Meditations of Marcus Aurelius



Meditations of
Marcus Aurelius

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Book II Read Discuss
Book III Read Discuss
Book IV Read Discuss
Book V Read Discuss
Book VI Read Discuss
Book VII Read Discuss
Book VIII Read Discuss
Book IX Read Discuss
Book X Read Discuss
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Book XII Read Discuss

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Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Book III

We ought not only to consider that our life is daily wasting away and a smaller part of it is left, but another thing also must be taken into the account, that if a man should live longer, it is quite uncertain whether the understanding will still continue sufficient for the comprehension of things, and retain the power of contemplation which strives to acquire the knowledge of the divine and the human.  For if he shall begin to fall into dotage, perspiration and nutrition and imagination and appetite, and whatever else there is of this kind, will not fail; but the power of making use of ourselves, and filling up the measure of our duty, and clearly seperating all appearances, and considering whether a man should now depart from life, and whatever else of the kind absolutely requires a disciplined reason, all this is already extinguished.  We must make haste then, not only because we are daily nearer to death, but also because the conception of things and the understanding of them cease first.

Book III - 2

We ought to observe also that even the things which follow after the things which are produced according to nature contain something pleasing and attractive.  For instance, when bread is baked some parts are split at the surface, and these parts which are thus open, and have a certain fashion contrary to the purpose of the baker's art, are beautiful in a manner, and in a peculiar way excite a desire for eating.  And again, figs, when they are quite ripe, gape open; and in the ripe olives the very circumstance of their being near to rottenness adds a peculiar beauty to the fruit.  And in the ears of corn bending down, and the lion's eyebrows, and the foam which flows from the mouth of wild boars, and many other things -- though they are far from being beautiful, if a man should examine them severally -- still, because they are consequent upon the things which are formed by nature, help to adorn them, and they please the mind; so that if a man should have a feeling and deeper insight with respect to the things which are produced in the universe, there is hardly one of those which follow by way of consequence which will not seem to be in a manner disposed so as to give pleasure.  And so he will see even the real gaping jaws of wild beasts with no less pleasure than those which painters and sculptors show by imitiation; and in an old woman and an old man he will be able to see a certain maturity and comeliness; and the attractive loveliness of young persons he will be able to look on with chaste eyes; and many such things will present themselves, not pleasing to every man, but to him only who has become truly familiar with nature and her works.

Book III - 3

Hippocrates after curing many diseases himself fell sick and died.  The Chaldaei foretold the deaths of many, and then fate caught them too.  Alexander, and Pompeius, and Caius Caesar, after so often completely destroying whole cities, and in battle cutting to pieces many ten thousands of calvary and infantry, themselves too at last departed from life.  Heraclitus, after so many speculations on the conflagaration of the universe, was filled with water internally and died smeared all over with mud.  And lice destroyed Democritus; and other lice killed Socrates.  What means all this?  Thou hast embarked, thou hast made voyage, thou art come to shore; get out.  If indeed to another life, there is no want of gods, not even there.  But if to a state without sensation, thou wilt cease to be held by pains and pleasures, and to be a slave to the vessel, which is as much inferior as that which serves it is superior: for the one is intelligence and deity; the other is earth and corruption.

Book III - 4

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.  For thou losest the opportunity of doing something else when thou 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 hast thou now in thy thoughts?  With perfect openness thou mightest, immediately answer, This or That; so that from thy words it should be plain that everything in thee is simple and benevolent, and such as befits a social animal, and one that cares not for the thoughts about pleasure or sensual enjoyments at all, nor has any rivalry or envy and suspicion, or anything else for which thou wouldst blush if thou shouldst say that thou hadst it in thy 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.  For it is only what belongs to himself that he makes the matter for his activity; and he constantly thinks if that which is allotted to himself out of the sum total of things, and he makes his own acts fair, and he is persuaded that his own portion is good.  For the lot which is assigned to each man is carried along with him and carries with him along with it.  And he remembers also that every rational animal is his kinsman, and that to care for all men is according to man's nature; and a man should hold on to the opinion not of all, but of those only who confessedly live according to nature.  But as to those who live not so, he always bears in mind what kind of men thaey are both at home and from home, both by night and by day, and what they are, and with what men they live an impure life.  Accordingly, he does not value at all the praise which comes from such men, since they are not even satisfied with themselves.

Book III - 5

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 too many words, or busy about too many things.  And further, let the deity which is in thee be the guardian of a living being, manly and of ripe age, and engaged in matter political, and a Roman, and a ruler, who has taken his post like a man waiting for the signal which summons him from life, and ready to go, having need neither of oath nor of any man's testimony.  Be cheerful also, and seek not external help nor the tranquility which others give.  A man then must stand erect, not be kept erect by others.

Book III - 6

If thou findest in human life anything better than justice, truth, temperance, fortitude, and, in a word, anything better than thine own mind's self-satisfaction in the things which it enables thee to do according to right reason, and in the condition that is assigned to thee without thy own choice; if, I say, thou seest anything better than this, turn to it with all thy soul, and enjoy that which thou hast found to be the best.  But if nothing appears to be better than the deity which is planted in thee, which has subjected to itself all thy 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 thou findest everything else smaller and of less value than this, give place to nothing else, for if thou dost once diverge and incline to it, thou wilt no longer without distraction be able to give the preference to that good thing which is thy proper possession and thy 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.  All these things, even though they may seem to adapt themselves to the better things in a small degree, obtain the superiority all at once, and carry us away.  But do thou, I say, simply and freely choose the better, and hold to it. --But that which is useful is the better. -- Well then, if it is useful to thee as a rational being, keep to it; but if it is only useful to thee as animal, say so, and maintain thy judgement without arrogance: only take care that thou makest the inquiry by a sure method.

Book III - 7

Never value anything as profitable to thyself which shall compel thee to break thy promise, to lose thy self-respect, to hate nay man, to suspect, to curse, to act the hypocrite, to desire anything which needs walls and curtains: for he who has preferred to everything else his own intelligence and daemon and the worship of its excellence, acts no tragic part, does not groan, will not need either solitude or much company; and, what is chief of all, he will live without either persuing or flying from death; but whether for a longer or shorter time he shall have the soul inclosed in the body, he cares not at all: for even if he must depart immediately, he will go as readily as if he were going to do anything else which can be done with decency and order; taking care of this only all through his life, that his thoughts turn not away from anything that belongs to a rational animal and a member of a civil community.

Book III - 8

In the mind of one that is chastened and purified thou wil find no corrupt matter, nor impurity, nor any sore skinned over.  Nor is his life incomplete when fate overtakes him, as one may say of an actor who leaves the stage before ending and finishing the play.  Besides, there is in him nothing servile, nor affected, nor too closely bound to other things, nothing worthy of blame, nothing which seeks a hiding-place.

Book III - 9

Reverence the faculty which produces opinion.  On this faculty it entirely depends whether there shall exist in thy ruliing part any opinion inconsistent with nature and the constitution of the rational animal.  And this faculty promises freedom from hasty judgement, and friendship towrds men, and obedience to the gods.

Book III - 10

Throwing away then all things, hold to these only which are few; and besides bear in mind that every man lives only this present time, which is an indivisible point, and that all the rest of his life is either past or it is uncertain.  Short then is the time which every man lives, and small the nook of the earth where he lives; and short too the longest posthumous fame, and even this only continued by a succession of poor human beings, who will very soon die, and who know not even themselves, much les him who died long ago.

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