes and smoke.
This reflection is most adapted to move us to contempt of death, that even those who think pleasure to be a good and pain an evil still have despised it.
The man to whom that only is good which comes in due season, and to whom it is the same thing whether he has done more or fewer acts conformable to right reason, and to whom it makes no difference whether he contemplates the world for a longer or a shorter time—for this man neither is death a terrible thing.
Man, you have been a citizen in this great world. What difference does it make whether for five years or three? That which is conformable to the laws is just for all. Where is the hardship then, if no tyrant nor yet an unjust judge sends you away from the great world, but Nature, who brought you into it? The same as if a magistrate who has employed an actor dismisses him from the stage. “But I have not finished the five acts, but only three of them!” This is true, but in life the three acts are the whole drama. A drama is determined complete by Him who was once the cause of its composition, and now of its dissolution. You are the cause of neither. Depart then satisfied, for He who releases you is satisfied.
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Until I return, I am… A Man of Letters.
Cliff Edwards – That’s My Weakness Now (Columbia 1471D 1928)
Havana Novelty Orchestra – Adios (Victor 22963 1932)