Notes on Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Notes on Meditations by Marcus Aurelius#
Book 1: Debts and Lessons#
Great Grandfather: To avoid the public schools, to hire good private teachers, and to accept the resulting costs as money well-spent
First Teacher: To put up with discomfort and not make demands. To do my own work, mind my own business, and have no time for slanderers.
- Self-control and resistance to distractions.
- Optimism in adversity — especially illness.
- A personality in balance: dignity and grace together.
- Doing your job without whining.
- Never taken aback or apprehensive.
- Neither rash nor hesitant—or bewildered, or at a loss.
- Not obsequious—but not aggressive or paranoid either.
- Generosity, charity, honesty.
- The sense he gave of staying on the path rather than being kept on it.
- A sense of humour
My Adopted Father#
- Unwavering adherence to decisions, once he’d reached them.
- Indifference to superficial honors.
- Hard work.
- Listening to anyone who could contribute to the public good.
- His dogged determination to treat people as they deserved.
- A sense of when to push and when to back off.
- Self-reliance, always. And cheerfulness.
- Always sober, always steady, and never vulgar or a prey to fads.
- The way he handled the material comforts that fortune had supplied him in such abundance—without arrogance and without apology. If they were there, he took advantage of them. If not, he didn’t miss them.
- This, in particular: his willingness to yield the floor to experts—in oratory, law, psychology, whatever—and to support them energetically, so that each of them could fulfill his potential.
- He never exhibited rudeness, lost control of himself, or turned violent.
- Everything was to be approached logically and with due consideration, in a calm and orderly fashion but decisively, and with no loose ends.
- He knew how to enjoy and abstain from things that most people find it hard to abstain from and all too easy to enjoy
Book 2: On the river Gran, Among the Quadi#
- The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. We are the same though and must work together.
- …there is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.
- Yes, you can—if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.
- Everyone gets one life. Yours is almost used up, and instead of treating yourself with respect, you have entrusted your own happiness to the souls of others.
- Don’t allow for distractions
If you don’t keep track of your own soul - you will be unhappy. 9.
The nature of the world. My nature. How I relate to the world. What proportion of it I make up. That you are part of nature, and no one can prevent you from speaking and acting in harmony with it, always
But the man motivated by desire, who is mastered by pleasure, seems somehow more self-indulgent, less manly in his sins. Deserving of greater punishment.
- Gods exist. If there were anything harmful on the other side of death, they would have made sure that the ability to avoid it was within you. But death and life, success and failure, pain and pleasure, wealth and poverty, all these happen to good and bad alike, and they are neither noble nor shameful—and hence neither good nor bad.
- the real nature of the things our senses experience, especially those that entice us with pleasure or frighten us with pain or are loudly trumpeted by pride
- What is divine deserves our respect because it is good; what is human deserves our affection because it is like us.
- Remember two things: i. that everything has always been the same, and keeps recurring, and it makes no difference whether you see the same things recur in a hundred years or two hundred, or in an infinite period; ii. that the longest-lived and those who will die soonest lose the same thing. The present is all that they can give up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have, you cannot lose.
- Everything is just an impression
- Do not detach yourself - you are nature
- Human Life. Duration: momentary. Nature: changeable. Perception: dim. Condition of Body: decaying. Soul: spinning around. Fortune: unpredictable. Lasting Fame: uncertain. Sum Up: The body and its parts are a river, the soul a dream and mist, life is warfare and a journey far from home, lasting reputation is oblivion.
Book 3: The Carnuntum#
- Everyday is an opportunity for understanding and knowledge acquisition.
- Nature’s inadvertence - its coincidences - has its own charm. Only when you notice it.
Hippocrates cured many illnesses—and then fell ill and died. The Chaldaeans predicted the deaths of many others; in due course their own hour arrived. Alexander, Pompey, Caesar—who utterly destroyed so many cities, cut down so many thousand foot and horse in battle—they too departed this life. Heraclitus often told us the world would end in fire. But it was moisture that carried him off; he died smeared with cowshit. Democritus was killed by ordinary vermin, Socrates by the human kind. You boarded, you set sail, you’ve made the passage. Time to disembark. If it’s for another life, well, there’s nowhere without gods on that side either. If to nothingness, then you no longer have to put up with pain and pleasure, or go on dancing attendance on this battered crate, your body—so much inferior to that which serves it. One is mind and spirit, the other earth and garbage.
Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people. It will keep you from doing anything useful. You’ll be too preoccupied with what so-and-so is doing, and why, and what they’re saying, and what they’re thinking, and what they’re up to, and all the other things that throw you off and keep you from focusing on your own mind. You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random, everything irrelevant. And certainly everything self-important or malicious. Someone like that—someone who refuses to put off joining the elect—is a kind of priest, a servant of the gods, in touch with what is within him and what keeps a person undefiled by pleasures, invulnerable to any pain, untouched by arrogance, unaffected by meanness, an athlete in the greatest of all contests—the struggle not to be overwhelmed by anything that happens. We should listen only to those whose lives conform to nature.
And he cares nothing for their praise—men who can’t even meet their own standards. 5. How to act: * Never under compulsion, out of selfishness, without forethought, with misgivings. * Don’t gussy (make more attractive) up your thoughts. * No surplus words or unnecessary actions. * Let the spirit in you represent a man, an adult, a citizen, a Roman, a ruler. Taking up his post like a soldier and patiently awaiting his recall from life. Needing no oath or witness. * Cheerfulness. Without requiring other people’s help. Or serenity supplied by others. * To stand up straight—not straightened. 6. > If, at some point in your life, you should come across anything better than justice, honesty, self-control, courage—than a mind satisfied that it has succeeded in enabling you to act rationally, and satisfied to accept what’s beyond its control—if you find anything better than that, embrace it without reservations—it must be an extraordinary thing indeed—and enjoy it to the full. But if nothing presents itself that’s superior to the spirit that lives within—the one that has subordinated individual desires to itself, that discriminates among impressions, that has broken free of physical temptations (as Socrates used to say), and subordinated itself to the gods, and looks out for human beings’ welfare—if you find that there’s nothing more important or valuable than that . . . . . . then don’t make room for anything but it—for anything that might lead you astray, tempt you off the road, and leave you unable to devote yourself completely to achieving the goodness that is uniquely yours. It would be wrong for anything to stand between you and attaining goodness—as a rational being and a citizen. Anything at all: the applause of the crowd, high office, wealth, or self-indulgence. All of them might seem to be compatible with it—for a while. But suddenly they control us and sweep us away. So make your choice straightforwardly, once and for all, and stick to it. Choose what’s best. —Best is what benefits me. 7. Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust, or lose your sense of shame, or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill will, or hypocrisy, or a desire for things best done behind closed doors. 8. Neither servility nor arrogance. Neither cringing nor disdain. Neither excuses nor evasions. 9. Your ability to control your thoughts—treat it with respect. It’s all that protects your mind from false perceptions—false to your nature, and that of all rational beings. It’s what makes thoughtfulness possible, and affection for other people, and submission to the divine. 10. Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. 11. Someone of the same race, the same birth, the same society, but who doesn’t know what nature requires of him. But I do. And so I’ll treat them as the law that binds us—the law of nature—requires. With kindness and with justice. And in inconsequential things? I’ll do my best to treat them as they deserve. What qualities do I need to bring to bear on it—tranquillity, courage, honesty, trustworthiness, straightforwardness, independence or what? 12. If you do the job in a principled way, with diligence, energy and patience, if you keep yourself free of distractions, and keep the spirit inside you undamaged, as if you might have to give it back at any moment — If you can embrace this without fear or expectation — can find fulfillment in what you’re doing now, as Nature intended, and in superhuman truthfulness (every word, every utterance)—then your life will be happy. 13. Keep your philospohy ready and at one with the links of nature - like a doctor keeps his scalpel 14. Stop drifting - be your own saviour. No one is coming to save you. 15. To welcome with affection what is sent by fate. Not to stain or disturb the spirit within him with a mess of false beliefs. Instead, to preserve it faithfully, by calmly obeying God—saying nothing untrue, doing nothing unjust. An end to be approached in purity, in serenity, in acceptance, in peaceful unity with what must be.
