In this blog post, I will focus on Chapters II-VI of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, which follow his reflections in Chapter I of the Virtues taught to him [see previous post]. There are twelve chapters in all. At times, I feel that I am reading the book of Proverbs or a selection from Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac. Here are some highlights from section II-VI of The Meditations:
- To act against one another is contrary to nature
- Whatever this is that I am, it is a little flesh and breath. Throw away thy books; no longer distract thyself: it is not allowed. Thou art an old man, no longer be either dissatisfied with thy present lot, or shrink from the future.
- We must make haste not only because we are daily nearer to death, but also because the conception of things and the understanding of them cease first.
- Do not waste the remainder of thy life in thoughts about others, when thou dost not refer thy thoughts to some object of common utility. 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.
- Labour not unwillingly, nor without regard to the common interest, nor without due consideration, nor with distraction; nor let studied ornament set off thy thoughts, and be not either a man of many words, or busy about too many things.
- Never value anything as profitable to thyself which shall compel thee to break thy promise, to lose thy self-respect, to hate any man, to suspect, to curse, to act the hypocrite, to desire anything which needs walls and curtains…
- Reverence the faculty which produces opinion.
- Every man lives life only this present time, which is an indivisible point, and that all the rest of his life is either past or it is uncertain.
- As physicians have always their instruments and knives ready for cases which suddenly require their skill, so do thou have principles ready for the understanding of things divine and human, and doing everything, even the smallest, with a recollection of the bond which unites the divine and human to one another.
- Body, soul, intelligence: to the body belong sensations, to the soul appetites, to the intelligence principles.
- How much trouble he avoids who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only to what he does himself, that it may be just and pure; or as Agathon says, look not round at the depraved morals of others, but run straight along the line without deviating from it.
- Unhappy am I , because this happened to me—Not so, but Happy am I, though this has happened to me, because I continue free from pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearing the future.
- It is no evil for things to undergo change, and no good for things to subsist in consequence of change.
- Judge every word and deed which are according to nature to be fit for thee; 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 thee.
- Look within. Let neither the peculiar quality of anything nor its value escape thee.
- Take pleasure in one thing and rest in it, in passing from one social act to another social act, thinking of God.
- When thou has been compelled by circumstances to be disturbed in a manner, quickly return to thyself and do not continue out of tune longer than the compulsion lasts; for thou wilt have more mastery over the harmony by continually recurring it.
- Asia, Europe are corners of the universe; all the sea a drop in the universe…Do not imagine that they are of another kind from that which thou dost venerate, but form a just opinion of the source of all.
- Adapt thyself to the things with which thy lot has been cast; and the men among whom thou hast received thy portion, love them, but do it truly [sincerely].
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. (1909). The Harvard Classics. New York: P. F. Collier & Son. 200-245.