Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, translated by Maxwell Stani

Every person is a philosopher by nature; however, we are quickly dissuaded from this delightful activity by those who call philosophy impractical. But there is nothing more practical than knowing who you are and what you think. Try it sometime.

Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:14 am

Book 7

1. What is evil? A thing you have seen times out of number. Likewise with every other sort of occurrence also, be prompt to remind yourself that this, too, you have witnessed many times before. For everywhere, above and below, you will find nothing but the selfsame things; they fill the pages of all history, ancient, modern, and contemporary; and they fill our cities and homes today. There is no such thing as novelty; all is as trite as it is transitory.

2. Principles can only lose their vitality when the first impressions from which they derive have sunk into extinction; and it is for you to keep fanning these continually into fresh flame. I am well able to form the right impression of a thing; and given this ability, there is no need to disquiet myself. (As for things that are beyond my understanding, they are no concern of my understanding.) Once learn this, and you stand erect. A new life lies within your grasp. You have only to see things once more in the light of your first and earlier vision, and life begins anew.

3. An empty pageant; a stage play; flocks of sheep, herds of cattle; a tussle of spearmen; a bone flung among a pack of curs; a crumb tossed into a pond of fish; ants, loaded and laboring; mice, scared and scampering; puppets, jerking on their strings; that is life. In the midst of it all you must take your stand, good-temperedly and without disdain, yet always aware that a man's worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions.

4. In talk, mark carefully what is being said, and when action is afoot, what is being done. In the latter case, look at once to see what is purposed; and in the other, make certain what is meant.

5. Is my understanding equal to this task, or not? If it is, I apply it to the work as a tool presented to me by Nature. If not, then either I make way -- if my duty permits it -- for someone more capable of doing the business, or else I do the best I can with the help of some assistant, who will avail himself of my inspiration to achieve what is timely and serviceable for the community. For everything I do, whether by myself or with another, must have as its sole aim the service and harmony of all.

6. How many whose praises used once to be sung so loudly are now relegated to oblivion; and how many of the singers themselves have long since passed from our sight!

7. Think it no shame to be helped. Your business is to do your appointed duty, like a soldier in the breach. How, then, if you are lame, and unable to scale the battlements yourself, but could do it if you had the aid of a comrade?

8. Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.

9. All things are interwoven with one another; a sacred bond unites them; there is scarcely one thing that is isolated from another. Everything is coordinated, everything works together in giving form to the one universe. The world-order is a unity made up of multiplicity: God is one, pervading all things; all being is one, all law is one (namely, the common reason which all thinking creatures possess) and all truth is one -- if, as we believe, there can be but one path to perfection for beings that are alike in kind and reason.

10. Swiftly each particle of matter vanishes into the universal Substance; swiftly each item of causation is reassumed into the universal Reason; swiftly the remembrance of all things is buried in the gulf of eternity.

11. To a reasoning being, an act that accords with nature is an act that accords with reason.

12. To stand up -- or be set up?

13. In a system comprising diverse elements, those which possess reason have the same part to play as the bodily limbs in an organism that is a unity; being similarly constituted for mutual cooperation. This reflection will impress you more forcibly if you constantly tell yourself, 'I am a "limb" (melos) of the whole complex of rational things.' If you think of yourself as a 'part' (meros) only, you have as yet no love from the heart for mankind, and no joy in the performance of acts of kindness for their own sake. You do them as a bare duty, and not yet as good offices to yourself.

14. Come what will upon such parts of me as can be affected by its incidence; they may complain of it if they will. As for myself, if I do not view the thing as an evil, I take no hurt. And nothing compels me to view it so.

15. Whatever the world may say or do, my part is to keep myself good; just as a gold piece, or an emerald, or a purple robe insists perpetually, "Whatever the world may say or do, my part is to remain an emerald and keep my color true."

16. The master-reason is never the victim of any self-disturbance; it never, for example, excites passions within itself. If another can inspire it with terror or pain, let him do so; but by itself it never permits its own assumptions to mislead it into such moods. By all means let the body take thought for itself to avoid hurt, if it can; and if it be hurt, let it say so. But the soul, which alone can know fear or pain, and on whose judgment their existence depends, takes no harm; you cannot force the verdict from it. The master-reason is self-sufficient, knowing no needs except those it creates for itself, and by the same token can experience no disturbances or obstructions unless they be of its own making.

17. Happiness, by derivation, means 'a good god within'; [1] that is, a good master-reason. Then what, vain Fancy, are you doing here? Be off, in heaven's name, as you came; I want none of you. I know it is long habit that brings you here, and I bear no ill-will; but get you gone.

18. We shrink from change; yet is there anything that can come into being without it? What does Nature hold dearer, or more proper to herself? Could you have a hot bath unless the firewood underwent some change? Could you be nourished if the food suffered no change? Is it possible for any useful thing to be achieved without change? Do you not see, then, that change in yourself is of the same order, and no less necessary to Nature?

19. All bodies pass through the universal substance, as it were into and out of a rushing stream; cohering and cooperating with the whole, as do our physical members with one another. How many a Chrysippus, a Socrates, an Epictetus has been engulfed by time! Remember this where you have to do with any man or thing whatsoever.

20. One thing alone troubles me: the fear that I may do something which man's constitution disallows, or would wish to be done in some other way, or forbids till a future day.

21. Soon you will have forgotten the world, and soon the world will have forgotten you.

22. It is man's peculiar distinction to love even those who err and go astray. Such a love is born as soon as you realize that they are your brothers; that they are stumbling in ignorance, and not wilfully; that in a short while both of you will be no more; and, above all, that you yourself have taken no hurt, for your master-reason has not been made a jot worse than it was before.

23. Out of the universal substance, as out of wax, Nature fashions a colt, then breaks him up and uses the material to form a tree, and after that a man, and next some other thing; and not one of these endures for more than a brief span. As for the vessel itself, it is no greater hardship to be taken to pieces than to be put together.

24. An angry look on the face is wholly against nature. If it be assumed frequently, beauty begins to perish, and in the end is quenched beyond rekindling. You must try to realize that this shows the unreasonableness of it; for if we lose the ability to perceive our faults, what is the good of living on?

25. Only a little while, and Nature, the universal disposer, will change everything you see, and out of their substance will make fresh things, and yet again others from theirs, to the perpetual renewing of the world's youthfulness.

26. When anyone offends against you, let your first thought be, Under what conception of good and ill was this committed? Once you know that, astonishment and anger will give place to pity. For either your own ideas of what is good are no more advanced than his, or at least bear some likeness to them, in which case it is clearly your duty to pardon him; or else, on the other hand, you have grown beyond supposing such actions to be either good or bad, and therefore it will be so much the easier to be tolerant of another's blindness.

27. Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours. At the same time, however, beware lest delight in them leads you to cherish them so dearly that their loss would destroy your peace of mind.

28. Withdraw into yourself. Our master-reason asks no more than to act justly, and thereby to achieve calm.

29. Do away with all fancies. Cease to be passion's puppet. Limit time to the present. Learn to recognize every experience for what it is, whether it be your own or another's. Divide and classify the objects of sense into cause and matter. Meditate upon your last hour. Leave your neighbor's wrongdoing to rest with him who initiated it.

30. Fix your thought closely on what is being said, and let your mind enter fully into what is being done, and into what is doing it.

31. Put on the shining face of simplicity and self-respect, and of indifference to everything outside the realms of virtue or vice. Love mankind. Walk in God's ways. 'All under law,' quoth the sage; and what though his saying had reference to atoms alone? For us, it suffices to remember that all things are indeed under law. Three words, but enough.

32. Of Death. Dispersion, if the world be a concourse of atoms: extinction or transmutation, if it be a unity.

33. Of Pain. If it is past bearing, it makes an end of us; if it lasts, it can be borne. The mind, holding itself aloof from the body, retains its calm, and the master-reason remains unaffected. As for the parts injured by the pain, let them, if they can, declare their own grief.

34. Of Fame. Take a look at the minds of her suitors, their ambitions and their aversions. Furthermore, reflect how speedily in this life the things of today are buried under those of tomorrow, even as one layer of drifting sand is quickly covered by the next.

35. 'If a man has greatness of mind, and the breadth of vision to contemplate all time and all reality, can he regard human life as a thing of any great consequence? -- 'No, he cannot.' -- 'So he won't think death anything to be afraid of?' -- 'No.' (From Plato. [2])

36. 'It is the fate of princes to be ill spoken of for well-doing.' (From Antisthenes.)

37. It is a shame for the features to order and dispose themselves obediently as the mind directs, while the same mind refuses to order and dispose itself.

38. 'Vex not thy spirit at the course of things; They heed not thy vexation.' [3]

39. 'To the deathless gods and likewise to ourselves give joy.' [4]

40. 'Like ears of corn the lives of men are reaped; This one is left to stand, and that cut down.' [5]

4I. 'If Heav'n care nought for me and my two boys, There must be some good reason even for this.' [6]

42. 'Right and good fortune both are on my side.' [7]

43. 'No tears with those who wail, no quickening of the pulse.' [8]

44. 'I might fairly reply to him, You are mistaken, my friend, if you think that a man who is worth anything ought to spend his time weighing up the prospects of life and death. He has only one thing to consider in performing any action: that is, whether he is acting rightly or wrongly, like a good man or a bad one.' (From Plato. [9])

45. 'The truth of the matter is this, gentlemen. When a man has once taken up his stand, either because it seems best to him or in obedience to orders, there I believe he is bound to remain and face the danger, taking no account of death or anything else before dishonor.' (From Plato. [10])

46. 'But I beg you, my friend, to think it possible that nobility and goodness may be something different from keeping oneself and one's friends from danger, and to consider whether a true man, instead of clinging to life at all costs, ought not to dismiss from his mind the question how long he may have to live. Let him leave that to the will of God, in the belief that the womenfolk are right when they tell us that no man can escape his destiny, and let him devote himself to the next problem, how he can best live the life allotted to him.' (From Plato. [11])

47. Survey the circling stars, as though yourself were in mid-course with them. Often picture the changing and re-changing dance of the elements. Visions of this kind purge away the dross of our earth-bound life.

48. Plato has a fine saying, that he who would discourse of man should survey, as from some high watchtower, the things of earth; its assemblies for peace or war, its husbandry, matings, and partings, births and deaths, noisy law-courts, lonely wastes, alien peoples of every kind, feasting, mourning, bargaining--observing all the motley mixture, and the harmonious order that is wrought out of contrariety.

49. Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future too. Its pattern will be the same, down to the last detail; for it cannot break step with the steady march of creation. To view the lives of men for forty years or forty thousand is therefore all one; for what more will there be for you to see?

50. All born of earth must unto earth return; All growths of heav'nly seed to heav'n revert.' [12] -- by the disintegration, that is, of their atomic structure and the dispersion of their uncaring elements.

51. 'What, turn aside with meats and drinks and charms The tides of Destiny, and so 'scape Death?' [13] 'The gales that blow from God must needs be faced With laboring oars and uncomplaining hearts.' [14]

52. 'More crafty in the ring,' [15] no doubt -- but not more public spirited, more self-effacing, more disciplined to circumstance, more indulgent to a neighbor's oversights.

53. If a deed can be accomplished to accord with that reason which men share with gods, there is nothing to fear. Where a chance of service presents itself, by some action that will go smoothly forward in obedience to the laws of our being, we need look for no harm.

54. In your power at all times and places there lies a pious acceptance of the day's happenings, a just dealing towards the day's associates, and a scrupulous attention to the day's impressions, lest any of them gain an entrance unverified.

55. Cast no side-glance at the instincts governing other men, but keep your eyes fixed on the goal whereto nature herself guides you -- the World-Nature speaking through circumstance, and your own nature speaking through the calls of duty. The acts of man should accord with his natural constitution; and while all other created things are constituted or the service of rational beings (in accordance with the general law by which the lower exists for the good of the higher), these latter are constituted to serve one another. Chief of all features in a man's constitution, therefore, is his duty to his kind. Next after that comes his obligation to resist the murmurs of the flesh; for it is the particular office of his reason and intellect to maintain such a fence around their own workings that they are not overborne by those of the senses or the impulses, both of which are animal in quality. Mind demands the premier place, and will not bow to their yoke; and rightly so, since nature has formed it to make use of all the rest. And thirdly, the constitution of a rational being should make him incapable of indiscretion, and proof against imposture. Let but Reason, the helmsman, steer a straight course, holding fast by these three principles, and be sure it will come by its own.

56. Take it that you have died today, and your life's story is ended; and henceforward regard what further time may be given you as an uncovenanted surplus, and live it out in harmony with nature.

57. Love nothing but that which comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny. For what could more aptly fit your needs?

58. In any predicament, have before your eyes the case of other men who greeted a like crisis with indignation, astonishment, and outcry. Where are they now? Nowhere. Then why wish to follow their example? Rather, leave another's humors to their own master or servant, and give all your attention to turning the event itself to some good account. In this way you will be making the best use of it, and it will serve you as working material. In every action let your own self-approval be the sole aim both of your effort and of your intention; bearing in mind that the event itself which prompted your action is a thing of no consequence to either of them.