- Our inward power, when it obeys nature, can react to whatever it faces. Grow from it. Face whatever consequences and events are set to face you - take them and accept them.
? 3. > People try to get away from it all—to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish that you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like. By going within. Nowhere you can go is more peaceful > Or is it your reputation that’s bothering you? But look at how soon we’re all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows it all. The emptiness of all those applauding hands. > So keep this refuge in mind: the back roads of your self. Above all, no strain and no stress. Be straightforward. Look at things like a man, like a human being, like a citizen, like a mortal.
- Disturbance comes only from within—from our own perceptions.
- That everything you see will soon alter and cease to exist. 4. ? 5. > Death: something like birth, a natural mystery, elements that split and recombine. Not an embarrassing thing. Not an offense to reason, or our nature. 6. ? 7. > Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been. 8. > It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you—inside or out. 9. ? 10. Goodness - do goodness. 11. ? 12. But your conversion should always rest on a conviction that it’s right, or benefits others—nothing else. Not because it’s more appealing or more popular. 13. 14. 15. Many lumps of incense on the same altar. One crumbles now, one later, but it makes no difference. 16. 18. The tranquillity that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do.
Do less. Do only what is essential.
- A good man is content with what nature gives him, and satisfied with being just and kind.
- Don’t be disturbed. Uncomplicate yourself.
- Don’t seperate your soul from others.
- Make your way through life—no one’s master and no one’s slave
- You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve
- Then what should we work for? Only this: proper understanding; unselfish action; truthful speech. A resolve to accept whatever happens as necessary and familiar, flowing like water from that same source and spring. 34. 35.
- Constant awareness that everything is born from change
- On the verge of dying and still weighed down, still turbulent, still convinced external things can harm you, still rude to other people, still not acknowledging the truth: that wisdom is justice.
- Nothing that goes on in anyone else’s mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you. Then where is harm to be found? In your capacity to see it. Stop doing that and everything will be fine. Let the part of you that makes that judgment keep quiet even if the body it’s attached to is stabbed or burnt, or stinking with pus, or consumed by cancer.
- The world as a living being—one nature, one soul. Keep that in mind
- A little wisp of soul carrying a corpse. — Epictetus
- There is nothing bad in undergoing change — or good in emerging from it.
49. > To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around it. 49a. > So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune. 50. > Our lifetime is so brief. And to live it out in these circumstances, among these people, in this body? Nothing to get excited about. Consider the abyss of time past, the infinite future. Three days of life or three generations: what’s the difference? 51. > Take the shortest route, the one that nature planned—to speak and act in the healthiest way. Do that, and be free of pain and stress, free of all calculation and pretension.
- When you complain you are damaging yourself and the world. Hacking away at harmony.
- Take refuge in 2 things:
i. Nothing can happen to me that isn’t natural. ii. I can keep from doing anything that God and my own spirit don’t approve. No one can force me to.
- The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts. Color it with a run of thoughts like these:
i. Anywhere you can lead your life, you can lead a good one. —Lives are led at court. . . . Then good ones can be. ii. Things gravitate toward what they were intended for.
What things gravitate toward is their goal. A thing’s goal is what benefits it—its good. A rational being’s good is unselfishness. What we were born for. That’s nothing new. Remember?
- The obstacle is the way
- Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone—those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the “what” is in constant flux, the “why” has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us—a chasm whose depths we cannot see. So it would take an idiot to feel self-importance or distress. Or any indignation, either. As if the things that irritate us lasted.
- Remember: * Matter. How tiny your share of it. * Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it. * Fate. How small a role you play in it.
- Sensation is natural…do not let the mind judge as good or bad
- Honor and revere the gods, treat human beings as they deserve, be tolerant with others and strict with yourself. Remember, nothing belongs to you but your flesh and blood—and nothing else is under your control.
- True good fortune is what you make for yourself. Good fortune: good character, good intentions, and good actions.
