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Meditations

Marcus Aurelius
Last Updated:
December 9, 2020
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Meditations

And to look carefully after the interests of friends, and to tolerate ignorant persons, and those who form opinions without consideration:

And that might be applied to him which is recorded of Socrates, that he was able both to abstain from, and to enjoy, those things which many are too weak to abstain from, and cannot enjoy without excess. But to be strong enough both to bear the one and to be sober in the other is the mark of a man who has a perfect and invincible soul, such as he showed in the illness of Maximus.

Remember how long you hast been putting off these things, and how often you hast received an opportunity from the gods, and yet do not use it. You must now at last perceive of what universe you are a part, and of what administrator of the universe your existence is an efflux, and that a limit of time is fixed for you, which if you do not use for clearing away the clouds from your mind, it will go and you will go, and it will never return.

Every moment think steadily as a Roman and a man to do what you hast in hand with perfect and simple dignity, and feeling of affection, and freedom, and justice; and to give yourself relief from all other thoughts.

And you will give yourself relief, if you do every act of your life as if it were the last, laying aside all carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands of reason, and all hypocrisy, and self-love, and discontent with the portion which has been given to you.

Do wrong to yourself, do wrong to yourself, my soul; but you will no longer have the opportunity of honoring yourself. Every man’s life is sufficient. But yours is nearly finished, though your soul reverences not itself but places your felicity in the souls of others.

Through not observing what is in the mind of another a man has seldom been seen to be unhappy; but those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy.

For a man cannot lose either the past or the future: for what a man has not, how can anyone take this from him? For the present is the only thing of which a man can be deprived, if it is true that this is the only thing which he has, and that a man cannot lose a thing if he has it not.

And, to say all in a word, everything which belongs to the body is a stream, and what belongs to the soul is a dream and vapor, and life is a warfare and a stranger’s sojourn, and after-fame is oblivion.

Do not waste the remainder of your life in thoughts about others, when you do not refer your thoughts to some object of common utility.

For you lose the opportunity of doing something else when you hast such thoughts as these, What is such a person doing, and why, and what is he saying, and what is he thinking of, and what is he contriving, and whatever else of the kind makes us wander away from the observation of our own ruling power.

We ought then to check in the series of our thoughts everything that is without a purpose and useless, but most of all the over-curious feeling and the malignant; and a man should use himself to think of those things only about which if one should suddenly ask, What have you now in your thoughts?

With perfect openness you might, immediately answer, This or That; so that from your words it should be plain that everything in you is simple and benevolent, and such as befits a social animal, and one that cares not for thoughts about pleasure or sensual enjoyments at all, nor has any rivalry or envy and suspicion, or anything else for which you wouldst blush if you should say that you had it in your mind. For the man who is such and no longer delays being among the number of the best, is like a priest and minister of the gods, using too the deity which is planted within him, which makes the man uncontaminated by pleasure, unharmed by any pain, untouched by any insult, feeling no wrong, a fighter in the noblest fight, one who cannot be overpowered by any passion, dyed deep with justice, accepting with all his soul everything which happens and is assigned to him as his portion; and not often, nor yet without great necessity and for the general interest, imagining what another says, or does, or thinks.

But if nothing appears to be better than the deity which is planted in you, which has subjected to itself all your appetites, and carefully examines all the impressions, and, as Socrates said, has detached itself from the persuasions of sense, and has submitted itself to the gods, and cares for mankind; if you find everything else smaller and of less value than this, give place to nothing else, for if you do once diverge and incline to it, you will no longer without distraction be able to give the preference to that good thing which is your proper possession and your own; for it is not right that anything of any other kind, such as praise from the many, or power, or enjoyment of pleasure, should come into competition with that which is rationally and politically or practically good.

If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure, as if you should be bound to give it back immediately; if you hold to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with your present activity according to nature, and with heroic truth in every word and sound which you utter, you will live happy. And there is no man who is able to prevent this.

Let no act be done without a purpose, nor otherwise than according to the perfect principles of art.

For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquility; and I affirm that tranquility is nothing else than the good ordering of the mind.

Constantly then give to yourself this retreat, and renew yourself; and let your principles be brief and fundamental, which, as soon as you shall recur to them, will be sufficient to cleanse the soul completely, and to send you back free from all discontent with the things to which you return.

always observe how ephemeral and worthless human things are, and what was yesterday a little mucus to-morrow will be a mummy or ashes. Pass then through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end your journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree on which it grew.