59. Dig within. There lies the well-spring of good: ever dig, and it will ever flow.

60. Also let your bodily carriage be firm, and without contortions, whether in motion or at rest. As the mind reveals itself in the face, by keeping the features composed and decent, so the same should be required of it in respect of the whole body. All this, however, must be ensured without any sort of affectation.

61. The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in as much as it, too, demands a firm and watchful stance against any unexpected onset.

62. Always get to know the characters of those whose approval you wish to earn, and the nature of their guiding principles. Look into the sources of their opinions and their motives, and then you will not blame any of their involuntary offences, or feel the want of their approbation.

63. 'No soul', it has been said, 'forfeits truth wilfully.' And the same holds good for justice, self-control, kindliness, or any other virtue. Nothing needs to be kept in mind more constantly than this; it will help you to greater gentleness in all your dealings with people.

64. When in pain, always be prompt to remind yourself that there is nothing shameful about it and nothing prejudicial to the mind at the helm, which suffers no injury either in its rational or its social aspect. In most cases the saying of Epicurus should prove helpful, that 'Pain is never unbearable or unending, so long as you remember its limitations and do not indulge in fanciful exaggerations.' Bear in mind also that, though we do not realize it, many other things which we find uncomfortable are, in fact, of the same nature as pain: feelings of lethargy, for example, or a feverish temperature, or loss of appetite. When inclined to grumble at any of these, tell yourself that you are giving in to pain.

65. When men are inhuman, take care not to feel towards them as they do towards other humans.

66. How do we know that Telauges [16] may not have been a better man than Socrates? It is all very well to argue that Socrates died a finer death, or disputed more acutely with the sophists, or stood up more hardily to the rigors of a frosty night; that he spiritedly resisted the order to arrest Leon of Salamis, [18] or 'stalked the streets in majesty' [19] (though the truth of this last may well be questioned)--but the real point to consider is, What kind of a soul did he have? Did he ask nothing more than to be found just towards men and pure before the gods? Did he avoid either resentment at the vices of others or submission to their ignorance? Did he accept what destiny assigned to him, not looking on it as something unnatural, nor suffering it as an unbearable affliction, nor allowing his mind to be influenced by the experiences of the flesh?

67. Nature has not blended mind so inextricably with body as to prevent it from establishing its own frontiers and controlling its own domain. It is perfectly possible to be godlike, even though unrecognized as such. Always keep that in mind; and also remember that the needs of a happy life are very few. Mastery of dialectics or physics may have eluded you, but that is no reason to despair of achieving freedom, self-respect, unselfishness, and obedience to the will of God.

68. Live out your days in untroubled serenity, refusing to be coerced though the whole world deafen you with its demands, and though wild beasts rend piecemeal this poor envelope of clay. In all that, nothing can prevent the mind from possessing itself in peace, from correctly assessing the events around it, and from making prompt use of the material thus offered; so that judgment may say to the event, 'This is what you are in essence, no matter how rumor paints you,' and service may say to the opportunity, 'You are what I was looking for.' The occurrence of the moment is always good material for the employment of reason and brotherliness -- in a word, for the practices proper to men or gods. For not a thing ever happens but has its special pertinence to god or man; it arrives as no novel intractable problem, but as an old and serviceable friend.

69. To live each day as though one's last, never flustered, never apathetic, never attitudinizing--here is the perfection of character.

70. The gods, though they live for ever, feel no resentment at having to put up eternally with the generations of men and their misdeeds; nay more, they even show every possible care and concern for them. Are you, then, whose abiding is but for a moment, to lose patience -- you who are yourself one of the culprits?

71. How ridiculous not to flee from one's own wickedness, which is possible, yet endeavor to flee from another's, which is not.

72. Whatever the reasoning and social faculty finds unthinking or unbrotherly, it can reasonably pronounce interior to itself.

73. When you have done a good action, and another has had the benefit of it, why crave for yet more in addition -- applause for your kindness, or some favor in return -- as the foolish do?

74. No man tires of receiving benefits. But benefit comes from doing acts that accord with nature. Never tire, then, of receiving such benefits through the very act of conferring them.

75. Universal Nature's impulse was to create an orderly world. It follows, then, that everything now happening must follow a logical sequence; if it were not so, the prime purpose towards which the impulses of the World-Reason are directed would be an irrational one. Remembrance of this will help you to face many things more calmly.

_________________

Notes:

1. This is the meaning of eudaimonia, the Greek word for happiness.

2. Republic, 486

3. Euripedes, Bellerophon, Frag. 289.

4. Source unknown.

5. Euripedes, Hypsipyle, Frag. 757

7. Euripedes, Frag. 910

8. Source Unknown

9. Apology, 28 B.

10. Apology, 28E.

11. Gorgias, 512 DE.

12. In the Greek, literally 'a better thrower-down'. The word occurs in one of Plutarch's anecdotes, where a crestfallen Spartan wrestler complains that his victorious opponent was 'not any brainier, not any brawnier, merely a better thrower-down'. The story seems to have put Marcus in mind of some contemporary political figure.

13. Euripides, Chrysippus, Frag. 836

14. Euripides, Suppliants, 1110.

15. Source unknown

16. The son of Pythagoras, and according to some the teacher of Empedocles (Diogenes Laertius, viii, 43).

17. Plato, quoted by Epictetus (I, xxviii, 4).

18. During the reign of terror by the Thirty which succeeded the overthrow of democracy at Athens in 403 B.C., many unoffending persons were put to death. When Socrates, with four others, was commanded to arrest an honest citizen, Leon of Salamis, he sturdily refused to carry out the tyrants' bidding.

19. One of Aristophane's many gibes at Socrates (Clouds, 362)
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:14 am

Book 8

I. It will tend to avert complacency if you remember that any claim to have lived as a philosopher all your life, or even since reaching manhood, is now out of the question; indeed, it is as evident to many others as it is to yourself that even today philosophy is still far beyond you. Consequently your mind remains in a state of confusion, and it grows no easier to earn the title of philosopher; also, your station in life militates constantly against it. Once all this is seen in its true light, you should banish any thoughts of how you may appear to others, and rest content if you can make the remainder of your life what nature would have it to be. Learn to understand her will, and let nothing else distract you. Up to now, all your wanderings in search of the good life have been unsuccessful; it was not to be found in the casuistries of logic, nor in wealth, celebrity, worldly pleasures, or anything else. Where, then, lies the secret? In doing what man's nature seeks. How so? By adopting strict principles for the regulation of impulse and action. Such as? Principles regarding what is good or bad for us: thus, for example, that nothing can be good for a man unless it helps to make him just, self-disciplined, courageous, and independent; and nothing bad unless it has the contrary effect.

2. Of any action, ask yourself, What will its consequences be to me? Shall I repent of it? Before long I shall be dead and all will be forgotten; but in the meantime, if this undertaking is fit for a rational and social being, who is under the same law as God himself, why look for more?

3. Alexander, Caesar, Pompey -- what were they beside Diogenes, Heraclitus, Socrates? These last looked at things and their causes and what they are made of; and their master spirits were cast in one mould. But the others--what a host of cares, what an infinity of enslavements!

4. You may break your heart, but men will still go on as before.

5. The first rule is, to keep an untroubled spirit; for all things must bow to Nature's law, and soon enough you must vanish into nothingness, like Hadrian and Augustus. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are, remembering that it is your duty to be a good man. Do without flinching what man's nature demands; say what seems to you most just--though with courtesy, modesty, and sincerity.

6. Universal Nature's task is to shuffle, transpose, interchange, remove from one state and transfer to another. Everywhere there is change; and yet we need fear nothing unexpected, for all things are ruled by age-long wont, and even the manner of apportioning them does not vary.

7. Every nature finds its satisfaction in the smooth pursuance of its own road. To a nature endowed with reason, this means assenting to no impression that is misleading or obscure, giving rein to no impulse towards actions that are not social, limiting all desires or rejections to things that lie within its own power, and greeting every dispensation of Nature with an equal welcome. For these dispensations are as truly a part of her as a leaf's nature is part of the plant's; save that the leaf's is part of a nature which has no feelings or reason, and is capable of being frustrated, while man's nature is part of one which not only cannot be frustrated, but also is endowed with both intelligence and justice, since it assigns to all men equally their proper share of time, being, causation, activity, and experiences. (Do not look to find this equality, though, in any exact correspondence between one man and another in every particular, but rather in a general comparison of them both in their entirety.)

8. You cannot hope to be a scholar. But what you can do is to curb arrogance; what you can do is to rise above pleasures and pains; you can be superior to the lure of popularity; you can keep your temper with the foolish and ungrateful, yes, and even care for them.

9. Let no one, not even yourself, ever hear you abusing court life again.

10. Repentance is remorse for the loss of some helpful opportunity. Now, what is good is always helpful, and must be the Concern of every good man; but an opportunity of pleasure is something no good man would ever repent of having let pass. It follows, therefore, that pleasure is neither good nor helpful.

11. Ask yourself, What is this thing in itself, by its own special constitution? What is it in substance, and in form, and in matter? What is its function in the world? For how long does it subsist?

12. When it is hard to shake off sleep, remind yourself that to be going about the duties you owe society is to be obeying the laws of man's nature and your own constitution, whereas sleep is something we share with the unreasoning brute creation; and furthermore, that obedience to one's own nature is the more proper, the more suitable, and indeed the more agreeable course.

13. If possible, make it a habit to discover the essential character of every impression, its effects on the self, and its response to a logical analysis.

14. No matter whom you meet, always begin by asking yourself, What are his views on the goodness, or badness of things? For then, if his beliefs about pleasure and pain and their causes, or about repute and disrepute, or life and death are of a certain type, I shall not be surprised or scandalized to find his actions in keeping with them; I shall tell myself that he has no choice.

15. Nobody is surprised when a fig-tree brings forth figs. Similarly, we ought to be ashamed of our surprise when the world produces its normal crop of happenings. A physician or a shipmaster would blush to be surprised if a patient proves feverish, or a wind contrary.

16. To change your mind and defer to correction is not to sacrifice your independence; for such an act is your own, in pursuance of your own impulse, your own judgment, and your own thinking.

17. If the choice is yours, why do the thing? If another's, where are you to lay the blame for it? On gods? On atoms? Either would be insanity. All thoughts of blame are out of place. If you can, correct the offender; if not, correct the offence; if that too is impossible, what is the point of recriminations? Nothing is worth doing pointlessly.

18. That which dies does not drop out of the world. Here it remains; and here too, therefore, it changes and is resolved into its several particles; that is, into the elements which go to form the universe and yourself. They themselves likewise undergo change, and yet from them comes no complaint.

19. Everything -- a horse, a vine -- is created for some duty. This is nothing to wonder at: even the sun-god himself will tell you, 'There is a work that I am here to do,' and so will all the other sky-dwellers. For what task, then, were you yourself created? For pleasure? Can such a thought be tolerated?

20. Nature always has an end in view; and this aim includes a thing's ending as much as its beginning or its duration. She is like the ball's thrower. Is the ball itself bettered by its upward flight? Is it any worse as it comes down, or as it lies after its fall? What does a bubble gain by holding together, or lose by collapsing? The like is true of a candle, too.

21. Turn this mortal body inside out, and now see the appearance it presents. See what it comes to in old age, or sickness, or decay. How fleeting are the lives of him alike who praises and him who is praised; of the rememberer and the remembered; how small their little corner of this terrestrial zone -- and even there they are not all at peace with one another. Nay, the whole earth is itself no more than the puniest dot.

22. Give it the whole of your attention, whether it be a material object, an action, a principle, or the meaning of what is being said. This disappointment serves you right. You would rather hope for goodness tomorrow than practice it today.

23. In what I do, I am to do it with reference to the service of mankind. In what befalls me, I am to accept it with reference to the gods, and to that universal source from which the whole close-linked chain of circumstance has its issue.

24. What do the baths bring to your mind? Oil, sweat, dirt, greasy water, and everything that is disgusting. Such, then, is life in all its parts, and such is every material thing in it.

25. Death robbed Lucilla of Verus [1] and later claimed Lucilla too. Death took Maximus from Secunda, then Secunda herself; Diotimus from Epitynchanus, and Epitynchanus after him; Faustina from Antoninus, and Antoninus in his turn. So it is ever. Celer buries Hadrian, and is buried himself. Those noble minds of old, those men of prescience, those men of pride, where are they now? Keen wits like Charax, Demetrius the Platonist, Eudaemon, and others like them; all enduring but for a day, all now long since dead and gone; some forgotten as soon as dead, some passed into legend, some faded even out of legend itself. Bethink you then how either this complex body of your own must also one day be broken up in dispersion, or else the breath that animates it must be extinguished, or removed and translated elsewhere.

26. A man's true delight is to do the things he was made for. He was made to show goodwill to his kind, to rise above the promptings of his senses, to distinguish appearances from realities, and to pursue the study of universal Nature and her works.

27. We have three relationships: one to this bodily shell which envelops us, one to the divine Cause which is the source of everything in all things, and one to our fellow-mortals around us.