1. 2. Just do the right thing - at all times. 3. 4. 5. 6. The best revenge is to not be like that. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. Perceptions are pointless 14. 15. > We find ourselves in a river. Which of the things around us should we value when none of them can offer a firm foothold? 16. free, independent, imperturbable ( calm, unable to be excited or upset) - respect your own mind - prize it 17. virtue moves at a steady pace and always forward 18. People don;t admire their contemporaries - they admire rather people they have never met 19. 20. Just as in the ring - fighters may turn to dirty tricks. So in life - accept it but keep weary…keep your distance. 21. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance. 22. When you deal with irrational animals, with things and circumstances, be generous and straightforward. You are rational; they are not. When you deal with fellow human beings, behave as one. 23. 24. Alexander the Great and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to both. They were absorbed alike into the life force of the world, or dissolved alike into atoms. - You are not special. We are all bound by the same rules. What matters is your mind. 25. 26. Remember—your responsibilities can be broken down into individual parts as well. Concentrate on those, and finish the job methodically—without getting stirred up or meeting anger with anger. 27. 28. Death. The end of sense-perception, of being controlled by our emotions, of mental activity, of enslavement to our bodies. 29. > Disgraceful: for the soul to give up when the body is still going strong. 30. Our lives are short. The only rewards of our existence here are an unstained character and unselfish acts. 31. 32. 33. > It’s normal to feel pain in your hands and feet, if you’re using your feet as feet and your hands as hands. And for a human being to feel stress is normal—if he’s living a normal human life. And if it’s normal, how can it be bad? 34. 35. 36. The present: a split second in eternity. Minuscule, transitory, insignificant.? 36a. 37. If you have seen the present then you’ve seen everything - as it has been from the beginning as it will be forever. 38. 39. 40. > Implements, tools, equipment. If they do what they were designed for, then they work. Even if the person who designed them is miles away. But with naturally occurring things, the force that designed them is present within them and remains there. Which is why we owe it special reverence, with the recognition that if you live and act as it dictates, then everything in you is intelligently ordered. Just as everything in the world is. 41. 42. Complainers and people trying to thwart you - can help you as much as anyone. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. > The only thing that isn’t worthless: to live this life out truthfully and rightly. And be patient with those who don’t. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. > You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you. Things can’t shape our decisions by themselves. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. > No one can keep you from living as your nature requires. Nothing can happen to you that is not required by Nature. 58.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier wounded and you need a comrade to help you up? So what? 8. Forget the future. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. > Let it happen, if it wants, to whatever it can happen to. And what’s affected can complain about it if it wants. It doesn’t hurt me unless I interpret its happening as harmful to me. I can choose not to. 15. 16. > The mind in itself has no needs, except for those it creates itself. Is undisturbed, except for its own disturbances. Knows no obstructions, except those from within. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. > Close to forgetting it all, close to being forgotten. 22. You’ll both be dead before long. And, above all, that they haven’t really hurt you. They haven’t diminished your ability to choose. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. Treat what you don’t have as non-existant 28. The mind’s requirements are satisfied by doing what we should, and by the calm it brings us 29. > Discard your misperceptions. Stop being jerked like a puppet. Limit yourself to the present. Anticipate your final hours. Other people’s mistakes? Leave them to their makers. 30. 31. 32. 33. > [On pain:] Unendurable pain brings its own end with it. Chronic pain is always endurable: the intelligence maintains serenity by cutting itself off from the body, the mind remains undiminished. And the parts that pain affects—let them speak for themselves, if they can. 34. 35. 36. 37. Disgraceful: that the mind should control the face, should be able to shape and mold it as it pleases, but not shape and mold itself. 38. And why should we feel anger at the world? As if the world would notice! 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. > [Plato has it right.] If you want to talk about people, you need to look down on the earth from above. Herds, armies, farms; weddings, divorces, births, deaths; noisy courtrooms, desert places; all the foreign peoples; holidays, days of mourning, market days . . . all mixed together, a harmony of opposites. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. To love only what happens, what was destined. No greater harmony. 58. 59. 60. 61 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. It’s quite possible to be a good man without anyone realizing it. Remember that. And this too: you don’t need much to live happily. And just because you’ve abandoned your hopes of becoming a great thinker or scientist, don’t give up on attaining freedom, achieving humility, serving others, obeying God. 68. To live life in peace, immune to all compulsion. Let them scream whatever they want. 69. Perfection of character: to live your last day, every day, without frenzy, or sloth, or pretense. 70. 71. It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own. 72. 73. > You’ve given aid and they’ve received it. And yet, like an idiot, you keep holding out for more: to be credited with a Good Deed, to be repaid in kind. Why? 74. > No one objects to what is useful to him. To be of use to others is natural. Then don’t object to what is useful to you—being of use. 75.
