Once a month I’ll be posting my “Coles Notes” version of one of my favourite books that I’ve recently read. Sometimes I may post more, but this is manageable for now.
For a full list of all posts click here.

This month’s book is one of my all time favourites. A true classic, filled with stoic wisdom mostly about being your best rational self, doing good for its own sake, and not letting other people upset you. A series of wise and practical aphorisms that have been consulted and admired by statesmen, thinkers and ordinary readers for almost two thousand years.

June 2017 – Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

  • Say to yourself first thing in the morning: today I shall meet people who are meddling, ungrateful, aggressive, treacherous, malicious, unsocial. All this has afflicted them through their ignorance of true good and evil. But I have seen that the nature of good is what’s right, and the nature of evil what is wrong; and I have reflected that the nature of the offender himself is akin to my own – not  a kinship of blood or seed, but a sharing in the same mind, the same fragment of divinity. Therefore, I cannot be harmed by any of them, as none will infect me with their wrong. Nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him. We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. So to work in opposition to one another is against nature: and anger or rejection is opposition.
  • No, think like this, as if you were on the point of death: “you are old; don’t then let this directing mind of yours be enslaved any longer – no more jerking to the strings of selfish impulse, no more disquiet at your present or suspicion of your future fate.
  • Remember how long you have been putting this off, how many times you have been given a period of grace by the gods and not used it.
  • There is a limit circumscribed to your time – if you do not use it to clear away your clouds, it will be gone, and the opportunity will not return
  • Every hour of the day give vigorous attention to the performance of the task at hand with precise analysis, with unaffected dignity, with human sympathy, with dispassionate justice – and to vacating your mind from all its other thoughts. And you will achieve this vacation if you perform each action as if it were the last of your life: freed, that is, from all lack of aim, from all passion-led deviation from the ordinance of reason, from pretense, from love of self, from dissatisfaction with what fate has dealt you.
  • Always remember these things: what the nature of the whole is, the relation of this nature to that, what kind of part it is, of what kind of whole; and that there is no one who can prevent you keeping all that you say and do in accordance with that nature, of which you are a part.
  • You may leave this life at any moment: have this possibility in your mind in all that you do, or say or think
  • Do not waste the remaining part of your life in thoughts about other people, when you are not thinking with reference to some aspect of the common good…all thoughts of others, makes you stray from the close watch on your own directing mind.
  •             No, in sequence of your thoughts you must avoid all that is casual or aimless, and most particularly anything prying or malicious. Train yourself to think only those thoughts such that in answer to the sudden question: “what is in your mind now?” you could say with immediate frankness whatever it is, this or that: and so your answer can give direct evidence that all your thoughts are straightforward and kindly, the thoughts of a social being who has no regard for the fancies of pleasure or wider indulgence, for rivalry, malice, suspicion, or anything else that one would blush to admit was in one’s mind.
  •             A man such as this, if he postpones no longer his ready place among the best, is in some way a priest and minister of the gods. He responds to the divinity seated within him, and this renders the man unsullied by pleasures, unscathed by any pain, untouched by any wrong, unconscious of any wickedness; a wrestler for the greatest prize of all, to avoid being thrown by any passion; dyed to the core with justice; embracing with his whole heart all the experience allotted to him; rarely, and only when there is great need for the common good, wondering what others may be saying or doing or thinking. He has only his own work to bring to fulfilment, and only his own fated allocation from the whole to claim his constant attention, as for his work, he makes it excellent: as for his lot, he is convinced it is good. And each person’s appointed lot is both his fellow-passenger and his driver.
  •             He bears in mind too the kinship of all rational beings, and that caring for all men is in accordance with man’s nature: but that nevertheless he should not hold to the opinions of all, but only of those who live their lives in agreement with nature. He will constantly remind himself what sort of people they are who do not lead such lives – what they are like both at home and abroad, by night and by day, they and the polluting company they keep. So he disregards, even the praise of such men – these are people who are not even satisfied with themselves.
  • You should take no action unwillingly, selfishly, uncritically, or with conflicting motives. Do not dress up your thoughts in smart finery: do not be a gabbler or a meddler. Further, let the god that is within you be the champion of the being you are.
  • …and see to it that you keep a cheerful demeanor, and retain your independence of outside help and the peace which others can give. Your duty is to stand straight – not held straight.
  • So you, I repeat, must simply and freely choose the better and hold to it.
  • Never regard as a benefit to yourself anything which will force you at some point to break your faith, to leave integrity behind, to hate, suspect, or curse another, to dissemble, to covet anything needing the secrecy of walls and drapes
  • So discard all else and secure these few things only. Remind yourself too that each of us lives only in the present moment, a mere fragment in time.
  • Always make a definition or sketch of what presents itself to your mind, so you can see it stripped bare to its essential nature and identify it clearly, in whole and in all its parts….