28. Pain must be an evil either to the body -- in which case let the body speak for itself -- or if not, to the soul. But the soul can always refuse to consider it an evil, and so keep its skies unclouded and its calm unruffled. For there is no decision, no impulse, no movement of approach or recoil, but must proceed from within the self; and into this self no evil can force its way.

29. Erasing all fancies, keep on saying to yourself, 'It lies in my own hands to ensure that no viciousness, cupidity, or turmoil of any kind finds a home in this soul of mine; it lies with me to perceive all things in their true light, and to deal with each of them as it merits.' Remember this authority, which is nature's gift to you.

30. Both in the senate and when addressing individuals, use language that is seemly but not rhetorical. Be sane and wholesome in your speech.

31. Think of the court of Augustus: wife, daughter, children, grandsires, sister, Agrippa, [2] kindred, connexions, friends, Areius, Maecenas, medical attendants, priests--an entire court, all vanished. Turn to other records of eclipse; extinctions not of individuals but of whole stocks -- the Pompeys, for example -- and the inscription we see on memorials, 'The last of his house.' Think of all the pains taken by their predecessors to leave an heir after them; and yet in the end someone must be the last, and one more whole race has perished.

32. Your every separate action should contribute towards an integrated life; and if each of them, so far as it can, does its part to this end, be satisfied; for that is something which nobody can prevent. 'There will be interferences from without,' you say? Even so, they will not affect the justice, prudence, and reasonableness of your intentions. 'No, but some kind of practical action may be prevented.' Perhaps; yet if you submit to the frustration with a good grace, and are sensible enough to accept what offers itself instead, you can substitute some alternative course which will be equally consistent with the integration we are speaking of.

33. Accept modestly; surrender gracefully.

34. You have perhaps seen a severed hand or foot, or a head lying by itself apart from its body. That is the state to which a man is doing his best to reduce himself, when he refuses to accept what befalls him and breaks way from his fellows, or when he acts for selfish ends alone. Then you become an outcast from the unity of Nature; though born a part of it, you have cut yourself away with your own hand. Yet here is the beautiful thought: that it still lies in your own power to reunite yourself. No other part of creation has been so favored by God with permission to come together again, after once being sundered and divided. Behold, then, his goodness, with which he has dignified man: he has put it in his power, not only initially to keep himself inseparate from the whole, but afterwards, if separated, to return and be reunited and resume his membership as before.

35. When the Nature of all things rational equipped each rational being with his powers, one of the faculties we received from her hand was this, that just as she herself transmutes every obstacle or opposition, fits it into its place in destiny's pattern, and assimilates it into herself, so a rational being has power to turn each hindrance into material for himself, and use it to set forward his own endeavors.

36. Never confuse yourself by visions of an entire lifetime at once. That is, do not let your thoughts range over the whole multitude and variety of the misfortunes that may befall you, but rather, as you encounter each one, ask yourself, 'What is there unendurable, so insupportable, in this?' You will find that you are ashamed to admit defeat. Again, remember that it is not the weight of the future or the past that is pressing upon you, but ever that of the present alone. Even this burden, too, can be lessened if you confine it strictly to its own limits, and are severe enough with your mind's inability to bear such a trifle.

37. Are Pantheia [3] or Pergamus still sitting to this day by the tomb of Verus? Chabrias or Diotimus by Hadrian's? Ridiculous! And supposing they were, would the dead be sensible of it? Or if sensible, pleased? Moreover, even if the dead themselves were pleased, could the mourners, for their part, be expected to go on living for ever? Were not they likewise doomed to become old men and old women, and to pass away in their turn? -- and then what could the mourned do, when their mourners were no more? And all this for nothing more than a bagful of stench and corruption.

38. In the words of Crito the sage, 'If thou hast eyes to see, then see.'

39. In the constitution of a rational being, I find no virtue implanted for the combating of justice, but I do find self-control implanted for the combating of pleasure.

40. Subtract your own notions of what you imagine to be painful, and then your self stands invulnerable. 'My self--what is it?' Your reason. 'But I am not all reason.' So be it; in that case, at least let your reason forbear to give pain to itself, and if another part of you is in trouble, let its thoughts about itself be its own concern.

41. To the nature of the vital force animating our bodies, any frustration of the senses is an evil, and so is the frustration of any endeavor. The nature of a plant has likewise its own frustrations and its evils; and in the same way, any frustration of the mind is an evil to the nature of the mind. Apply all this to your own case. Does a pain affect you, or a pleasure? The senses will see to that. Have you been baulked in an endeavor? It is true that if it was made without any allowance for possible failure, such frustration is indeed an evil to you as a rational being. However, once you accept that universal necessity, you can suffer no harm and no frustration. Within its own domain, there is nobody who can frustrate the mind. Fire, sword, oppression, calumny, and all else are powerless to touch it. 'The globe, once orbed and true, remains a sphere.' [4]

42. I, who have never wilfully pained another, have no business to pain myself.

43. To each his own felicity. For me, soundness of my sovereign faculty, reason; no shrinking from mankind and its vicissitudes; the ability to survey and accept all things with a kindly eye, and to deal with them according to their deserts.

44. Make the best of today. Those who aim instead at tomorrow's plaudits fail to remember that future generations will be nowise different from the contemporaries who so try their patience now, and nowise less mortal. In any case, can it matter to you how the tongues of posterity may wag, or what views of yourself it may entertain?

45. Take me and cast me where you will; I shall still be possessor of the divinity within me, serene and content so long as it can feel and act as becomes its constitution. Is the matter of such moment that my soul should be afflicted by it, and changed for the worse, to become a cowering craven thing, suppliant and spiritless? Could anything at all be of such consequence as that?

46. No event can happen to a man but what is properly incidental to man 's condition, nor to an ox, vine, or stone but what properly belongs to the nature of oxen, vines, and stones. Then if all things experience only what is customary and natural to them, why complain? The same Nature which is yours as well as theirs brings you nothing you cannot bear.

47. If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. If the cause of the trouble lies in your own character, set about reforming your principles; who is there to hinder you? If it is the failure to take some apparently sound course of action that is vexing you, then why not take it, instead of fretting? 'Because there is an insuperable obstacle in the way.' In that case, do not worry; the responsibility for inaction is not yours. 'But life is not worth living with this thing undone.' Why then, bid life a good-humored farewell; accepting the frustration gracefully, and dying like any other man whose actions have not been inhibited.

48. Remember that your higher Self becomes invincible when once it withdraws into itself and calmly refuses to act against its will, even though such resistance may be wholly irrational. How much more, then, when its decision is based on reason and circumspection! Thus a mind that is free from passion is a very citadel; man has no stronger fortress in which to seek shelter and defy every assault. Failure to perceive this is ignorance; but to perceive it, and still not to seek its refuge, is misfortune indeed.

49. Never go beyond the sense of your original impressions. These tell you that such-and-such a person is speaking ill of you; that was their message; they did not go on to say it has done you any harm. I see my child is ill; my eyes tell me that, but they do not suggest that his life is in danger. Always, then, keep to the original impressions; supply no additions of your own, and you are safe. Or at least, add only a recognition of the great world-order by which all things are brought to pass.

50. Is your cucumber bitter? Throw it away. Are there briars in your path? Turn aside. That is enough. Do not go on to say, 'Why were things of this sort ever brought into the world?' The student of nature will only laugh at you; just as a carpenter or a shoemaker would laugh, if you found fault with the shavings and scraps from their work which you saw in the shop. Yet they, at least, have somewhere to throw their litter; whereas Nature has no such out-place. That is the miracle of her workmanship: that in spite of this self-limitation, she nevertheless transmutes into herself everything that seems worn-out or old or useless, and re-fashions it into new creations, so as never to need either fresh supplies from without, or place to discard her refuse. Her own space, her own materials and her own skill are sufficient for her.

51. Dilatory action, incoherent conversation, vague impressions; a soul too inwardly cramped; a soul too outwardly effusive; a life without room for leisure -- avoid such things. Martyrdom, mutilation, execration; how can they affect the mind's ability to remain pure, sane, temperate, just? A man may stand by a clear spring of sweet water and heap abusive words upon it, yet it still goes on welling up fresh and wholesome; he may even cast in mire and filth, but it will quickly dissolve them and wash them away, and show no stain. How be lord yourself of such a perennial fountain? By safeguarding the right to be your own master every hour of the day, in all charity, simplicity and modesty.

52. Without an understanding of the nature of the universe, a man cannot know where he is; without an understanding of its purpose, he cannot know what he is, nor what the universe itself is. Let either of these discoveries be hid from him, and he will not be able so much as to give a reason for his own existence. So what are we to think of anyone who cares to seek or shun the applause of the shouting multitudes, when they know neither where they are nor what they are?

53. Would you wish for the praise of one who thrice an hour calls down curses on his own head? Would you please one who cannot even please himself? And how can a man be pleased with himself, when he repents of well-nigh everything he does?

54. As your breathing partakes of the circumfluent air, so let your thinking partake of the circumfluent Mind. For there is a mental Force which, for him who can draw it to himself, is no less ubiquitous and all-pervading than is the atmosphere for him who can breathe it.

55. The general wickedness of mankind cannot injure the universe; nor can the particular wickedness of one man injure a fellow-man. It harms none but the culprit himself; and he can free himself from it as soon as he so chooses.

56. My neighbor's will is of no greater concern to my will than his breath or his flesh. No matter how much we are made for one another, still each man's self has its own sovereign rights. Otherwise my neighbor's wickedness would become my evil; and God has not willed this, lest the ruin of my happiness should lie at another's disposal.

57. The sun is seen to pour down and expend itself in all directions, yet is never exhausted. For this downpouring is but a self-extension; sunbeams, in fact, derive their very name from a word signifying 'to be extended'. To understand the property of a sunbeam, watch the light as it streams into a darkened room through a narrow chink. It prolongs itself forward in a straight line, until it is held up by encountering some solid body which blocks its passage to the air beyond; and then it remains at rest there, without slipping off or falling away. The emission, and the diffusion, of thought should be the counterpart of this: not exhausting, but simply extending itself; not dashing violently or furiously against the obstacles it encounters, or yet falling away in despair; but holding its ground and lighting up that upon which it rests. Failure to transmit it is mere self-deprivation of light.

58. He who fears death either fears to lose all sensation or fears new sensations. In reality, you will either feel nothing at all, and therefore nothing evil, or else, if you can feel any new sensations, you will be a new creature, and so will not have ceased to have life.

59. Men exist for each other. Then either improve them, or put up with them.

60. An arrow travels in one fashion, but the mind in another. Even when the mind is feeling its way cautiously and working round a problem from every angle, it is still moving directly onwards and making for its goal.

61. Enter into the ruling principle of your neighbor's mind, and suffer him to enter into yours.

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Notes:

1. Lucilla and Verus were Marcus's own parents. Maximus was the teacher to whom he refers with gratitude in 1, 15, and Secunda that philosopher's wife. Epitynchanus and Diotimus are unknown. The emperor Antoninus, who was married to Faustina, was the adoptive father of Marcus. Celer was secretary to the emperor Hadrian. Of Charax we know nothing. By Demetrius is perhaps meant Demetrius of Phaleron, the last of the famous Athenian orators and statesmen, to whom Marcus alludes again in IX, 29. Eudaemon is said to have been an astrologer of repute.

2. Agrippa and Maecenus were the two chief ministers of Augustus, having between them the management of almost all public affairs. Areius the philosopher was his personal friend and counselor.

3. According to Lucian, Pantheia was the mistress, and Pergamus a freedman, of Verus, Marcus's imperial colleague.

4. Empedocles.
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:15 am

Book 9

I. Injustice is a sin. Nature has constituted rational beings for their own mutual benefit, each to help his fellows according to their worth, and in no wise to do them hurt; and to contravene her will is plainly to sin against this eldest of all the deities. Untruthfulness, too, is a sin, and against the same goddess. For Nature is the nature of Existence itself; and existence connotes the kinship of all created beings. Truth is but another name for this Nature, the original creator of all true things. So, where a willful lie is a sin because the deception is an act of injustice, an involuntary lie is also a sin because it is a discordant note in Nature's harmony, and creates mutinous disorder in an orderly universe. For mutinous indeed it is, when a man lets himself be carried, even involuntarily, into a position contrary to truth; seeing that he has so neglected the faculties Nature gave him that he is no longer able to distinguish the false from the true.

Again, it is a sin to pursue pleasure as a good and to avoid pain as an evil. It is bound to result in complaints that Nature is unfair in her rewarding of vice and virtue; since it is the bad who are so often in enjoyment of pleasures and the means to obtain them, while pains and events that occasion pains, descend upon the heads of the good. Besides, if a man is afraid of pain, he is afraid of something happening which will be part of the appointed order of things, and this is itself a sin; if he is bent on the pursuit of pleasure, he will not stop at acts of injustice, which again is manifestly sinful. No; when Nature herself makes no distinction -- and if she did, she would not have brought pains and pleasures into existence side by side -- it behooves those who would follow in her footsteps to be like-minded and exhibit the same indifference. He therefore who does not view with equal unconcern pain or pleasure, death or life, fame or dishonor -- all of them employed by Nature without any partiality -- clearly commits a sin. And in saying that nature employs them without partiality, I mean that every successive generation of created things equally passes through the same experiences in turn; for this is the outcome of the original impulse which in the beginning moved Providence--by taking certain germs of future existences, and endowing them with productive powers of self-realization, of mutation, and of succession--to progress from the inception of the universe to its present orderly system.