Now forget what they think of you. Be satisfied if you can live the rest of your life, however short, as your nature demands. Focus on that, and don’t let anything distract you. You’ve wandered all over and finally realized that you never found what you were after: how to live. Not in syllogisms, not in money, or fame, or self-indulgence. Nowhere. —Then where is it to be found? In doing what human nature requires. —How? Through first principles. Which should govern your intentions and your actions. —What principles? Those to do with good and evil. That nothing is good except what leads to fairness, and self-control, and courage, and free will.
- You can hold your breath until you turn blue, but they’ll still go on doing it.
The first step: Don’t be anxious. Nature controls it all. And before long you’ll be no one, nowhere. The second step: Concentrate on what you have to do.
- No time for reading. For controlling your arrogance, yes. For overcoming pain and pleasure, yes. For outgrowing ambition, yes. For not feeling anger at stupid and unpleasant people—even for caring about them—for that, yes.
- Don’t be overheard complaining about life at court. Not even to yourself.
- 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.
- Remember that to change your mind and to accept correction are free acts too. The action is yours, based on your own will, your own decision—and your own mind.
- 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 22a. This is what you deserve. You could be good today. But instead you choose tomorrow.
- 24. 25. 26. 27.
- All our decisions, urges, desires, aversions lie within. No evil can touch them.
- 31. 32.
- To accept it without arrogance, to let it go with indifference.
Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand, and ask, “Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?” You’ll be embarrassed to answer. Then remind yourself that past and future have no power over you. Only the present—and even that can be minimized. Just mark off its limits. And if your mind tries to claim that it can’t hold out against that . . . well, then, heap shame upon it.
- I see no virtue placed there to counter justice. But I see one to counter pleasure: self-control.
- Stop perceiving the pain you imagine and you’ll remain completely unaffected.
- I have no right to do myself an injury.
People find pleasure in different ways. I find it in keeping my mind clear. In not turning away from people or the things that happen to them. In accepting and welcoming everything I see. In treating each thing as it deserves.
- Give yourself a gift: the present moment
- Nature does not make us endure the unendurable.
External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now. If the problem is something in your own character, who’s stopping you from setting your mind straight? And if it’s that you’re not doing something you think you should be, why not just do it?
- Stick with first impressions. Don’t extrapolate. And nothing can happen to you. Or extrapolate. From a knowledge of all that can happen in the world.
The cucumber is bitter? Then throw it out. There are brambles in the path? Then go around them. That’s all you need to know. Nothing more. Don’t demand to know “why such things exist.” Anyone who understands the world will laugh at you, just as a carpenter would if you seemed shocked at finding sawdust in his workshop, or a shoemaker at scraps of leather left over from work.
- No carelessness in your actions. No confusion in your words. No imprecision in your thoughts. No retreating into your own soul, or trying to escape it. No overactivity.
- Not to know what the world is is to be ignorant of where you are. Not to know why it’s here is to be ignorant of who you are. And what it is. Not to know any of this is to be ignorant of why you’re here. And what are we to make of anyone who cares about the applause of such people, who don’t know where or who they are?”
- 54. 55. 56.
- The sun is spoken as if it pours…but it does not pour and empty. It extends in a straight line. That is what thought should be like. Not striking, but holding its ground and illuminating all that receive it.
Fear of death is fear of what we may experience. Nothing at all, or something quite new. But if we experience nothing, we can experience nothing bad. And if our experience changes, then our existence will change with it—change, but not cease.
- To privilege pleasure over pain—life over death, fame over anonymity—is clearly blasphemous. Nature certainly doesn’t.
Don’t look down on death, but welcome it. It too is one of the things required by nature. Like youth and old age. Like growth and maturity. Like a new set of teeth, a beard, the first gray hair. Like sex and pregnancy and childbirth. Like all the other physical changes at each stage of life, our dissolution is no different.
