Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is the one of the pillars of Stoic philosophy.

When you think of the word stoic, you may conjure up the image of a grumpy old man devoid of emotion.

This is not what it means to be “stoic” according to the guidelines for living as laid down by Aurelius.

Rather, he would have you

  • be concerned with the well-being of your fellow man
  • find the silver lining in every situation
  • be true to yourself
  • live every day like it is your last
  • live simply
  • invest in yourself
  • have conviction and principles

Sound good?

I think so too.

I read Meditations (translated by A.S.L Farquharson, available here) last fall, and highlighted particular passages that struck me.

They are as follows.

 

Book I:

  1. “…simplicity in diet…”
  2. “…not to have attended public schools but enjoyed good teachers at home…on things like these it is a duty to spend liberally.”
  3. “…bear pain and be content with little;”
  4. “…avoid idle enthusiasms.”
  5. “…look to nothing else…except to reason.”
  6. “From Maximus: mastery of self and vacillation in nothing; cheerfulness in all circumstances and especially in illness.”
  7. “…love of work and perserverance;”

 

Book II

1.“…we have come into the world to work together…”

  1. “…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.”
  2. “…do each act as if it were your last, freed from every random aim, from willful turning away from the directing Reason, from pretence, self-love and displeasure with what is allotted to you.”
  3. “…you will have no second occasion to do yourself honor.”
  4. “For clearly, one who loses his temper is turning away from Reason…”
  5. “…what it is to die, and that if a man looks at it by itself and by the separating activity of thought strips off all the images associated with death, he will come to judge it to be nothing else but Nature’s handiwork. But if a man fears Nature’s handiwork he is a mere child…”
  6. “…no one lose any other life that this which he is living, nor lives any other than this which he is losing…”
  7. “What then can be his escort through life?….Philosophy. And this is to keep the spirit within him unwronged and unscathed, master of pains and pleasures, doing nothing at random, nothing falsely and with pretence; needing no other to do aught or to leave aught undone: and moreover accepting what befalls it, that is, what is assigned to it, as coming from that other world from which it came itself.”

 

Book III

  1. “Do not waste the balance of life left to you in thoughts about other persons…”
  2. “You should stand upright, not be held upright.”
  3. “For nothing is so able to create greatness of mind as the power methodically and truthfully to test each thing that meets one in life…”
  4. “Do not wander from your path any longer…hasten then to the goal…”

 

Book IV

  1. “Nothing that is undertaken is to be undertaken without a purpose…”
  2. “For nowhere does a man retreat into more quiet or more privacy than into his own mind…The Universe is change, life is opinion.”
  3. “ ‘All that comes to pass comes to pass with justice.’”
  4. “…while you have life, while you may, become good.”
  5. “…run toward the goal.”
  6. “…does an emerald become worse than it was, if it be not praised?”
  7. “A black heart is an unmanly heart…”
  8. “…rather: ‘Lucky am I , because, though this befell me, I continue free from sorrow, neither crushed by the present, nor fearing what is to come.’…Can what ha befallen you prevent your being just, high-minded, temperate, prudent, free from rash judgments, trustful, self-reverent, free, and whatever else by its presence with him enables a man’s nature to secure what is really his?…use this principle: that this is not a misfortune, but that to bear it like a brave man is good fortune.

 

Book V

1.“At dawn of day, when you dislike being called, have this thought ready: ‘…Is it for this that I am fashioned, to lie in bedclothes and keep myself warm?’…Nature assigns limits to rest, as well as eating and drinking…”

  1. “How simple to reject and to wipe away every disturbing or alien imagination, and straightway to be in perfect calm.”
  2. “…nothing will befall me which is not in accordance with the nature of the Whole…”
  3. “As are your repeated imaginations so will your mind be, for the soul is dyed by its imaginations.”
  4. “Nothing befalls anything which that thing is not naturally made to bear.”
  5. “What will anger profit you?”
  6. “…good fortune means good dispositions of the soul, good impulses, good actions.”