2. A man of finer feelings would have taken leave of the world before ever sampling its falsehood, double-dealing, luxury, and pride; but now that all these have been tasted to satiety, the next best course would be to end your life forthwith. Or are you really resolved to go on dwelling in the midst of iniquity, and has experience not yet persuaded you to flee from the pestilence? For infection of the mind is a far more dangerous pestilence than any unwholesomeness or disorder in the atmosphere around us. Insofar as we are animals, the one attacks our lives; but as men, the other attacks our manhood.

3. Despise not death; smile, rather, at its coming; it is among the things that Nature wills. Like youth and age, like growth and maturity, like the advent of teeth, beard, and grey hairs, like begetting, pregnancy, and childbirth, like every other natural process that life's seasons bring us, so is our dissolution. Never, then, will a thinking man view death lightly, impatiently, or scornfully; he will wait for it as but one more of Nature's processes. Even as you await the baby's emergence from the womb of your wife, so await the hour when the little soul shall glide forth from its sheath.

But if your heart would have comfort of a simpler sort, then there is no better solace in the face of death than to think on the nature of the surroundings you are leaving, and the characters you will no longer have to mix with. Not that you must find these offensive; rather, your duty is to care for them and bear with them mildly; yet never forget that you are parting from men of far other principles than your own. One thing, if any, might have held you back and bound you to life; the chance of fellowship with kindred minds. But when you contemplate the weariness of an existence in company so discordant, you cry, 'Come quickly, Death, lest I too become forgetful of myself.'

4. The sinner sins against himself; the wrongdoer wrongs himself, becoming the worse by his own action.

5. A man does not sin by commission only, but often by omission.

6. Enough if your present opinion be grounded in conviction, your present action grounded in unselfishness, and your present disposition contented with whatever befalls you from without.

7. Erase fancy; curb impulse; quench desire; let sovereign reason have the mastery.

8. A single life-principle is divided amongst all irrational creatures, and a single mind-principle distributed among the rational; just as this one earth gives form to all things earthy, and just as all of us who have sight and breath see by the self-same light and breathe of the self-same air.

9. All things that share the same element tend to seek their own kind. Things earthy gravitate towards earth, things aqueous flow towards one another, things aerial likewise -- hence the need for the barriers which keep them forcibly part. The tendency of flames is to mount skyward, because of the elemental fire; even here below, they are so eager for the company of their own kind that any sort of material, if it be reasonably dry, will ignite with ease, since there is only a minority of its ingredients which is resistant to fire. In the same way, therefore, all portions of the universal Mind are drawn towards one another. More strongly, indeed; since, being higher in the scale of creation, their eagerness to blend and combine with their affinities is proportionately keener. This instinct for reunion shows itself in its first stage among the creatures without reason, when we see bees swarming, cattle herding, birds nesting in colonies, and couples mating; because in them soul has already emerged, and in such relatively higher forms of life as theirs the desire for union is found at a level of intensity which is not present in stones or sticks. When we come to beings with reason, there are political associations, comradeships, family life, public meetings, and in times of war treaties and armistices; and among the still higher orders, a measure of unity even exists between bodies far separated from one another -- as for example with the stars. Thus ascent in the ranks of creation can induce fellow-feeling even where there is no proximity.

Yet now see what happens. It is we -- we, intelligent beings -- who alone have forgotten this mutual zeal for unity; among us alone the currents are not seen to converge. Nevertheless, though man may flee as he will, he is still caught and held fast; Nature is too strong for him. Observe with care, and you will see: you will sooner find a fragment of earth unrelated to the rest of earth than a man who is utterly without some link with his fellows.

10. Everything bears fruit; man, God, the whole universe, each in its proper season. No matter that the phrase is restricted in common use to vines and such like. Reason, too, yields fruit, both for itself and for the world; since from it comes a harvest of other good things, themselves all bearing the stamp of reason.

11. Teach them better, if you can; if not, remember that kindliness has been given you for moments like these. The gods themselves show kindness to such men; and at times, so indulgent are they, will even aid them in their endeavors to secure health, wealth, or reputation. This you too could do; who is there to hinder you?

12. Work yourself hard, but not as if you were being made a victim, and not with any desire for sympathy or admiration. Desire one thing alone: that your actions or inactions alike should be worthy of a reasoning citizen.

13. Today I have got myself out of all my perplexities; or rather, I have got the perplexities out of myself -- for they were not without, but within; they lay in my own outlook.

14. Everything is banal in experience, fleeting in duration, or sordid in content; in all respects the same today as generations now dead and buried have found it to be.

15. Facts stand wholly outside our gates; they are what they are, and no more; they know nothing about themselves, and they pass no judgment upon themselves. What is it, then, that pronounces the judgment? Our own guide and ruler, reason.

16. A rational and social being is not affected in himself for either better or worse by his feelings, but by his will; just as his outward behavior, good or bad, is the product of will, not of feelings.

17. For the thrown stone there is no more evil in falling than there is good in rising.

18. Penetrate into their inmost minds, and you will see what manner of critics you are afraid of, and how capable they are of criticizing themselves.

19. All things are in process of change. You yourself are ceaselessly undergoing transformation, and the decay of some of your parts, and so is the whole universe.

20. Leave another's wrongdoing where it lies.

21. In the interruption of an activity, or the discontinuance and, as it were, death of an impulse, or an opinion, there is no evil. Look back at the phases of your own growth: childhood, boyhood, youth, age: each change itself a kind of death. Was this so frightening? Or take the lives you lived under your grandfather and then under your mother and then your father; trace the numerous differences and changes and discontinuances there were in those days, and ask yourself, 'Were they so frightening?' No more so, then, is the cessation, the interruption, the change from life itself.

22. Your own mind, the Mind of the universe, your neighbor's mind -- be prompt to explore them all. Your own, so that you may shape it to justice; the universe's, that you may recollect what it is you are a part of; your neighbor's, that you may understand whether it is informed by ignorance or knowledge, and also may recognize that it is kin to your own.

23. As a unit yourself, you help to complete the social whole; and similarly, therefore, your every action should help to complete the social life. Any action which is not related either directly or remotely to this social end disjoints that life, and destroys its unity. It is as much the act of a schismatic as when some citizen in a community does his utmost to dissociate himself from the general accord.

24. Childish squabbles, childish games, 'petty breaths supporting corpses' -- why, the ghosts in Homer have more evident reality!

25. First get at the nature and quality of the original cause, separate it from the material to which it has given shape, and study it; then determine the possible duration of its effects.

26. The woes you have had to bear are numberless because you were not content to let reason, your guide and master, do its natural work. Come now, no more of this!

27. When those about you are venting their censure or malice upon you, or raising any other sort of injurious clamor, approach and penetrate into their souls, and see what manner of men they are. You will find little enough reason for all your painstaking efforts to win their good opinion. All the same, it still remains your duty to think kindly of them; for Nature has made them to be your friends, and even the gods themselves lend them every sort of help, by dreams and by oracles, to gain the ends on which their hearts are set.

28. Upwards and downwards, [1] from age to age, the cycles of the universe follow their unchanging round. It may be that the World-Mind wills each separate happening in succession; and if so, then accept the consequences. Or, it may be, there was but one primal act of will, of which all else is the sequel; every event being thus the germ of another. To put it another way, things are either isolated units, or they form one inseparable whole. If that whole be God, then all is well; but if aimless chance, at least you need not be aimless also.

Soon earth will cover us all. Then in time earth, too, will change; later, what issues from this change will itself in turn incessantly change, and so again will all that then takes its place, even unto the world's end. To let the mind dwell on these swiftly rolling billows of change and transformation is to know a contempt for all things mortal.

29. The primal Cause is like a river in flood; it bears everything along. How ignoble are the little men who play at politics and persuade themselves that they are acting in the true spirit of philosophy. Babes, incapable even of wiping their noses! What then, you who are a man? Why, do what nature is asking of you at this moment. Set about it as the opportunity offers, and no glancing around to see if you are observed. But do not expect Plato's ideal commonwealth; be satisfied if even a trifling endeavor comes off well, and count the result no mean success. For who can hope to alter men 's convictions; and without change of conviction what can there be but grudging subjection and feigned assent? Oh yes; now go on and talk to me of Alexander, and Philip, and Demetrius of Phaleron. [2] If those men did in truth understand the will of Nature and school themselves to follow it, that is their own affair. But if it was nothing more than a stage-role they were playing, no court has condemned me to imitate their example. Philosophy is a modest profession, all simplicity and plain dealing. Never try to seduce me into solemn pretentiousness.

30. Look down from above on the numberless herds of mankind, with their mysterious ceremonies, their divers voyagings in storm and calm, and all the chequered pattern of their comings and gatherings and goings. Go on to consider the life of bygone generations; and then the life of all those who are yet to come; and even at the present day, the life of the hordes of far-off savages. In short, reflect what multitudes there are who are ignorant of your very name; how many more will have speedily forgotten it; how many, perhaps praising you now, who will soon enough be abusing you; and that therefore remembrance, glory, and all else together are things of no worth.

31. When beset from without by circumstance, be unperturbed; when prompted from within to action, be just and fair: in fine, let both will and deed issue in behavior that is social and fulfills the law of your being.

32. Many of the anxieties that harass you are superfluous: being but creatures of your own fancy, you can rid yourself of them and expand into an ampler region, letting your thought sweep over the entire universe, contemplating the illimitable tracts of eternity, marking the swiftness of change in each created thing, and contrasting the brief span between birth and dissolution with the endless eons that precede the one and the infinity that follows the other.

33. A little while, and all that is before your eyes now will have perished. Those who witness its passing will go the same road themselves before long; and then what will there be to choose between the oldest grandfather and the baby that died in its cradle?

34. Observe the instincts that guide these men; the ends they struggle for; the grounds on which they like and value things. In short, picture their souls laid bare. Yet they imagine their praises or censures have weight to help or hurt. What presumption!

35. Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature's delight. Ever since the world began, things have been ordered by her decree in the selfsame fashion as they are at this day, and as other similar things will be ordered to the end of time. How, then, can you say that it is all amiss, and ever will be so; that no power among all the gods in heaven can avail to mend it; and that the world lies condemned to a thraldom of ills without end?

36. The substance of us all is doomed to decay; the moisture and the clay, the bones, and the fetor. Our precious marble is but a callosity of the earth, our gold and silver her sediment; our raiment shreds of hair, our purple a fish's gore; and thus with all things else. So too is the very breath of our lives--ever passing as it does from this one to that.

37. Enough of this miserable way of life, these everlasting grumbles, these monkey antics. Why must you agitate yourself so? Nothing unprecedented is happening; so what is it that disturbs you? The form of t? Take a good look at it. The matter of it? Look well at that, too. Beyond form and matter, there is nothing more. Even at this late hour, set yourself to become a simpler and better man in the sight of he gods. For the mastering of that lesson, three years are as good as a hundred.

38. If he sinned, the harm is his own. Yet perhaps, after all, he did not.

39. Either things must have their origin in one single intelligent source, and all fall into place to compose, as it were, one single body--in which case no part ought to complain of what happens for the good of the whole--or else the world is nothing but atoms and their confused minglings and dispersions. So why be so harassed? Say to the Reason at your helm, 'Come, are you dead and in decay? Is this some part you are playing? Have you sunk to the level of a beast of the field, grazing and herding with the rest?

40. The gods either have power or they have not. If they have not, why pray to them? If they have, then instead of praying to be granted or spared such-and-such a thing, why not rather pray to be delivered from dreading it, or lusting for it, or grieving over it? Clearly, if they can help a man at all, they can help him in this way. You will say, perhaps, 'But all that is something they have put in my own power.' Then surely it were better to use your power and be a free man, than to hanker like a slave and a beggar for something that is not in your power. Besides, who told you the gods never lend their aid even towards things that do lie in our own power? Begin praying in this way, and you will see. Where another man prays 'Grant that I may possess this woman,' let your own prayer be, 'Grant that I may not lust to possess her.' Where he prays, 'Grant me to be rid of such-and-such a one,' you pray, 'Take from me my desire to be rid of him.' Where he begs, 'Spare me the loss of my precious child,' beg rather to be delivered from the terror of losing him. In short, give your petitions a turn in this direction, and see what comes.

41. 'When I was sick,' says Epicurus, 'I never used to talk about my bodily ailments. I did not,' he says, 'discuss any 'topics of that kind with my visitors. I went on dealing with the principles of natural philosophy; and the point I particularly dwelt on was how the mind, while having its part in all these commotions of the flesh, can still remain unruffled and pursue its own proper good. Nor,' he adds, 'did I give the doctors a chance to brag of their own triumphs; my life merely went on its normal way, smoothly and happily.' In sickness, then, if you are sick, or in trouble of any other kind, be like Epicurus. Never let go your hold on philosophy for anything that may befall, and never take part in the nonsense that is talked by the ignorant and uninstructed (this is a maxim on which all schools agree). Concentrate wholly on the task before you, and on the instrument you possess for its accomplishment.

