Excerpts from Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius
Below are some excerpts from Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ arguable opus magnum that particularly stuck with me. I thought it would be nice to keep them somewhere for the occasional reminder. The list is unfinished.
Written among the Quadi on the river Gran — Battle of the Thundering legion
1. Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today […] ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill. But I, because I have seen the nature of good is the right, and of ill the wrong […], I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together, like feet, like hands, like eyelids […]
4. Remember how long you have been putting off these things, how many times the gods have given you days of grace, and yet you do not use them. Now is it high time to perceive the kind of Universe whereof you are a part […] and that the term of your time is circumscribed, and that unless you use it to attain calm of mind, time will be gone and you will be gone and the opportunity to use it will not be yours again.
14. Even were you about to live three thousand years of thrice ten thousand, nevertheless remember this, that no one loses any other life than this which he is living, nor lives any other than this which he is losing. Thus the longest and shortest come to the same thing. […] For a man could lose neither past nor future; how can one rob him of what he has not got? […] it is the present alone of which [we] will be deprived.
17. Don’t live as though you were going to live a myriad years. Fate is hanging over your head; while you have life, while you may, become good.
18. How great a rest from labour he gains who does not look to what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only to what he himself is doing. […] run towards the goal, balanced, not throwing your body about.
28. A black heart is an unmanly heart; resembling a beast of prey, a mere brute, or a child; foolish, crafty, ribald, mercenary, despotic.
33. […] all things quickly fade and turn to fable, and quickly, too, utter oblivion covers them like sand. […] What then is that about which a man ought to spend his pains? This one thing: right understanding, neighbourly behaviour, speech which would never lie, and a disposition welcoming all which comes to pass as necessary, as familiar, as flowing from a source and fountain like itself.
49. Be like the headland on which the waves continually break, but it stands firm and about it the boiling waters sink to sleep. ‘Lucky am I, because, though this befell me, I continue free from sorrow, neither crushed by the present, nor fearing what is to come.’ For such an event might have befallen any man, but not every man would have continued in it free from sorrow. On what grounds then is this ill fortune more than that good fortune? […] in every event which leads you to sorrow, remember to use this principle: that this is not a misfortune, but that to bear it like a brave man is good fortune.