In the morning when you rise unwillingly, let this thought be present- I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world?

Judge every word and deed which are according to nature to be fit for you; and be not diverted by the blame which follows from any people nor by their words, but if a thing is good to be done or said, do not consider it unworthy of you.

But on the contrary it is a man’s duty to comfort himself, and to wait for the natural dissolution and not to be vexed at the delay, but to rest in these principles only: the one, that nothing will happen to me which is not conformable to the nature of the universe; and the other, that it is in my power never to act contrary to my god and daemon: for there is no man who will compel me to this.

About what am I now employing my own soul? On every occasion I must ask myself this question, and inquire, what have I now in this part of me which they call the ruling principle? And whose soul have I now? That of a child, or of a young man, or of a feeble woman,

But fortunate means that a man has assigned to himself a good fortune: and a good fortune is good disposition of the soul, good emotions, good actions.

Look within. Let neither the peculiar quality of anything nor its value escape you.

When you hast been compelled by circumstances to be disturbed in a manner, quickly return to yourself and do not continue out of tune longer than the compulsion lasts; for you will have more mastery over the harmony by continually recurring to it.

But the education and the teaching of youth aim at something. In this then is the value of the education and the teaching. And if this is well, you will not seek anything else.

If a thing is difficult to be accomplished by yourself, do not think that it is impossible for man: but if anything is possible for man and conformable to his nature, think that this can be attained by yourself too.

For it is in our power, as I said, to get out of the way, and to have no suspicion nor hatred.

I do my duty: other things trouble me not; for they are either things without life, or things without reason, or things that have rambled and know not the way.

Frequently consider the connection of all things in the universe and their relation to one another. For in a manner all things are implicated with one another, and all in this way are friendly to one another; for one thing comes in order after another, and this is by virtue of the active movement and mutual conspiration and the unity of the substance.

When you wish to delight yourself, think of the virtues of those who live with you; for instance, the activity of one, and the modesty of another, and the liberality of a third, and some other good quality of a fourth. For nothing delights so much as the examples of the virtues, when they are exhibited in the morals of those who live with us and present themselves in abundance, as far as is possible. Wherefore we must keep them before us.

sensations; but he who has understanding, considers his own acts to be his own good.

It is in our power to have no opinion about a thing, and not to be disturbed in our soul; for things themselves have no natural power to form our judgments.

Accustom yourself to attend carefully to what is said by another, and as much as it is possible, be in the speaker’s mind. That which is not good for the swarm, neither is it good for the bee.

No man will hinder you from living according to the reason of your own nature: nothing will happen to you contrary to the reason of the universal nature. What kind of people are those whom men wish to please, and for what objects, and by what kind of acts? How soon will time cover all things, and how many it has covered already.

Every man is worth just so much as the things are worth about which he busies himself.

Let not future things disturb you, for you will come to them, if it shall be necessary, having with you the same reason which now you use for present things.

All things are implicated with one another, and the bond is holy; and there is hardly anything unconnected with any other thing. For things have been coordinated, and they combine to form the same universe (order).

Eudaemonia (happiness) is a good daemon, or a good thing. What then are you doing here, O imagination? Go away, I entreat you by the gods, as you didst come, for I want you not. But you are come according to your old fashion. I am not angry with you: only go away.

Wipe out the imagination. Stop the pulling of the strings. Confine yourself to the present. Understand well what happens either to you or to another. Divide and distribute every object into the causal (formal) and the material. Think of your last hour. Let the wrong which is done by a man stay there where the wrong was done. Direct your attention to what is said. Let your understanding enter into the things that are doing and the things which do them. Adorn yourself with simplicity and modesty and with indifference towards the things which lie between virtue and vice. Love mankind. Follow God. The poet says that Law rules all.- And it is enough to remember that Law rules all. About death: Whether it is a dispersion, or a resolution into atoms, or annihilation, it is either extinction or change.

Everywhere and at all times it is in your power piously to acquiesce in your present condition, and to behave justly to those who are about you, and to exert your skill upon your present thoughts, that nothing shall steal into them without being well examined.

Do not look around you to discover other men’s ruling principles, but look straight to this, to what nature leads you, both the universal nature through the things which happen to you, and your own nature through the acts which must be done by you.