42. When you are outraged by somebody's impudence, ask yourself at once, 'Can the world exist without impudent people?' It cannot; so do not ask for impossibilities. That man is simply one of the impudent whose existence is necessary to the world. Keep the same thought present, whenever you come across roguery, double-dealing or any other form of obliquity. You have only to remind yourself that the type is indispensable, and at once you will feel kindlier towards the individual. It is also helpful if you promptly recall what special quality Nature has given us to counter such particular faults. For there are antidotes with which she has provided us: gentleness to meet brutality, for example, and other correctives for other ills. Generally speaking, too, you have the opportunity of showing the culprit his blunder--for everyone who does wrong is failing of his proper objective, and is thereby a blunderer. Besides, what harm have you suffered? Nothing has been done by any of these victims of your irritation that could hurtfully affect your own mind; and it is in the mind alone that anything evil or damaging to the self can have reality. What is there wrong or surprising, after all, in a boor behaving boorishly? See then if it is not rather yourself you ought to blame, for not foreseeing that he would offend in this way. You, in virtue of your reason, have every means for thinking it probable that he would do so; you forgot this, and now his offence takes you by surprise. When you are indignant with anyone for his perfidy or ingratitude, turn your thoughts first and foremost upon yourself. For the error is clearly your own, if you have put any faith in the good faith of a man of that stamp, or, when you have done him a kindness, if it was not done unreservedly and in the belief that the action would be its own full reward. Once you have done a man a service, what more would you have? Is it not enough to have obeyed the laws of your own nature, without expecting to be paid for it? That is like the eye demanding a reward for seeing, or the feet for walking. It is for that very purpose that they exist; and they have their due in doing what they were created to do. Similarly, man is born for deeds of kindness; and when he has done a kindly action, or otherwise served the common welfare, he has done what he was made for, and has received his quittance.

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Notes:

1. Upwards and downwards; i.e., changing successively from fire to air, air to water, water to earth, and then back again in the reverse order, as Heraclitus taught. (See page 54, note 2.)

2. See page 126, note 1.
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:15 am

Book 10

1. O soul of mine, will you never be good and sincere, all one, all open, visible to the beholder more clearly than even your encompassing body of flesh? Will you never taste the sweetness of a loving and affectionate heart? Will you never be titled full and unwanting; craving nothing, yearning for no creature or thing to minister to your pleasures, no prolongation of days to enjoy them, no place or country or pleasant clime or sweet human company? When will you be content with your present state, happy in all about you, persuaded that all things are yours, that all comes from the gods, and that all is and shall be well with you, so long as it is their good pleasure and ordained by them for the safety and welfare of that perfect living Whole--so good, so just, so beautiful--which gives life to all things, upholding and enfolding them, and at their dissolution gathering them into itself so that yet others of their kind may spring forth? Will you never be fit for such fellowship with gods and men as to have no syllable of complaint against them, and no syllable of reproach from them?

2. Pay heed to what your particular nature requires of you, like one who is wholly under great Nature's governance. Do it and accept it, provided always that it promise no harm to your physical nature. Yet pay heed also to the requirements of that physical nature, and give assent to them all, unless they in turn promise harm to the rational nature (and by the rational is directly implied the social as well). Observe these rules, without wasting pains on other things.

3. Whatever befalls, Nature has either prepared you to face it or she has not. If something untoward happens which is within your powers of endurance, do not resent it, but bear it as she has enabled you to do. Should it exceed those powers, still do not give way to resentment; for its victory over you will put an end to its own existence. Remember, however, that in fact Nature has given you the ability to bear anything which your own judgment succeeds in declaring bearable and endurable by regarding it as a point of self-interest and duty to do so.

4. If a man makes a slip, admonish him gently and show him his mistake. If you fail to convince him, blame yourself, or else blame nobody.

5. Whatever may happen to you was prepared for you in advance from the beginning of time. In the woven tapestry of causation, the thread of our being had been intertwined from all time with that particular incident.

6. No matter whether the universe is a confusion of atoms or a natural growth, let my first conviction be that I am part of a Whole which is under Nature's governance; and my second, that a bond of kinship exists between myself and all other similar parts. If I bear these two thoughts in mind, then in the first place, being a part, I shall not feel aggrieved by any dispensation assigned to me from the Whole; since nothing which is beneficial for any whole can ever be harmful to a part, and in this case there is nothing contained in this Whole which is not beneficial to itself. (The same, indeed, could be said of every natural organism; but the nature of the universe has the further distinction that there is no cause outside itself which could ever compel it to produce anything harmful to itself.) In the remembrance, then, that I am a part of such a Whole, I shall cheerfully accept whatever may be my lot. In the second place, inasmuch as there is this bond of kinship between myself and my fellow-parts, I shall do nothing that might injure their common welfare, but keep those kindred parts always purposefully in view, directing every impulse towards their good and away from anything that runs counter to it. Thus doing, I cannot but find the current of my life flowing smoothly; as smoothly as we may imagine that of some public man whose actions are consistently serviceable to his fellow-townsfolk, and who is ready to welcome whatever task his city may assign him.

7. All parts of the Whole--by which I mean everything naturally comprehended in the universe--must in time decay; or to speak accurately, must suffer a change of form. If by its nature this change, besides being inevitable, were to be a positive evil to them, the smooth working of the Whole could never go on; for its parts are always heading towards some change of form or other, and are all constitutionally liable to decay in their respective ways. Did Nature, then, deliberately mean to inflict injury on things which are parts of herself, making them not simply liable to evil but inescapably doomed to it; or can it be that such things happen without her knowledge? Neither supposition merits any credence. Even supposing we leave Nature herself out of account altogether, and explain all this in terms of the normal order of creation, it is still absurd to say that this mutability of the parts of the Whole is normal if at the same time we are to feel as astonished or resentful at it as though it were some unnatural occurrence; the more so, since all that the parts are doing is merely to dissolve back into the constituents of their original composition. For after all, if dissolution is not simply a mere dispersion of the elements of which I am compounded, it must be a change of the grosser particles into earth-form, and the spiritual into air-form, so that they can all be re-absorbed into the universal Reason (no matter whether this is to be periodically consumed in flames, or to keep on perpetually renewing itself through eternal cycles of change). Observe, however, that these particles, gross and spiritual, must not be imagined to be those which we received at birth; seeing that our entire present structure has derived its increment from meats eaten and air breathed no longer ago than yesterday or the day before. What will undergo these changes, therefore, is not something our mother bore originally, but something we have received since. (Even if we admit that birth does, in fact, implicate us in great measure with these intrinsically mutable particles, I do not think it affects what I have said.)

8. If you claim for yourself such epithets as good, modest, truthful, clear- minded, right-minded, high-minded, be careful not to belie them; and if you should happen to forfeit them, lose no time in recovering them again. But remember that 'clear-mindedness' ought to suggest to you a discriminating consideration of each separate detail and a watchful attention to it; 'right- mindedness' a willing acceptance of all that Nature allots you; and 'high- mindedness' an elevation of the intellect above the workings of the flesh, be they smooth or harsh, and above vainglory, death or any other such distractions. Live up to these designations--though without craving to have them applied to you by others--and you will be a different man and enter upon a different life. To go on in your present state, continuing to be torn and soiled by an existence like this, is the way of a fool and a faint-heart; it smacks of the swordsman who has been mangled by beasts in the arena and covered with blood and bruises, and yet still pleads to be kept till the morrow, when he will only be flung again, wounds and all, to the same teeth and claws. So step on board this little raft of attributes, and if you can contrive it, stay there as though transported to the Isles of the Blest. But if you feel yourself drifting and unable to hold your course, pluck up heart and make for some quiet haven where you will be able to hold your own; or even bid farewell to life altogether, not in a passion but simply, freely, and unassumingly, with at least this one success in life to your credit, a seemly departure from it. In order to keep those attributes ever in mind, it will help greatly not to forget the gods; to remember that what they desire is not to be flattered but that everything which has reason should become like themselves; and also to recollect that a fig-tree is that which does a fig-tree's work, a dog that which does a dog's, a bee a bee's--and a man a man's.

9. Day by day the buffoonery, quarrelling, timidity, slothfulness, and servility that surround you will conspire to efface from your mind those hallowed maxims it apprehends so unphilosophically and dismisses so carelessly. What duty requires of you is to observe each single thing and perform each action in such a manner that, while the practical demands of a situation are fully met, the powers of thought are at the same time fully exercised; and also to maintain (in reserve, but never lost to sight) the self- confidence of one who has mastered every relevant detail. Are you never going to attain to the happiness of a real integrity and dignity? Of an understanding which comprehends the inmost being of each thing, its place in the world-order, the term of its natural existence, the structure of its composition, and to whom it belongs or who has the power of bestowing or withdrawing it?

10. A spider is proud of catching a fly; so is one man of trapping a hare, or another of netting a sprat, or a third of capturing boars or bears or Sarmatians. [1] If you go into the question of principles, are these anything but robbers one and all?

11. Make a habit of regularly observing the universal process of change; be assiduous in your attention to it, and school yourself thoroughly in this branch of study; there is nothing more elevating to the mind. For when a man realizes that at any moment he may have to leave everything behind him and depart from the company of his fellows, he casts off the body and thenceforward dedicates himself wholly to the service of justice in his personal actions and compliance with Nature in all else. No thought is wasted on what others may say or think of him or practice against him; two things alone suffice him, justice in his daily doings and contentment with all fate's apportionings. Every care, every distraction is laid aside; his only ambition is to walk in the straight paths of law, and by so doing to become a follower of God.

12. What need for guesswork when the way of duty lies there before your eyes? If the road be clear to see, go forward with a good will and no turning back; if not, wait and take the best advice you can. Should further obstacles arise, advance discreetly to the limit of your resources, always following where justice seems to point the way. To achieve justice is the summit of success, since it is herein that failure most often occurs.

13. Begin the day by asking yourself, Can the just and right conduct of another make any difference in myself? It cannot. Men who are arrogantly ready with their praise or censure, remember, are the same in their private lives, in bed and at board; recall the things they do, the things they avoid or run after, and the thieveries and depredations they commit -- not indeed with hands and feet, but with that most precious of all their possessions, which, if a man but will it so, is the source of faith, modesty, truth, law, and the good estate of the divinity within him.

!4. To Nature, whence all things come and whither all return, the cry of the humble and well-instructed heart is, 'Give as thou wilt, take back as thou wilt;' yet uttered with no heroics, but in pure obedience and goodwill.

15. Now your remaining years are few. Live them, then, as though on a mountaintop. Whether a man's lot be cast in this place or in that matters nothing, provided that in all places he views the world as a city and himself its citizen. Give men the chance to see and know a true man, living by Nature's law. If they cannot brook the sight, let them do away with him. Better so, than to live as they live.

16. Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.

17. Let your mind constantly dwell on all Time and all Being, and thus learn that each separate thing is but as a grain of sand in comparison with Being, and as a single screw's-turn in comparison with Time.

18. Realize the nature of all things material, observing how each of them is even now undergoing dissolution and change, and is already in process of decay, or dispersion, or whatever other natural fate may be in store for it.

19. Eating, sleeping, copulating, excreting, and the like; what a crew they are! How pompous in their arrogance, how over-bearing and tyrannical, how superciliously censorious of others! A moment ago, how many feet they were licking -- and for such ends! -- a moment more, and they will be doing the same again.

20. For every man and every thing, that which Nature brings makes for their own good; moreover, makes for their good at the precise moment when it is brought.

21. 'Earth is in love with the showers from above, And the all-holy Heaven itself is in love' [2] -- that is, the universe is truly in love with its task of fashioning whatever is next to be; and to the universe, therefore, my response must be, 'As thou lovest, so I too love.' (Is not the same notion implied in the common saying that such-and-such a thing 'loves to happen'?)

22. Either you go on living here, to which custom has sufficiently seasoned you by now; or you remove elsewhere, which you do of your own free election; or you die, which means that your service is at an end. Other choice there can be none; so put a good face on it.

23. Let it be clear to you that the peace of green fields can always be yours, in this, that, or any other spot; and that nothing is any different here from what it would be either up in the hills, or down by the sea, or wherever else you will. You will find the same thought in Plato, where he speaks of living within the city walls 'as though milking his flocks in a mountain sheepfold'. [3]

24. What is my master-reason to me? What am I making of it at this moment? To what use am I putting it? Is it showing itself devoid of sense? Is it becoming divorced and dissevered from the ties of fellowship? Has it grown so involved and so identified with the flesh as to reflect that flesh's veerings and vacillations?

25. A servant who breaks loose from his master is a run-away. For us, our master is law; and consequently any law-breaker must be a runaway. But grief, anger, or fear are all of them rejections of something which, in the past or the present or the future, has been decreed by the power that directs the universe--in other words, by Law, which allots to every creature its due, [4] To give way to fear or grief or anger, therefore, is to be a runaway.