- To do harm is to do yourself harm. To do an injustice is to do yourself an injustice—it degrades you
Objective judgment, now, at this very moment. Unselfish action, now, at this very moment. Willing acceptance—now, at this very moment—of all external events. That’s all you need. 7. 8.
- Similar things converge. Rational beings stop intermingling - but not for long as nature is stronger.
- 11. 12. > Work: Not to rouse pity, not to win sympathy or admiration. Only this: Activity. Stillness.
- 14. .. 27. > When you face someone’s insults, hatred, whatever . . . look at his soul. Get inside him. Look at what sort of person he is. You’ll find you don’t need to strain to impress him.
- That to be remembered is worthless. Like fame. Like everything.
- Discard junk in the mind and clear space for yourself:
- by comprehending the scale of the world
- by contemplating infinite time
- by thinking of the speed with which things change
- So when you call someone “untrustworthy” or “ungrateful,” turn the reproach on yourself. It was you who did wrong. By assuming that someone with those traits deserved your trust. By doing a favour expeciting a return - instead of doing it for the favour. As if your eyes expected a reward for seeing, or your feet for walking. That’s what they were made for.
Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. If it’s unendurable . . . then stop complaining. Your destruction will mean its end as well.
- 5. 6. 7.
And “disinterest” means that the intelligence should rise above the movements of the flesh—the rough and the smooth alike. Should rise above fame, above death, and everything like them. Opt out of the system - set sail: Upright. Modest. Straightforward. Sane. Cooperative. Disinterested.
- Only two questions:
- Is what he’s doing now the right thing to be doing?
- Does he accept and welcome what he’s been assigned?
- 13. 14.
Only a short time left. Live as if you were alone—out in the wilderness. No difference between here and there: the city that you live in is the world.
- To stop talking about what the good man is like, and just be one.
- 18. 19. 20. 21.
i. To keep on living (you should be used to it by now) ii. To end it (it was your choice, after all) iii. To die (having met your obligations)
Those are the only options. Reason for optimism. 23. 28. People who feel hurt and resentment: picture them as the pig at the sacrifice, kicking and squealing all the way. Like the man alone in his bed, silently weeping over the chains that bind us. That everything has to submit. But only rational beings can do so voluntarily. 29. 35. Your senses should be able to handle anything…not only good things. 36. It doesn’t matter how good a life you’ve led. There’ll still be people standing around the bed who will welcome the sad event.
- Also characteristic of the rational soul: Affection for its neighbors. Truthfulness. Humility. Not to place anything above itself—which is characteristic of law as well.
- Move from analysis to indifference
- 4. 5. 6.
- It stares you in the face. No role is so well suited to philosophy as the one you happen to be in right now.
- But people cut themselves off—through hatred, through rejection—and don’t realize that they’re cutting themselves off from the whole civic enterprise.
- People will stand in your way. They can’t keep you from doing what’s healthy; don’t let them stop you from putting up with them either. Take care on both counts. Not just sound judgments, solid actions—tolerance as well, for those who try to obstruct us or give us trouble in other ways. Because anger, too, is weakness, as much as breaking down and giving up the struggle. Both are deserters: the man who breaks and runs, and the one who lets himself be alienated from his fellow humans.
- It’s the pursuit of these things, and your attempts to avoid them, that leave you in such turmoil. And yet they aren’t seeking you out; you are the one seeking them. Suspend judgment about them. And at once they will lie still, and you will be freed from fleeing and pursuing.
- The soul as a sphere in equilibrium: Not grasping at things beyond it or retreating inward.
- Someone despises me. That’s their problem. Mine: not to do or say anything despicable. Someone hates me. Their problem. Mine: to be patient and cheerful with everyone, including them. Ready to show them their mistake. Not spitefully, or to show off my own self-control, but in an honest, upright way.
- They flatter one another out of contempt, and their desire to rule one another makes them bow and scrape.
- If we can learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference. Pursue your own good.