In everything which happens keep before your eyes those to whom the same things happened, and how they were vexed, and treated them as strange things, and found fault with them: and now where are they? Nowhere. Why then do you too choose to act in the same way? And why do you not leave these agitations which are foreign to nature, to those who cause them and those who are moved by them? And why are you not altogether intent upon the right way of making use of the things which happen to you? For then you will use them well, and they will be a material for you to work on. Only attend to yourself, and resolve to be a good man in every act which you doest: and remember… Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if you will ever dig.

Constantly observe who those are whose approbation you wish to have, and what ruling principles they possess. For then you will neither blame those who offend involuntarily, nor will you want their approbation, if you look to the sources of their opinions and appetites.

Nature has not so mingled the intelligence with the composition of the body, as not to have allowed you the power of circumscribing yourself and of bringing under subjection to yourself all that is your own; for it is very possible to be a divine man and to be recognized as such by no one. Always bear this in mind; and another thing too, that very little indeed is necessary for living a happy life.

The perfection of moral character consists in this, in passing every day as the last, and in being neither violently excited nor torpid nor playing the hypocrite.

When you hast done a good act and another has received it, why do you look for a third thing besides these, as fools do, either to have the reputation of having done a good act or to obtain a return? No man is tired of receiving what is useful. But it is useful to act according to nature. Do not then be tired of receiving what is useful by doing it to others.

If then you hast truly seen where the matter lies, throw away the thought, How you shall seem to others, and be content if you shall live the rest of your life in such wise as your nature wills.

Let no man any longer hear you finding fault with the court life or with your own. Repentance is a kind of self-reproof for having neglected something useful; but that which is good must be something useful, and the perfect good man should look after it.

Whatever man you meet with, immediately say to yourself: What opinions has this man about good and bad? For if with respect to pleasure and pain and the causes of each, and with respect to fame and ignominy, death and life, he has such and such opinions, it will seem nothing wonderful or strange to me, if he does such and such things; and I shall bear in mind that he is compelled to do so.

Do not disturb yourself by thinking of the whole of your life. Let not your thoughts at once embrace all the various troubles which you may expect to befall you: but on every occasion ask yourself, What is there in this which is intolerable and past bearing? For you will be ashamed to confess. In the next place remember that neither the future nor the past pains you, but only the present.

If you take away your opinion about that which appears to give you pain, you yourself stand in perfect security.

Nothing can happen to any man which is not a human accident, nor to an ox which is not according to the nature of an ox, nor to a vine which is not according to the nature of a vine, nor to a stone which is not proper to a stone. If then there happens to each thing both what is usual and natural, why should you complain? For the common nature brings nothing which may not be borne by you.

If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.

Therefore the mind which is free from passions is a citadel, for man has nothing more secure to which he can fly for, refuge and for the future be inexpugnable. He then who has not seen this is an ignorant man; but he who has seen it and does not fly to this refuge is unhappy.

Say nothing more to yourself than what the first appearances report. Suppose that it has been reported to you that a certain person speaks ill of you. This has been reported; but that you hast been injured, that has not been reported. I see that my child is sick. I do see; but that he is in danger, I do not see. Thus then always abide by the first appearances, and add nothing yourself from within, and then nothing happens to you. Or rather add something, like a man who knows everything that happens in the world.

To my own free will the free will of my neighbor is just as indifferent as his poor breath and flesh. For though we are made especially for the sake of one another, still the ruling power of each of us has its own office, for otherwise my neighbor’s wickedness would be my harm, which God has not willed in order that my unhappiness may not depend on another.

Turn your thoughts now to the consideration of your life, your life as a child, as a youth, your manhood, your old age, for in these also every change was a death. Is this anything to fear?

When another blames you or hates you, or when men say about you anything injurious, approach their poor souls, penetrate within, and see what kind of men they are.

You will discover that there is no reason to take any trouble that these men may have this or that opinion about you. However you must be well disposed towards them, for by nature they are friends. And the gods too aid them in all ways, by dreams, by signs, towards the attainment of those things on which they set a value.

The universal cause is like a winter torrent: it carries everything along with it. But how worthless are all these poor people who are engaged in matters political, and, as they suppose, are playing the philosopher!

And consider, too, the life lived by others in olden time, and the life of those who will live after you, and the life now lived among barbarous nations, and how many know not even your name, and how many will soon forget it, and how they who perhaps now are praising you will very soon blame you, and that neither a posthumous name is of any value, nor reputation, nor anything else.