26. A man drops seed into the womb and passes on; thereafter another cause takes it up, sets to work, and brings to perfection a baby -- what a transformation! The same man puts food down his throat, and once more some other cause takes it over and converts it into sensation and motion and, in short, into life, vigor, and other products both many and various. Consider these processes, which are wrought out in such mysterious ways; and discern the power at work there, in the same way as we discern the forces which attract objects earthwards or upwards -- not with the eye, that is, and yet no less clearly.

27. Reflect often how all the life of today is a repetition of the past; and observe that it also presages what is to come. Review the many complete dramas and their settings, all so similar, which you have known in your own experience, or from bygone history: the whole court-circle of Hadrian, for example, or the court of Antoninus, or the courts of Philip, Alexander, and Croesus. The performance is always the same; it is only the actors who change.

28. When you see a man showing annoyance or resentment at anything, think of a pig kicking and squealing under the sacrificial knife. Another who takes to his couch in solitude, silently lamenting over our thraldom, is in no better case. Reasonable beings alone are granted the power of a willing conformity with circumstance; the bare conformity by itself stern necessity exacts from every created thing.

29. Whatever you take in hand, pause at every step to ask yourself, 'Is it the thought of forfeiting this that makes me dread death?'

30. When another's fault offends you, turn to yourself and consider what similar shortcomings are found in you. Do you, too, find your good in riches, pleasure, reputation, or such like? Think of this, and your anger will soon be forgotten in the reflection that he is only acting under pressure; what else could he do? Alternatively, if you are able, contrive his release from that pressure.

31. Let the sight of Satyron call up a vision of the dead Socraticus, or Eutyches, or Hymen; the sight of Euphrates bring to mind Eutychion or Silvanus; a look at Alciphron suggest the memory of Tropaeophorus; a glance at Severus, that of Crito or Xenophon; when you see yourself, think of the emperors who preceded you. Thus, with every man, imagine his counterpart; and then go on to the reflection, 'Where are they all now?' Nowhere -- or anywhere. In this way, you will grow accustomed to looking on all that is mortal as vapor and nothingness; and the more so, if you will also remember that things once changed are for ever past recall. Then why struggle and strain, instead of being content to live out your little span in seemly fashion? Think what materials and possibilities for good you are rejecting; since what are all your tribulations but exercises for the training of your reason, once it has learnt to see the truths of life in a proper philosophic light? Be patient, then, until you have made them familiar and natural to yourself, in the same way as a strong stomach can assimilate every kind of diet, or a bright fire turn anything that is cast upon it into heat and flame.

32. Let no one have the right to say truthfully of you that you are without integrity or goodness; should any think such thoughts, see that they are without foundation. This all depends upon yourself, for who else can hinder you from attaining goodness and integrity? If you cannot live so, you need only resolve to live no longer; for in that case not even reason itself could require your continuance.

33. What is the very best that can be said or done with the materials at your disposal? Be it what it may, you have the power to say it or do it; let there be no pretence that you are not a free agent. These repinings of yours will be endless until such time as the doing of a man's natural duty with whatever materials come to hand means as much to you as his pleasures mean to the voluptuary. (Indeed, every exercise of our proper natural instincts ought to be esteemed a form of pleasure; and the opportunities for this are everywhere present.) A roller, to be sure, has not always the privilege of moving at will, nor has water, nor fire, nor anything else that is under the governance of its own nature or of a soul without reason; for there are many factors which intervene to prevent it. But a mind and a reason can make their way through any obstacles, as their nature enables them and their will prompts them to do. Figure to yourself how reason finds a way past every barrier as effortlessly as fire mounts upward, or a stone falls, or a roller descends a slope; and be content to ask no more. Interferences, in any case, must either affect the body alone -- which is but an inanimate thing -- or else be impotent to crush or injure us unless assisted by our own preconceptions and the surrender of reason itself. If it were otherwise, their effect on the subject would be harmful; and though we know that throughout the rest of creation the occurrence of any mishap involves some worsening of its victim, yet in the case of a man we may even say that he becomes better and more praiseworthy by the right uses which he makes of adversity. In short, never forget that nothing can injure the true citizen if it does not injure the city itself, and nothing can injure the city unless it injures law. What we call mischances do no injury to law, and therefore cannot harm either city or citizen.

34. When true principles have once been etched into the mind, even the briefest commonplace will suffice to recall the futility of regrets or fears; such as, for example, 'What are the children of men, but as leaves that drop at the wind's breath?' [5] Just such leaves were those beloved children of yours; leaves, too, are the multitudes, those would-be-convincing voices that scream their plaudits, hurl their curses, or sneer and scoff in secret; leaves, again, are all they into whose hands your fame shall fall hereafter. One and all, they 'flower in the season of springtime', the gales lay them low, and anon the forest puts forth new verdure in their room. Impermanence is the badge of each and every one; and yet you chase after them, or flee from them, as though they were to endure for all eternity. A short time, and your eyes will close; and for the man who bears you to your grave, too, the tears will soon enough be falling.

35. The business of a healthy eye is to see everything that is visible, not to demand no color but green, for that merely marks a disordered vision. Likewise hearing and scent, if healthy, should be alert for all kinds of sounds and odors, and a healthy stomach for all manner of meats, like a mill which accepts whatever grist it was fashioned to grind. In the same way, then, a healthy mind ought to be prepared for anything that may befall. A mind crying 'O that my children may be spared,' or 'O that the world might ring with praises of my every act,' is an eye craving for greenery, or a tooth craving for softness.

36. No man is so fortunate but that some who stand beside his death-bed will be hailing the coming loss with delight. He was virtuous, let us say, and wise; even so, will there not be one at the end who murmurs under his breath, 'At last we can breathe freely again, without our master! To be sure, he was never harsh with any of us; but I always felt that he had a silent contempt for us'? Such is the fate of the virtuous; as for the rest of us, what a host of other good reasons there are to make not a few of our friends glad to be rid of us! Think of this when you come to die; it will ease your passing to reflect, 'I am leaving a world in which the very companions I have so toiled for, prayed for and thought for, themselves wish me gone, and hope to win some relief thereby; then how can any man cling to a lengthening of his days therein?' Yet do not on that account leave with any diminished kindness for them; maintain your own accustomed friendliness, good-will, and charity; and do not feel the departure to be a wrench, but let your leave-taking be like those painless deaths in which the soul glides easily forth from the body. Before, Nature had joined you to these men and made you one with them; now she looses the tie. I am loosed, then, as from my own kinsfolk; yet all unresisting, and all unforced; it is simply one more of Nature's ways.

37. At every action, no matter by whom performed, make it a practice to ask yourself, 'What is his object in doing this?' But begin with yourself; put this question to yourself first of all.

38. Remember, it is the secret force hidden deep within us that manipulates our strings; there lies the voice of persuasion, there the very life, there, we might even say, is the man himself. Never confuse it in your imagination with its surrounding case of flesh, or the organs adhering thereto, which save that they grow upon the body, are as much mere instruments as the carpenter's axe. Without the agency that prompts or restrains their motions, the parts themselves are of no more service than her shuttle to the weaver, his pen to the writer, or his whip to the wagoner.

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Notes:

1. A generic name for the tribesmen of the Danubian regions, with whom Marcus and his legions waged an almost continual warfare.

2. Euripides, Frag. 890.

3. Theaetetus, 174 D

4. The Greek word for law (nomos) was supposed to be derived from a verb meaning to allot (nemein).

5. Homer, Iliad, vi, 147.
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:15 am

Book 11

1. The properties of a rational soul are these. She can contemplate herself, analyze herself, make of herself what she will, herself enjoy the fruit she bears (whereas the fruit produced by trees, like its counterpart produced by animals, is enjoyed by others), and always have her work perfectly complete at whatever moment our life reaches its appointed limit. For, unlike dances or plays or such like, where if they are suddenly cut short the performance as a whole is left imperfect, the soul, no matter at what stage arrested, will have her task complete to her own satisfaction, and be able to say, 'I am in the fullest possession of mine own.' Moreover, she can encompass the whole universe at will, both its own structure and the void surrounding it, and can reach out into eternity, embracing and comprehending the great cyclic renewals of creation, and thereby perceiving that future generations will have nothing new to witness, even as our forefathers beheld nothing more than we of today, but that if a man comes to his fortieth year, and has any understanding at all, he has virtually seen--thanks to their similarity--all possible happenings, both past and to come. Finally, the qualities of the rational soul include love of neighbors, truthfulness, modesty, and a reverence for herself before all else; and since this last is one of the qualities of law also, it follows that the principle of rationality is one and the same as the principle of justice.

2. You can soon become indifferent to the seductions of song or dance or athletic displays if you resolve the melody into its several notes, and ask yourself of each one in turn, 'Is it this that I cannot resist?' You will flinch from admitting it. Do the same to each movement or attitude of the dancers, and similarly with the athletes. In short, save in the case of virtue and its implications, always remember to go straight for the parts themselves, and by dissecting these achieve your disenchantment. And now, transfer this method to life as a whole.

3. Happy the soul which, at whatever moment the call comes for release from the body, is equally ready to face extinction, dispersion, or survival. Such preparedness, however, must be the outcome of its own decision; a decision not prompted by mere contumacy, as with the Christians, [1] but formed with deliberation and gravity and, if it is to be convincing to others, with an absence of all heroics.

4 Have I done an unselfish thing? Well then, I have my reward. Keep this thought ever present, and persevere.

5. What is your trade? Goodness. But how are you to make a success of it unless you have a philosopher's insight into the nature of the universe, and into the particular constitution of man?

6. Drama in its earliest phase took the form of Tragedy, which by its presentation of the vicissitudes of life reminds us how naturally things of that kind can happen, and that, since they move us to pleasure on the stage, we have no right to be aggrieved by their occurrence on the larger stage of reality. For in these plays we are shown that, though actions must have their inevitable consequences, men can still endure them, despite the anguished 'Ah, Cithaeron!' [2] that breaks from their lips. Moreover, there are helpful sayings to be found here and there in the tragic writers; notably, 'If Heav'n care nought for me and my two boys, [3] 'There must be some good reason even for this,' or again, 'Vex not thy spirit at the course of things,' or, 'Like ears of corn the lives of men are reaped,' and many another of the kind.

After tragedy came the Old Comedy, [4] with a tongue unsparing as a schoolmaster's, but administering a wholesale rebuke to pride by its very outspokenness (which to some extent was adopted by Diogenes for the same purpose). But later, look at the aims of the Middle Comedy; [5] and eventually of the New Comedy, [6] which was so soon to decline into the mere artificiality of the Mime. [7] To be sure, even these later writers have a few good things to say, as we all know; but what does the whole scope and intention of all their output of poetry and drama amount to?

7. Manifestly, no condition of life could be so well adapted for the practice of philosophy as this in which chance finds you today!

8. A branch severed from an adjoining branch necessarily becomes severed from the whole tree. A man, likewise, who has been divided from any of his fellows has thereby fallen away from the whole community. But whereas the branch is lopped by some other hand, the man, by his feelings of hatred or aversion, brings about his own estrangement from his neighbor, and does not see that at the same time he has cut himself off from the whole framework of society. Nevertheless it is in our power, by grace of Zeus the author of all fellowship, to grow back and become one with our neighbor again, so playing our part once more in the integration of the whole. Yet if such acts of secession are repeated frequently, they make it difficult for the recusant to achieve this reunion and restitution. A branch which has been partner of the tree's growth since the beginning, and has never ceased to share its life, is a different thing from one that has been grafted in again after a severance. As the gardeners say, it is of the same tree, but not of the same mind.

9. Though men may hinder you from following the paths of reason, they can never succeed in deflecting you from sound action; but make sure that they are equally unsuccessful in destroying your charitable feelings towards them. You must defend both positions alike: your firmness in decision and action, and at the same time your gentleness to those who try to obstruct or otherwise molest you. It would be as great a weakness to give way to your exasperation with them as it would be to abandon your course of action and be browbeaten into surrender. In either event the post of duty is deserted; in the one case through lack of courage, and in the other through alienation from men who are your natural brothers and friends.

10. Any form of nature always outrivals art, since every art is no more than an imitation of the natural. This being so, that supreme Nature which is more perfect and all-inclusive than any other cannot fail to be preeminent in the artist's craft. Furthermore, it is only with an eye on something higher that the arts produce their inferior works; and this is what Nature herself also does. Here, then, we find the origins of justice; for all the other virtues depend on this. We can never achieve true justice while we set our hearts on things of lesser value, and are content to remain credulous, headstrong, and inconstant.

11. It may be that the things you fret and fume to pursue or avoid do not come to you, but rather you go to them. Let your judgments of them, then, remain in suppression; they for their part will make no move, and so you will not be seen pursuing or avoiding them.

12. The soul attains her perfectly rounded form [8] when she is neither straining out after something nor shrinking back into herself; neither disseminating herself piecemeal nor yet sinking down in collapse; but is bathed in a radiance which reveals to her the world and herself in their true colors.