 

Book VI

  1. “….going to the heart of actual facts and penetrating them so as to see the kind of things they really are…where things make an impression…uncover their nakedness, see into their cheapness, strip off the profession on which they vaunt themselves.”
  2. “Do not because a thing is hard for you yourself to accomplish, imagine that it is humanly impossible: but if a thing is humanly possible and appropriate, consider it also to be within your own reach.”
  3. “…no one was ever injured by the truth…”
  4. “Keep yourself therefore simple, good, pure, grave, unaffected, the friend of justice, religious, kind, affectionate, strong for your proper work. Wrestle to continue to be the man Philosophy wished to make you.”
  5. “Meditate often upon the bond of all in the Universe and their mutual relationship.”
  6. “…what advantages a man also advantages the rest of men…”
  7. “…be in the mind of the speaker.”
  8. “No one will prevent your living by the rule of your own nature…”

 

Book VII

  1. “How many whose praises have been loudly sung are now committed to oblivion: how many who sang their praises are long ago departed.”
  2. “Do not be ashamed to be helped; the task before you is to accomplish what falls to your lot, like a soldier in a storming party. Suppose you are lame and cannot scale the wall by yourself, yet it can be done with another’s help.”
  3. “Upright, or held upright.”
  4. “Near at hand is your forgetting all; near, too, all forgetting you.”
  5. “A scowl on the face is eminently against Nature…”
  6. “…ponder on the most fortunate of what you have got, and on account of them remind yourself how they would have been missed, if they had not been there.”
  7. “ Withdraw into yourself…”
  8. “On Pain: what we cannot bear removes us from life; what lasts can be borne.”
  9. “It is absurd that a man’s expression should obey and take a certain shape and fashion of beauty at the bidding of the mind, whereas the mind itself is not shaped and fashioned to beauty by itself.”
  10. “ ‘A better man at wrestling’: but not more sociable or more modest or better trained to meet occasion or kinder to the faults of neighbours.”
  11. “Everywhere and continually it is in your power to be reverently content with your present circumstance…”
  12. “Do not look round to the governing selves of men different from yourself, but keep looking straight forward to the goal to which Nature is leading you…”
  13. “as though you were now dead and have not lived your life up to the present moment, use the balance remaining to live henceforward according to Nature.”
  14. “Love only what falls to your lot and is destined for you; what is more suited to you than that?”
  15. “Perfection of character possesses this: to live each day as if the last, to be neither feverish nor apathetic, and not to act a part.”
  16. “…to benefit another is to act according to Nature. Do not weary then of the benefits you receive by doing them.”

 

Book VIII

1.“…put away the question of what men will think of you and be satisfied if you olive the rest of your life, be it more less, as your nature wills.”

  1. “Regret is blame of oneself for having let something useful go by…”
  2. “…to sleep is what you share also with dumb animals.”
  3. “For nothing can be done without a purpose.”
  4. “A man’s joy is to do what is proper to man, and man’s proper work is kindness to his fellow man, disdain of the movements of the senses, to discern plausible imaginations, to meditate on Universal Nature and the work of her hands.”
  5. “There are three relations: one to your environment, one to the divine cause from which all things come to pass for all, one to those who live at the same time with you.”
  6. “…say to yourself: it is in my power now not to allow any wickedness to be in this soul of mine…”
  7. “Use words that ring true.”
  8. “Accept without pride, relinquish without a struggle.”
  9. “…ask yourself in regard to every present piece of work: what is there here that can’t be borne and can’t be endured?”
  10. “I do not deserve to give myself pain, for I never deliberately give another pain.”
  11. “Nothing can happen to any human being which is not an incident appropriate to man…”
  12. “If you suffer pain because of some external cause, what troubles you is not the thing but your decision about it…”
  13. “Men have come into the world for the sake of one another. Either instruct them then or bear with them.”

 

Book IX

  1. “Another’s wrong act you must leave where it is.”
  2. “Were it not better then to use what is in your power with a free spirit rather than to be concerned for what is not in your power with a servile and abject spirit?”

Book X

  1. “Every event happens in such a way that your nature can either support it or cannot. If then it happens so that your nature can support it, do not complain but support it as is your nature to do; but if so that your nature cannot support it, do not complain, for it will destroy you quickly.”
  2. “Don’t anymore discuss at large what the good man is like, but be good.”
  3. “At the time of each separate act, stop and ask yourself whether death is to be feared because you are deprived of this.”

 

Book XI

  1. “How vividly it strikes you that no other calling in life is so fitted for the practice of philosophy as this in which you now find yourself.”
  2. “Just as those who oppose you as you progress in agreement with right principle will not be able to divert you from sound conduct, so do not let them force you to abandon your kindness towards them…”
  3. “…nothing is uglier than the wolf’s profession of friendship, avoid that above all. The good and simple and kind has these qualities in his eyes and they are not hidden.”
  4. “Live constantly the highest life.”

 

Book XII

  1. “In the use of principles model yourself on the boxer, not the gladiator. The one puts away the sword he uses and takes it up again; the other has his hand always, and needs but clench it.”
  2. “Perceive at last that you have within yourself something stronger and more divine than the things which create your passions and make a downright puppet of you.”
  3. “First, do nothing aimlessly nor without relation to an end. Secondly, relate your action to not other end except the good of human fellowship.”

 

 

 

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