You canst remove out of the way many useless things among those which disturb you, for they lie entirely in your opinion; and you will then gain for yourself ample space by comprehending the whole universe in your mind, and by contemplating the eternity of time, and observing the rapid change of every several thing, how short is the time from birth to dissolution, and the illimitable time before birth as well as the equally boundless time after dissolution.

Water, dust, bones, filth: or again, marble rocks, the callosities of the earth; and gold and silver, the sediments; and garments, only bits of hair; and purple dye, blood; and everything else is of the same kind. And that which is of the nature of breath is also another thing of the same kind, changing from this to that. Enough of this wretched life and murmuring and apish tricks. Why are you disturbed? What is there new in this? What unsettles you? Is it the form of the thing? Look at it. Or is it the matter?

Well, then, is it not better to use what is in your power like a free man than to desire in a slavish and abject way what is not in your power? And who has told you that the gods do not aid us even in the things which are in our power? Begin, then, to pray for such things, and you will see. One man prays thus: How shall I be able to lie with that woman? Do you pray thus: How shall I not desire to lie with her? Another prays thus: How shall I be released from this? Another prays: How shall I not desire to be released? Another thus: How shall I not lose my little son? You thus: How shall I not be afraid to lose him?

Epicurus says, In my sickness my conversation was not about my bodily sufferings, nor, says he, did I talk on such subjects to those who visited me; but I continued to discourse on the nature of things as before, keeping to this main point, how the mind, while participating in such movements as go on in the poor flesh, shall be free from perturbations and maintain its proper good.

But will you be satisfied with your present condition, and pleased with all that is about you, and will you convince yourself that you hast everything and that it comes from the gods, that everything is well for you, and will be well whatever shall please them, and whatever they shall give for the conservation of the perfect living being, the good and just and beautiful, which generates and holds together all things, and contains and embraces all things which are dissolved for the production of other like things?

For the whole contains nothing which is not for its advantage; and all natures indeed have this common principle, but the nature of the universe has this principle besides, that it cannot be compelled even by any external cause to generate anything harmful to itself. By remembering, then, that I am a part of such a whole, I shall be content with everything that happens. And inasmuch as I am in a manner intimately related to the parts which are of the same kind with myself, I shall do nothing unsocial, but I shall rather direct myself to the things which are of the same kind with myself, and I shall turn an my efforts to the common interest, and divert them from the contrary.

No longer talk at all about the kind of man that a good man ought to be, but be such.

Let it not be in any man’s power to say truly of you that you are not simple or that you are not good; but let him be a liar whoever shall think anything of this kind about you; and this is altogether in your power. For who is he that shall hinder you from being good and simple? Do you only determine to live no longer, unless you shall be such. For neither does reason allow you to live, if you are not such.

Men despise one another and flatter one another; and men wish to raise themselves above one another, and crouch before one another. How unsound and insincere is he who says, I have determined to deal with you in a fair way.- What are you doing, man? There is no occasion to give this notice. It will soon show itself by acts. The voice ought to be plainly written on the forehead.

For if these things are according to nature, rejoice in them, and they will be easy to you: but if contrary to nature, seek what is conformable to your own nature, and strive towards this, even if it bring no reputation; for every man is allowed to seek his own good.

Sixth, consider when you are much vexed or grieved, that man’s life is only a moment, and after a short time we are all laid out dead.

All those things at which you wish to arrive by a circuitous road, you canst have now, if you do not refuse them to yourself. And this means, if you will take no notice of all the past, and trust the future to providence, and direct the present only conformably to piety and justice.

All round, and in its joyous rest reposing; and if you shall strive to live only what is really your life, that is, the present- then you will be able to pass that portion of life which remains for you up to the time of your death, free from perturbations, nobly, and obedient to your own daemon (to the god that is within you).

I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.

So much more respect have we to what our neighbors shall think of us than to what we shall think of ourselves.

Consider that before long you will be nobody and nowhere, nor will any of the things exist which you now see, nor any of those who are now living. For all things are formed by nature to change and be turned and to perish in order that other things in continuous succession may exist.

HIGHLIGHTS
It is not fit that I should give myself pain, for I have never intentionally given pain even to another.
The things which are external to my mind have no relation at all to my mind.
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