13. Will anyone sneer at me? That will be his concern; mine will be to ensure that nothing I do or say shall deserve the sneer. Will he perhaps hate me? Again, his concern. Mine, to be in friendship and charity with all men, ready to show this very man himself where he is mistaken, and to do so without recrimination or ostentatious forbearance, but--if we may assume that his words were not mere cant--as frankly and generously as Phocion of old. [9] That is the right spirit for a man to have within him; he should never be seen by the gods in the act of harboring a grudge or making a grievance of his sufferings. What ill can touch you if you follow the proper laws of your being and accept moment by moment whatever great Nature deems opportune, like a true man who is bent on furthering by any and every means the welfare of the world?

14. They despise and yet fawn on one another; each would outstrip the other, and yet cowers and cringes before him.

15. How hollow and insincere it sounds when someone says, 'I am determined to be perfectly straightforward with you.' Why, man, what is all this? The thing needs no prologue; it will declare itself. It should be written on your forehead, it should echo in the tones of your voice, it should shine out in a moment from your eyes, just as a single glance from the beloved tells all to the lover. Sincerity and goodness ought to have their own unmistakable odor, so that one who encounters this becomes straightway aware of it despite himself. A candor affected is a dagger concealed. The feigned friendship of the wolf is the most contemptible of all, and to be shunned beyond everything. A man who is truly good and sincere and well-meaning will show it by his looks, and no one can fail to see it.

16. The good life can be achieved to perfection by any soul capable of showing indifference to the things that are themselves indifferent. This can be done by giving careful scrutiny first to the elements that compose them, and then to the things themselves; bearing also in mind that none of them is responsible for the opinion we form of it. They make no approaches to us, they remain stationary; it is we who produce judgments about them, and proceed to inscribe these, so to speak, in our minds; despite the fact that it is perfectly in our power either to inscribe nothing at all, or at least to delete promptly anything that may have inscribed itself unawares. Moreover, you must remember that there will not be much more time in which to give heed to these matters, and that our race will soon be run. Do not be aggrieved, then, if things are not always to your liking. As long as they are in accord with nature, be glad of them, and do not make difficulties; if they are not, then find out what your own nature itself enjoins, and make the best of your way towards that; for a man is always justified in seeking his own good.

17. Consider where each thing originates, what goes into its composition, what it is changing into, what it is going to be after the change, and that it will be no whit the worse for it.

18. When offended. Counsel the First. Remember the close bond between myself and the rest of mankind. This obtains, because all of us were born for one another; or to give a different reason, because I was born to be their leader, as the ram is made to lead the flock or the bull the herd; or again -- to go back to the first principles -- because the world, if it is not mere atoms, must be governed by Nature, and in that case the lower orders of creation must exist for the higher and the higher must exist for one another.

A Second. Think of their characters, at board and in bed and so forth; and in particular, of the pressure which their own ways of thinking exert upon them, and the consequent self-assurance with which they commit these acts of theirs.

A Third. If what they are doing is right, you have no claim to be annoyed; if it is not, it can only be unintentional and unwitting. For just as 'no soul ever willfully foregoes truth,' so none ever willfully denies another the treatment he is entitled to; witness their indignation if anyone accuses them of injustice, ingratitude, meanness, or any other sort of misdemeanor towards their neighbors.

A Fourth. You yourself offend in various ways, and are no different from them. You may indeed avoid certain faults, yet the inclination is there nevertheless, even if cowardice or a regard for your reputation or some such ignoble motive has restrained you from imitating their misdeeds.

A Fifth. You have no assurance that they are doing wrong at all, for the motives of men's actions are not always what they seem. There is generally much to learn before any judgment can be pronounced with certainty on another's doings.

A Sixth. Tell yourself, when you feel exasperated and out of all patience, that this mortal life endures but a moment; it will not be long before we shall one and all have been laid to rest.

A Seventh. It is not the deeds of these men--which are the concern of their own directing reason--that are the source of our annoyance, but the color we ourselves put upon them. Eliminate this, consent to withdraw all thoughts of their heinousness, and anger disappears at once. How effect such erasure? By the reflection that you, at least, have been left undisgraced. For, were it not that nothing is bad but moral disgrace, you would be guilty of a host of malpractices yourself--robbery, and every other sort of villainy. [10]

An Eighth. Our anger and annoyance are more detrimental to us than the things themselves which anger or annoy us.

A Ninth. Kindness is irresistible, so long as it be genuine and without false smiles or duplicity. The most consummate impudence can do nothing, if you remain persistently kind to the offender, give him a gentle word of admonition when opportunity offers, and at the moment when he is about to vent his malice upon you bring him round quietly with 'No, my son; it was not for this that we were made. I shall not be hurt; it is yourself you are hurting.' Point out courteously and in general terms how this is so, and how even bees and other gregarious animals do not behave as he does -- but do it without any sarcasm or fault-finding, in real affection and with a heart free from rancor; not in the manner of a schoolmaster, or yet for the admiration of the bystanders, but, even though others may be present, as if you and he were alone in private.

Keep these nine counsels in your memory, as so many gifts from the Muses; and while life is still with you, begin at last to be a man. Yet in guarding yourself against anger with others, be no less careful to avoid any toadying; one is as much against the common welfare as the other, and both lead to mischief. In moments of anger, let the thought always be present that loss of temper is no sign of manliness, but that there is more virility, as well as more natural humanity, in one who shows himself gentle and peaceable; he it is who gives proof of strength and nerve and manliness, not his angry and discontented fellow. Anger is as much a mark of weakness as is grief; in both of them men receive a wound, and submit to a defeat.

In addition, take this, if you will, as a tenth gift; this time from the very leader [11] of the Muses himself. To expect bad men never to do bad things is insensate; it is hoping for the impossible. To tolerate their offences against others, and expect none against yourself, is both irrational and arbitrary.

19. There are four aberrations of your soul's helmsman which you must constantly guard against, and suppress whenever detected. Say to them one by one, 'This is a thought which is not necessary,' 'This is one which would undermine fellowship,' 'This is not the voice of my true self' (for to speak anything but your true sentiments, remember, is of all things the most misplaced), and, fourthly, when you are tempted into self-reproach, 'This would prove the divine element in me to have been discomfited and forced to its knees by the ignoble and perishable flesh with its gross conceptions.'

20. Although the natural propensity of any aerial and igneous particles in your composition is to soar upwards, nevertheless in obedience to the ordinances of the Whole these are held down under restraint within the body they compose. On the other hand, all the earthy and fluid particles in you, despite their tendency to sink downwards, are held up, and made to occupy a position which is not natural to them. Thus even these particles obey the laws of the Whole; when assigned to a position, they perforce remain there until the signal for dissolution recalls them once again. Is it not grievous, then, that the only part of you which is not obedient, and chafes at its appointed sphere, should be the thinking part? Nothing violent is demanded of it, nothing but what accords with its own nature; yet it will not submit, but breaks away in the contrary direction--for what are all its movements towards injustice, intemperance, anger, grief, or fear, but willful divergences from nature? When once the helmsman of the soul exhibits resentment at anything which happens to it, that instant it quits its post; for it was no less made for holiness and for reverence for the gods than for justice, and these, being part of the idea of the fellowship of the universe, must come even before justice.

21. If a man's life has no consistent and uniform aim, it cannot itself remain consistent or uniform. Yet that statement does not go far enough unless you can also add something of what the aim should be. Now, it is not upon the whole range of the things which are generally assumed to be good that we find uniformity of opinion to exist, but only upon things of a certain kind: namely, those which affect the welfare of society. Accordingly, the aim we should propose to ourselves must be the benefit of our fellows and the community. Whoso directs his every effort to this will be imparting a uniformity to all his actions, and so will achieve consistency with himself.

22. Remember the country mouse's encounter with the town mouse, [12] and the flurry and agitation into which it threw him.

23. Socrates' name for the beliefs of the man in the street was 'bogies' to scare children.

24. The Spartans used to seat their guests out of the sun at all public spectacles, and themselves sat where they could.

25. Socrates gave as his reason for declining an invitation to the court of Perdiccas, 'I have no wish to go down to my grave with ignominy'; implying that he would accept no favor which he could not repay.

26. The scriptures of the Ephesians contain an exhortation to practice frequent remembrance of some bygone example of virtuous life.

27. The Pythagoreans enjoin contemplation of the heavens every morning, to remind themselves how changelessly and punctually those bodies perform their appointed task, and also to put them in mind of orderliness, purity and naked simplicity--for no veil clothes a star.

28. Think of Socrates, wrapped in the sheepskin after [13] Xantippe had walked off with his cloak, and what he said to his friends when they recoiled in embarrassment at seeing him so arrayed.

29. In reading and writing, you cannot lay down rules until you have learnt to obey them. Much more so in life.

30. 'Slavish by nature, reason is not for thee.' [14]

31. '... then laughed my heart within me.' [15]

32. 'Virtue they will but abuse, and taunt her with bitter reviling.' [16]

33. 'The fool looks for figs in winter; so is he who looks for children when the season is past.' [17]

34. 'While you are kissing your child,' Epictetus once said, 'murmur under your breath, tomorrow it may be dead.' 'Ominous words,' they told him. 'Not at all,' said he, 'but only signifying an act of nature. Would it be ominous to speak of the gathering of ripe corn.' [18]

35. 'Green grape, ripe cluster, raisin; every step a change, not into what is not, but what is yet to be.' [19]

36. 'The robber of your free will,' writes Epictetus, 'does not exist.' [20]

37. He says, too, that we ought to evolve some proper system for our use of the assent. In regard to the impulses, we must take care to keep them always subject to modification, free from self-interest, and duly proportioned to the merits of the case. Desires also should be restrained to the utmost, and aversions confined to matters under our own control.

38. 'There is no triviality at issue here,' he says, 'but a plain question of sanity or insanity.'

39. 'Which is it your will to have?' Socrates would ask. 'Souls of reasonable or unreasonable men? ' 'Reasonable.' 'Reasonable men who are sound, or sick?' 'Sound.' 'Then why not go seek for them?' 'Because we already have them.' 'In that case, then, why all your strife and contention?'

_______________

Notes:

1. If these words are authentic and not a later insertion, they are the only reference which Marcus makes to the Christians. C. R. Haines, however, in the Loeb edition of the Meditations, points out that the clause is 'outside the construction, and in fact ungrammatical. It is in the very form of a marginal note, and has every appearance of being a gloss foisted into the text.'

2. In Sophocles' tragedy Oedipus Rex the king, in the agonized realization of his guilt and with the blood streaming from his self-mutilated eyeballs, cries, 'Ah, Cithaeron, Cithaeron, why didst thou harbor me? Why didst thou not take me and slay me out of hand?' It was on the mountain ranges of Cithaeron, near Thebes, that he had been exposed at birth by his mother Jocasta.

3. This, and the other lines quoted here, seem to have had a special place in the memory of Marcus, who had lost four of his own children. He has cited them before, in VII, 41, where the references may be found in the footnotes.

4. The three great Attic poets of what is called the 'Old Comedy', in the age of Pericles, were Cratinus and his younger contemporaries Eupolis and Aristophanes. The works of all but Aristophanes are lost; and in the words of the historian Grote, if we had not these before us, 'it would have been impossible to imagine the unmeasured and unsparing license of attack assumed by the Old Comedy upon the gods, the institutions, the politicians, philosophers, poets, private citizens and even the women of Athens.'

5. Towards the end of Aristophanes' career the license of the Old Comedy was restricted by law, and writers also began to dispense with the costly services of a chorus; thus making way for the Middle Comedy (c. 400-388 B.C.), from which the chorus has disappeared and in which stock types--the soldier, the miser, the courtesan--take the place of living individuals as the subjects of ridicule. The leading authors of this period, after Aristophanes himself, are said to have been Eubulus, Antiphanes, and Alexis.

6. The New Comedy arose after Athens had become subject to the power of Macedonia, and was a further development of the Middle. Politics were excluded from the stage, and the amorous intrigues of fictitious characters became the chief theme. In this class of writers the outstanding figure is Menander, who wrote upwards of a hundred comedies and was confessedly imitated by the Roman poets Plautus and Terence.

7. Both in Greece and Rome regular comedy was always less enjoyed by the populace than the Mimes, in which the action was portrayed by the movements and gestures of a single performer while a chorus recited the accompanying text. The mimes of Sophron (c. 420 B.C.) long remained a favorite amusement of the Greeks; and at Rome this type of entertainment became so popular under Augustus and his successors that in the end it virtually superseded the legitimate theatre.

8. This figure of a sphere, symbolizing completeness and perfection, is a favorite with Marcus; compare VIII, 41, and XII, 3 (where he attributes the metaphor to Empedocles). Horace similarly describes the good man as 'totus teres atque rotundus' (Satires II, 7, 86).

9. An Athenian general and statesman, accused of treachery and condemned to death by the people. Asked if he had any last words to say, he replied: 'Only that I have no grudge against the Athenians.'

10. Marcus has already pointed out (x, 10) that the suppression of the weaker by the stronger is always, strictly speaking, an act of robbery; though it may often take forms which are in no sense morally disgraceful. If such suppression were eo ipso disgraceful, it would be an evil; and Marcus himself would be guilty of much evil, in the mere performance of his imperial duties as judge and warrior.

11. Apollo, god of the lyre, presided over the nine Muses who were the inspiring divinities of poetry, music, and the arts.