- When you lose your temper, or even feel irritated: that human life is very short. Before long all of us will be laid out side by side. That it’s not what they do that bothers us: that’s a problem for their minds, not ours. It’s our own misperceptions. Discard them. Be willing to give up thinking of this as a catastrophe . . . and your anger is gone. That kindness is invincible, provided it’s sincere—not ironic or an act It’s courtesy and kindness that define a human being—and a man. That’s who possesses strength and nerves and guts, not the angry whiners. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23.
- At festivals the Spartans put their guests’ seats in the shade, but sat themselves down anywhere.
- 26. 27. 28.
- Mastery of reading and writing requires a master. Still more so life.
- 31. 32.
- Stupidity is expecting figs in winter, or children in old age.
- 35. 36.
- We need to steer clear of desire in any form and not try to avoid what’s beyond our control.
- Everything you’re trying to reach—by taking the long way round—you could have right now, this moment. If you’d only let go of the past, entrust the future to Providence, and guide the present toward reverence and justice. No longer at the mercy of external events.
- If you can cut yourself—your mind—free of what other people do and say, of what you’ve said or done, of the things that you’re afraid will happen, the impositions of the body that contains you and the breath within, and what the whirling chaos sweeps in from outside, so that the mind is freed from fate, brought to clarity, and lives life on its own recognizance—doing what’s right, accepting what happens, and speaking the truth— If you can cut free of impressions that cling to the mind, free of the future and the past—can make yourself, as Empedocles says, “a sphere rejoicing in its perfect stillness,” and concentrate on living what can be lived (which means the present) . . . then you can spend the time you have left in tranquillity.
- It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own
- 6. 7.
- To see the causes of things stripped bare. The aim of actions. Pain. Pleasure. Death. Fame. Who is responsible for our own restlessness. That no one obstructs us. That it’s all in how you perceive it.
- 10. 11.
- The gods are not to blame. They do nothing wrong, on purpose or by accident. Nor men either; they don’t do it on purpose. No one is to blame.
- The foolishness of people who are surprised by anything that happens. Like travelers amazed at foreign customs.
- If it’s confusion and anarchy, then be grateful that on this raging sea you have a mind to guide you. And if the storm should carry you away, let it carry off flesh, breath and all the rest, but not the mind. Which can’t be swept away.
- The lamp shines until it is put out, without losing its gleam, and yet in you it all gutters out so early—truth, justice, self-control?
At all times, look at the thing itself—the thing behind the appearance—and unpack it by analysis:
the length of time it exists 19. It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet. What’s in my thoughts at this moment? Fear? Jealousy? Desire? Feelings like that? 20. 21. 22. It’s all in how you perceive it. You’re in control. You can dispense with misperception at will, like rounding the point. Serenity, total calm, safe anchorage. 23. Nothing that benefits all things can be ugly or out of place. The end of life is not an evil—it doesn’t disgrace us. (Why should we be ashamed of an involuntary act that injures no one?). It’s a good thing—scheduled by the world, promoting it, promoted by it. 24. 3 things essential at all times:
your own actions - that they are not arbitrary
- external events - that they happen randomly
- nature - the birth and death of things
- taking a step out of your viewpoint - to see all the things - seeing the pointlessness - arrogance about it.
Throw out your misperceptions and you’ll be fine. (And who’s stopping you from throwing them out?)
- To be angry at something means you’ve forgotten:
* That everything that happens is natural. * That the responsibility is theirs, not yours. > That whatever happens has always happened, and always will, and is happening at this very moment, everywhere. Just like this. > What links one human being to all humans: not blood, or birth, but mind. > That nothing belongs to anyone. Children, body, life itself—all of them come from that same source.
- There’s nothing more insufferable than people who boast about their own humility.
- 29. 30.
- What is it you want? To keep on breathing? What about feeling? desiring? growing? ceasing to grow? using your voice? thinking? Which of them seems worth having? But if you can do without them all, then continue to follow the logos, and God. To the end. To prize those other things — to grieve because death deprives us of them — is an obstacle.
- The fraction of infinity, of that vast abyss of time, allotted to each of us. Absorbed in an instant into eternity. Keep all that in mind, and don’t treat anything as important except doing what your nature demands, and accepting what Nature sends you.
- An incentive to treat death as unimportant: even people whose only morality is pain and pleasure can manage that much. 35.