  • Nothing is so conducive to greatness of mind as the ability to subject each element of our experience in life to methodical and truthful examination
  • If you set yourself to your present task along the path of true reason, with all determination, vigor, and good will: if you admit no distraction, but keep your own divinity pure and standing strong, as if you had to surrender to it right now; if you grapple this to you, expecting nothing, shirking nothing, but self-content with each present action taken in accordance with nature and a heroic truthfulness in all that you say and mean – then you will live a good life. And nobody is able to stop you.
  • No more wandering. You are not likely to read your own jottings, your histories of the ancient Greeks and romans, your extracts from their literature laid up for your old age. Hurry then to the end, abandon vain hopes, rescue yourself, if you have any care for yourself, while the opportunity is still there.
  • No action should be undertaken without aim, or other than in conformity with a principle affirming the art of life.
  • Men seek retreats for themselves – in the country, by the sea, in the hills – and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophical, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself. No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than into his own mind, especially if he can dip into thoughts there which put him at immediate and complete ease: and by ease, I simply mean a well-ordered life. So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself. The doctrines you will visit there should be few and fundamental, sufficient at one meeting to wash away all your pain and send you back free of resentment at what you must rejoin.
  • Be your own master, and look at things as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, as a moral creature. And here are two of the most immediately useful thoughts you will dip into: First, that things cannot touch the mind: they are external and inert; anxieties can only come from your internal judgment. Second, that all these things you see will change almost as you look at them, and then will be no more. Constantly bring to mind all that you yourself have already seen change. The universe is change: life is judgment.
  • Remove the judgment and you have removed the thought “I am hurt”. Remove the thought “I am hurt” and the hurt itself is removed
  • No, you do not have thousands of years to live. Urgency is on you. While you live, while you can, become good.
  • Everything in any way has beauty of itself, inherent and self-sufficient: praise is no part of it.
  • So does the truly beautiful need anything beyond itself? No more than law, no more than truth, no more than kindness or integrity.
  • No wandering. In every impulse, give what is right: in every thought, stick to what is certain.
  • Universe, your harmony is my harmony: nothing in your good time is too early or too late for me.
  • Most of what we say or do is unnecessary: remove the superfluidity, and you will have more time and less bother. So in every case one should prompt oneself: is this, or is it not something unnecessary? And the removal of the unnecessary should apply not only to actions but to thoughts also: then no redundant actions either will follow.
  • Do not trouble yourself: keep yourself simple. Someone does wrong? He does wrong to himself. Has something happened to you? Fine. All that happens has been fated by the whole from the beginning and spun for your own destiny. In sum, life is short: make your gain from the present moment with right reason and justice. Keep sober and relaxed.
  • Love the art which you have learnt, and take comfort in it. Go through the remainder of your life in sincere commitment of all your being to the gods, and never making yourself tyrant or slave to any man.
  • So where should a man direct his endeavor? Here only – a right mind, action for the common good, speech incapable of lies, a disposition to welcome all that happens as necessary, intelligible, flowing form an equally intelligible spring of origin
  • Constantly observe all that comes about through change, and habituate yourself to the thought that the nature of the whole loves nothing so much as to change one form of existence into another, similar but new. All that exists is in a sense the seed of its successor
  • Your death will soon be on you: and you are not yet clear minded, or untroubled, or free from the fear of external harm, or kindly to all people, or convinced that justice of action is the only wisdom
  • Look into their directing minds: observe what even the wise will avoid or pursue
  • All that happens is as habitual and familiar as roses in spring and fruit in the summer
  • What comes after is always in affinity to what went before
  • Just as if god told you that you would die tomorrow or at least the day after tomorrow, you would attach no importance to the difference of one day, unless you are a complete coward [such is the tiny gap of time]: so you should thing there no great difference between life to the umpteenth year and life to tomorrow.
  • You should always look on human life as short and cheap. Yesterday sperm: tomorrow a mummy or ashes!
  •             So one should pass through this tiny fragment of time in tune with nature, and leave it gladly, as an olive might fall when ripe, blessing the earth which bore it and grateful to the tree which gave it growth.
  • Be like the rocky headland on which the waves constantly break. It stands firm, and round it the seething waters are laid to rest.
  •             “it is my bad luck that this has happened to me” no, you should rather say: “it is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without pain, neither crushed by the present or fearful of the future.” Because such a thing could have happened to any man, but not any man could have borne it without pain. So why see more misfortune in the event than good fortune in your ability to bear it?
  •             Can there be anything, then, in this happening which prevents you from being just, high-minded, self-controlled, intelligent, judicious, truthful, honorable and free – or any other of those attributes whose combination is the fulfilment of man’s proper nature? So in all future events which might induce sadness remember to call on this principle: “this is no misfortune, but to bear it true to yourself is good fortune”.
  • Always run on the short road: and nature’s road is short. Go then for the healthiest in all you say and do. Such a purpose releases a man from the labors of service, from all need to manage or impress.
