Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Meditations of
Marcus Aurelius


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Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Book V

In the morning when thy risest 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?  Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bed-clothes and keep myself warm? -- But this is more pleasant. -- Dost thou exist then to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action and exertion?  Dost thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their little parts of the universe?  And art thou unwilling to do the work of a human being, and dost thou not make hast to do that which is according to thy nature? -- But it is necessary to take thy rest also. -- It is necessary: however nature has fixed bounds to this too: she has fixed bounds both to eating and drinking, and yet thou goest beyond what is sufficient; yet in thy acts it is not so, but thou stoppest short of what thou canst do.  So thou lovest not thyself, for if thou didst, thou wouldst love thy nature, and her will.  But those who love their several arts exhaust themselves in working at them unwashed and without food; but thou valuest thy own nature less than the turner values the turning art, or the dancer the dancing art, or the lover of money values his money, or the vainglorious man values his little glory.  And such men, when they have a violent affection to a thing, choose neither to eat nor to sleep rather than to perfect the things which they care for.  But are the acts which concern society more vile in thy eyes and less worthy of thy labour?

Book V - 2

How easy it is to repel and wipe away every impression which is troublesome or unsuitable, and immediately to be in all tranquillity.

Book V - 3

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.  For those person have their peculiar leading principle and follow their peculiar movement; which things do not thou regard, but go straight on, following thy own nature and the common nature; and the way of both is one.

Book V - 4

I go through the things which are according to nature until I shall fall and rest, breathing out my breath into that element out of which I daily draw it in, and falling upon that earth out of which my own father collected the seed, and my mother the blood, and my nurse the milk; out of which during so many years I have been supplied with food and drink; which bears me when I tread on it and abuse it for so many purposes.

Book V - 5

Thou sayest, Men cannot admire the sharpness of thy wits. -- Be it so; but there are many other things of which thou canst not say, I am not formed for them by nature.  Show those qualities then which are altogether in thy power, sincerity, gravity, endurance of labour, aversion to pleasure, contentment with thy portion and with few things, benevolence, frankness, no love of superfluity, freedom from trifling magnanimity.  Dost thou not see how many qualities thou art immediately able to exhibit, in which there is no excuse of natural incapacity and infitness, and yet thou still remainest voluntarily below the mark?  Or art thou compelled through defectively furnished by nature to murmur, and to be stingy, and to flatter, and to find fault with thy poor body, and to try to please men, and to make great dsiplay, and to be so restless in thy mind?  No, by the gods: but thou mightest have been delivered from these things long ago.  Only if in truth thou canst be charged with being rather slow and dull of comprehension, thou must exert thyself about this also, not neglecting it nor yet taking pleasure in thy dulness.

Book V - 6

One man, when he has done a service to another, is ready to set it down to his account as a favour conferred.  Another is not ready to do this, but still in his own mind he thinks the man as his debtor, and he knows what he has done.  A third in a manner does not even know what he has done, but he is like a vine which produces grapes, and seeks for nothing after it has once produced its proper fruit.  As a horse when he has run, a dog when he has tracked the game, a bee when it has made the honey, so a man when he has done a good act, does not call out for others to come and see, but he goes on to another act, as a vine goes on to produce again the grapes in season. -- Must a man be one of these, who in a manner act thus without observing it? -- Yes. -- But this very thing is necessary, the observation of what a man is doing: for, it may be said, it is characteristic of the social animal to perceive that he is working in a social manner, and indeed to wish that his social partner also should perceive it. -- It is true what thou sayest, but thou dost not rightly understand what is now said: and for this reason thou wilt become one of those of whom I spoke before, for even they are misled by a certain show of reason.  But if thou wilt choose to understand the meaning of what is said, do not fear that for this reason thou wilt omit any social act.

Book V - 7

A prayer of the Athenians: Rain, rain, O dear Zeus, down on the ploughed fields of the Athenians and on the plains. -- In truth we ought not to pray at all, or we ought to pray in this simple and noble fashion.

Book V - 8

Just as we must understand when it is said, That Aesculapius prescribed to this man horse-exercise, or bath in cold water or going without shoes; so we must understand it when it is said, That the nature of the universe prescribed to this man disease or mutilation or loss or anything else of the kind.  For in the first case, Prescribed means something like this: he prescribed this for this man as a thing adapted to procure heatlh; and in the sceond case it means: That which happens to (or, suits) every man is fixed in a manner for him suitably to his destiny.  For this is what we mean when we say that things are suitable to us, as the workmen say of the squared stones in walls or the pyramids, that they are suitable, when they fit them to one another in some kind of connexion.  For there is altogether one fitness, harmony. And as the universe is made up out of all bodies to be such a body as it is, so out of all existing causes necessity (destiny) is made up to be such a cause as it is.  And those that are completely ignorant understand what I mean, for they say, It (necessity, destiny) brought this to such a person. -- This then was brought and this was prescribed to him.  Let us then receive these things, as well as those which Aesculapius prescribes.  Many as a matter of course even among his prescriptions are disagreeable, but we accept them in the hope of health.  Let the perfecting and accomplishment of the things, which the common nature judges to be good, be judged by thee to be of the same kind as thy health.  And so accept everything which happens, even if it seem disagreeable, because it leads to this, to the health of the universe and to the prosperity and felicity of Zeus (the universe).  For he would not have brought on any man what he has brought, if it were not useful for the whole.  Neither does the nature of anything, whatever it may be, cause anything which is not suitable to that which is directed by it.  For two reasons then it is right to be content with that which happens to thee; the one, because it was done for thee and prescribed for thee, and in a manner had reference to thee, originally from the most ancient causes spun with thy destiny; and the other, because even that which comes severally to every man is to the power which administers the universe a cause of felicity and perfection, nay even of its very continuance.  For the integrity fo the whole is mutilated, if thou cuttest off anything whatever from the conjunction and the continuity either of the parts or the causes.  And thou dost cut off, as far as it is in thy power, when thou art dissatisfied, and in a manner triest to put anything out of the way.

Book V - 9

Be not disgusted, nor discouraged, nor dissatisfied, if thou dost not succeed in doing everything according to right principles; but when thou hast failed, return back again, and be content if the greater part of what thou doest is consistent with man's nature, and love this to which thou returnest; and do not return to philosophy as if she were a master, but act like those who have sore eyes and apply a bit of sponge and egg, ar as another applies a plaster, or drenching with water.  For thus thou wilt not fail to obey reason, and thou wilt repose in it.  And remember that philosophy requires only the things which thy nature requires; but thou wouldst have something else which is not according to nature. -- It may be objected, Why what is more agreeable than this which I am doing? -- But is not this the very reason why pleasure deceives us?  And consider if magnanimity, freedom, simplicity, equanimity, piety, are not more agreeable.  For what is more agreeable than wisdom itself, when thou thinkest of the security and the happy course of all things which depend upon the faculty of understanding and knowledge?

Book V - 10

Things are are in such a kind of envelopment that they seem to philosopers, not a few nor the most common philosophers, altogether unintelligible; nay even to the Stoics themselves they seem difficult to understand.  And all our assent is changeable; for where is the man who never changes?  Carry thy thoughts then to the objects themselves, and consider how short-lived they are and worthless, and that they may be in the possession of a filthy wretch or a whore or a robber.  The turn to the morals of those who live thee, and it is hardly possible to endure even the most agreeable of them, to say nothing of a man who being hardly able to endure himself.  In such darkness then and dirt and in so constant a flux both of substance and of time, and of motion and of things moved, what there is worth being highly prized or even an object of serious pursuit, I cannot imagine.  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 who will compel me to this.

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