12. Thus Marcus warns the philosopher not to exchange the quiet of his own soul for the perturbations of the world.

13. No record of this incident has been found. We know, however, that Socrates consistently refused to be provoked by Xantippe's asperities. According to Diogenes Laertius, he was once asked if he did not find her continual upbraidings intolerable. 'Do you find the cackling of your geese intolerable?' he said. 'No,' was the reply, 'for they provide me with eggs and young goslings.' 'And so does she provide me with children,' smiled Socrates. Marcus may be referring to some similar instance of the good-natured tolerance which he so frequently enjoins upon himself.

14. Source unknown.

15. Homer, Odyssey, iv. 413

16. Hesiod, Works Days, 185 (adapted).

17. Epictetus, iii, 24, 87.

18. Epictetus, 91.

19. ibid.,92.

20. ibid., iii, 22, 105.
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:16 am

Book 12

1. All the blessings which you pray to obtain hereafter could be yours today, if you did not deny them to yourself. You have only to have done with the past altogether, commit the future to providence, and simply seek to direct the present hour aright into the paths of holiness and justice: holiness, by a loving acceptance of your apportioned lot, since Nature produced it for you and you for it: justice, in your speech by a frank and straightforward truthfulness, and in your acts by a respect for law and for every man's rights. Allow yourself, too, no hindrance from the malice, misconceptions or slanders of others, nor yet from any sensations this fleshy frame may feel; its afflicted part will look to itself. The hour for your departure draws near; if you will but forget all else and pay sole regard to the helmsman of your soul and the divine spark within you -- if you will but exchange your fear of having to end your life some day for a fear of failing even to begin it on nature's true principles -- you can yet become a man, worthy of the universe that gave you birth, instead of a stranger in your own homeland, bewildered by each day's happenings as though by wonders unlooked for, and ever hanging upon this one or the next.

2. God views the inner minds of men, stripped of every material sheath and husk and dross. Acting through his thought alone, he makes contact solely with that in them which is an outflow from himself. School yourself to do likewise, and you will be spared many a distraction; for who that looks past this fleshly covering will ever harass himself with visions of raiment, housing, reputation, or any of the rest of life's costume and scenery?

3. You are composed of three parts: body, breath, and mind. The first two merely belong to you in the sense that you are responsible for their care; the last alone is truly yours. If, then, you put away from this real self -- from your understanding, that is -- everything that others do or say and everything you yourself did or said in the past, together with every anxiety about the future, and everything affecting the body or its partner breath that is outside your own control, as well as everything that swirls about you in the eddy of outward circumstance, so that the powers of your mind, kept thus aloof and unspotted from all that destiny can do, may live their own life in independence, doing what is just, consenting to what befalls, and speaking what is true -- if, I say, you put way from this master-faculty of yours every such clinging attachment, and whatever lies in the years ahead or the years behind, teaching yourself to become what Empedocles calls a 'totally rounded orb, in its own rotundity joying', and to be concerned solely with the life which you are now living, the life of the present moment, then until death comes you will be able to pass the rest of your days in freedom from all anxiety, and in kindliness and good favor with the deity within you.

4. I often marvel how it is that though each man loves himself beyond all else, he should yet value his own opinion of himself less than that of others. Assuredly if some god or sage counselor were to stand beside him and bid him harbor no thought or purpose in his heart without straightway publishing it abroad, he could not endure it for so much as a single day. So much more regard have we for our neighbors' judgment of us than for our own.

5. Can the gods, who have contrived all else so well and so benevolently, have overlooked this one thing, that even eminently virtuous men, men in the closest correspondence with the divine and living in intimate union with it through their good works and devotion, should know no rebirth after their death, but be doomed to utter extinction? However, should this indeed be their lot, rest assured that if there had been need for some different plan, it would have been so ordained; had it accorded with Nature. Nature would have brought it to pass. Therefore, from its not being so (if in truth it is not), you may have all confidence that it ought not to be so. Surely you can see that in raising idle questions like this you are indicting the deity? For should we even be joining issue with the gods in this way, unless they were supremely good and just? And if they are, how could they ever have permitted anything to be unfairly or unreasonably neglected in their dispositions for the universe?

6. Practice, even when success looks hopeless. The left hand, inept in other respects for lack of practice, can grasp the reins more firmly than the right, because here it has had practice.

7. Meditate upon what you ought to be in body and soul when death overtakes you; meditate upon the brevity of life, and the measureless gulfs of eternity behind it and before, and upon the frailty of everything material.

8. Look at the inmost causes of things, stripped of their husks; note the intentions that underlie actions; study the essences of pain, pleasure, death, glory; observe how man's disquiet is all of his own making, and how troubles come never from another's hand, but like all else are creatures of our own opinion.

9. In the management of your principles, take example by the pugilist, not the swordsman. One puts down his blade and has to pick it up again; the other is never without his hand, and so needs only to clench it.

10. See what things consist of; resolve them into their matter, form, and purpose.

11. How ample are the privileges vouchsafed to man--to do nothing but what God will approve, and accept everything God may assign!

12. No blame for the order of things can lie with the gods, since nothing amiss can be done by them, either willingly or otherwise; nor yet with men, whose misdoings are none of their own volition. Abstain then from all thoughts of blame.

13. How ludicrous and outlandish is astonishment at anything that happens in life!

14. There is a doom inexorable and a law inviolable, or there is a providence that can be merciful, or else there is a chaos that is purposeless and ungoverned. If a resistless fate, why try to struggle against it? If a providence willing to show mercy, do your best to deserve its divine succor. If a chaos undirected, give thanks that amid such stormy seas you have within you a mind at the helm. If the waters overwhelm you, let them overwhelm flesh, breath, and all else, but they will never make shipwreck of the mind.

15. Does the lantern's flame shine with undimmed brilliance until it is quenched, yet shall truth, wisdom, and justice die within you before you yourself are extinguished?

16. At the impression that somebody has done wrong, reflect, 'What certainty have I that it is wrong?' Furthermore, even if it is, may he not already have reproached himself for it, fully as much as though his nails had visibly rent his features? To wish that a rogue would never do wrong is like wishing that fig-trees would never have any sour juice in their fruit, infants never cry, horses never neigh, or any other of life's inevitabilities never come to pass. How, pray, could he act otherwise, with the character he has? If you find it so vexatious, then reform it.

17. If it is not the right thing to do, never do it; if it is not the truth, never say it. Keep your impulses in hand.

18. Always look at the whole of a thing. Find what it is that makes its impression on you, then open it up and dissect it into cause, matter, purpose, and the length of time before it must end.

19. Try to see, before it is too late, that you have within you something higher and more godlike than mere instincts which move your emotions and twitch you like a puppet. Which of these is it, then, that is clouding my understanding at this moment? Fear, jealousy, lust, or some other?

20. Firstly, avoid all actions that are haphazard or purposeless; and secondly, let every action aim solely at the common good.

21. Soon enough, remember, you yourself must become a vagrant thing of nothingness; soon enough everything that now meets your eye, together with all those in whom is now the breath of life, must be no more. For all things are born to change and pass away and perish, that others in their turn may come to be.

22. Everything is but what your opinion makes it; and that opinion lies with yourself. Renounce it when you will, and at once you have rounded the foreland and all is calm; a tranquil sea, a tideless haven.

23. When an operation, no matter of what sort, is brought to a close at the right moment, the stoppage does it no harm and the agent himself is no worse for discontinuing his action. So if life itself -- which is nothing but the totality of all our operations -- also ceases when the time comes, it takes no hurt by its mere cessation, nor is he adversely affected who thus brings the whole series of his operations to its timely conclusion. But the proper hour and term are fixed by nature: if not by a man's own nature -- as, for example, through old age -- then at all events by great Nature herself, by whose continuous renewing of her every part the universe remains forever young and vigorous. Whatever serves the purpose of the Whole is kept always fair and blooming. It follows, then, that the ending of his life can be no evil to a man -- for, being a thing outside his control and innocent of all self-seeking, there is nothing in it to degrade him -- nay, it is even a good, inasmuch as for the universe it is something opportune, serviceable and in keeping with all else. Thus, by following the way of God and being at one with him in thought, man is borne onward by the divine hand.

24. There are three counsels worth keeping in mind. The first concerns actions: these should never be undertaken at random, nor in ways unsanctioned by justice. You must remember that all outward events are the result of either chance or providence; and you cannot reprimand chance or impeach providence. In the second place, think well what everything is, from earliest seed to birth of soul and from soul's birth to its ultimate surrender; what the thing is compounded of, and what it will dissolve into. Thirdly, imagine yourself suddenly carried up into the clouds and looking down on the whole panorama of human activities: how the scene would excite your contempt, now that you could discern the multitude of aerial and heavenly beings who throng around them. Furthermore, reflect that no matter how often upborne in this way, you would still behold the same sights, in all their monotony and transience. Yet these are the things of which we make such a boast!

25. Once dismiss the view you take, and you are out of danger. Who, then, is hindering such dismissal?

26. When you let yourself feel resentment at a thing, you forget that nothing can come about except in obedience to Nature; that any misconduct in the matter was none of yours; and moreover, that this is the only way in which things have always happened, will always happen, and do always happen. You are forgetting, too, the closeness of man's brotherhood with his kind; a brotherhood not of blood or human seed, but of a common intelligence; and that this intelligence in every man is God, an emanation from the deity. You forget that nothing is properly a man's own, for even his child, his body, his soul itself, all come from this same God; also, that all things depend upon opinion; also, that the passing moment is all that a man can ever live or lose.

27. Ponder the lives of the men who have set no bounds to their passions, the men who have reached the very summits of glory, disaster, odium, or any other of the peaks of chance; and then consider, 'Where are they all now?' Vapor, ashes, a tale; perhaps not even a tale. Contemplate the numerous examples: Fabius Catullinus on his estate, Lucius Lupus in his gardens, Stertinius at Baiae, Tiberius at Capri, Velius Rufus; any instance at all of what pride can set its heart upon. How ignoble are all their strivings! How much more befitting a philosopher it were to aim at justice, temperance and fealty to the gods--yet always with simplicity, for the pride that swells beneath a garb of humility is of all things the most intolerable.

28. To those who insist, 'Where have you ever seen the gods, and how can you be so assured of their existence, that you worship them in this way?' my answer is, 'For one thing, they are perfectly visible to the eye. [1] For another, I have never seen my own soul either, but none the less do I venerate that. So it is with the gods; it is experience which proves their power every day, and therefore I am satisfied that they exist, and I do them reverence.'

29. For a life that is sound and secure, cultivate a thorough insight into things and discover their essence, matter, and cause; put your whole heart into doing what is just, and speaking what is true; and for the rest, know the joy of life by piling good deed on good deed until no rift or cranny appears between them.

30. Sunlight is all one, even when it is broken up by walls, mountains, and a host of other things. Substance is all one, even when it is parceled out among the numberless living bodies of different sorts, each with its own special qualities. Soul is all one, even when it is distributed among countless natures of every kind in countless differing proportions. Even soul that is gifted with the additional quality of thought, though apparently divisible, is likewise all one. For the other parts of all those organisms -- their breath, for example -- are material things, incapable of sensation, which have no affinity with each other and are only kept together by the unifying pressure of gravitation. But thought, by its very nature, tends spontaneously towards anything of its own kind and mingles with it; so that the instinct for unity is not frustrated.

31. Why do you hunger for length of days? Is it to experience sensations and desires, or increase or cessation of growth? Is it to make use of the powers of speech or thought? Does any of these things seem really worth coveting? Then if you think them beneath your notice, press on towards the final goal of all--which is the following of reason and of God. But to prize this, you must remember, is incompatible with any feelings of resentment that death will rob you of the others.

32. How small a fraction of all the measureless infinity of time is allotted to each one of us; an instant, and it vanishes into eternity. How puny, too, is your portion of all the world's substance; how insignificant your share of all the world's soul; on how minute a speck of the whole earth do you creep. As you ponder these things, make up your mind that nothing is of any import save to do what your own nature directs, and to bear what the world's Nature sends you.

33. How is my soul's helmsman going about his task? For in that lies everything. All else, within my control or beyond it, is dead bones and vapor.

34. Nothing will more encourage a contempt for death than the reflection that even men who accounted pleasure a good and pain an evil have nevertheless been able to despise it.

35. When a man finds his sole good in that which the appointed hour brings him; when he cares not if his actions be many or few, so they accord with strict reason; when it matters nought to him whether his glimpse of this world be long or fleeting--not death itself can be a thing of terror for him.

36. O man, citizenship of this great world-city has been yours. Whether for five years or five-score, what is that to you? Whatever the law of that city decrees is fair to one and all alike. Wherein, then, is your grievance? You are not ejected from the city by any unjust judge or tyrant, but by the selfsame Nature which brought you into it; just as when an actor is dismissed by the manager who engaged him. 'But I have layed no more than three of the five acts.' Just so; in your drama of life, three acts are all the play. Its point of completeness is determined by him who formerly sanctioned your creation, and today sanctions your dissolution. Neither of those decisions lay within yourself. Pass on your way, then, with a smiling face, under the smile of him who bids you go.

_______________

Notes:

1. The Stoics believed the stars to be divine.
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