  • At break of day, when you are reluctant to get up, have this thought ready to mind: “I am getting up for a man’s work. Do I still then resent it if I am going out to do what I was born for, the purpose for which I was brought into the world? Or was I created to wrap myself in blankets and keep warm? “but this is more pleasant”. Were you then born for pleasure – all for feeling, not for action? Can you not see plants, birds, ants, spiders, bees all doing their own work, each helping in their own way to order the world? And then you do not want to do the work of a human being – you do not hurry to the demands of your own nature.
  •             “But one needs rest too”. One does indeed: I agree. But nature has set limits to this too, just as it has to eating or drinking, and yet you go beyond these limits, beyond what you need. Not in your actions, though, not any longer: her you stay below your capability.
  •   The point is that you do not love yourself – otherwise you would love both your own nature and her purpose for you.
  • Judge yourself entitled to any word or action which is in accord with nature, and do not let any subsequent criticism or persuasion from anyone talk you out of it. No, if it was a good thing to say or do, do not revoke your entitlement. Those others are guided by their own minds and pursue their own impulses. Do not be distracted by any of this, but continue straight ahead, following your own nature and universal nature: these two have one and the same path
  • They cannot admire you for intellect. So display those virtues which are wholly in your own power – integrity, dignity, hard work, self-denial, contentment, frugality, kindness, independence, simplicity, discretion, magnanimity. Do you not see how many virtues you can already display without any excuse of lack of talent or aptitude? And yet you are still content to lag behind. Or does the fact that you have no inborn talent oblige you to grumble, to scrimp, to toady, to blame your poor body, to suck up, to brag, to have your mind in such turmoil? No, by heaven, it does not! You could have got rid of all this long ago, and only be charged – if charge there is – with being rather slow dull of comprehension. And yet even this can be worked on – unless you ignore or welcome your stupidity.
  • So you ought to be one of those who, in a sense, are unconscious of the good they do
  • Prayer should be thus simple and open, or not at all
  • In the whole of things there is one harmony: and just as all material bodies combine to make the world one body, a harmonious whole, so all causes combine to make destiny one harmonious cause…you should take the same view of the process and completion of the design of universal nature as you do of your own health: and so welcome all that happens to you, even if it seems rather cruel, because its purpose leads to the health of the universe and the prosperity and success of Zeus
  • So there are two reasons why you should be content with your experience. One is that this has happened to you, was prescribed for you, and is related to you, a thread of destiny spun for you from the first by the most ancient causes. The second is that what comes to each individual is a determining part of the welfare, the perfection, and indeed the very coherence of that which governs the whole. Because the complete whole is maimed if you sever even the tiniest fraction of its connection and continuity: this is true of its constituent parts, and true likewise of its causes. And you do sever something, to the extent that you can, whenever you fret at your lot: this is, in a sense, a destruction.
  • Do not give up in disgust or impatience if you do not find action on the right principles consolidated into a habit in all that you do. No: if you have taken a fall, come back again, and be glad if most of your actions are on the right side of humanity. And love what you return to.
  • One should console oneself with the anticipation of natural release, not impatient of its delay, but taking comfort in just these two thoughts. One, that nothing will happen to me which is not in accordance with the nature of the whole: the other, that it is in my control to do nothing contrary to my god and the divinity within me – no one can force me to this offense.
  • To what use, then, am I now putting my soul? Ask yourself this question on every occasion. Examine yourself.
  • I am made up of the causal and the material. Neither of these will disappear into nothing, just as neither came to be out of nothing. So every part of me will be assigned its changed place in some part of the universe, and that will change again into another part of the universe, and so on to infinity. A similar sequence of change brought me into existence, and my parents before me, and so back in another infinity of regression. Nothing forbids this assertion, even if the universe is subject to the completion of cycles.
  • One should pay no attention to any of those things which do not belong to man’s portion incumbent on him as a human being. They are not demanded of a man; man’s nature does not proclaim them; they are not consummations of that nature. Therefore, they do not constitute man’s end either, nor yet any means  to that end – that is, good. Further, if any of these things were incumbent on him to disdain or resist them; we would not commend the man who shows himself free from the need of them; if these things were truly “goods”, a man who fails to press for his full share of any of them could not be a good man. But in fact, the more a man deprives himself of these or suchlike, or tolerates others depriving him, the better a man he is.
  • Your mind will take on the character of your most frequent thoughts: souls are dyed by thoughts. So dye your own with a succession of thoughts like these.
  • Each creature is made in the interest of another; its course is directed for that for which it was made; its end lies in that to which its course is directed; and where its end is, there also for each is its benefit and its good.
  • Nothing happens to any creature beyond its own natural endurance.
  • Things of themselves cannot touch the soul at all. They have no entry to the soul, and cannot turn or move it. The should alone turns and moves itself, making all externals presented to it cohere with the judgments it thinks worthy of itself.
  • Revere the ultimate power in the universe: this is what makes use of all things and directs all things. But similarly revere the ultimate power in yourself: this is akin to that other power. In you too this is what makes use of all else, and your life is governed by it.
  • Reflect often on the speed with which all things in being, or coming into being, are carried past and swept away. Existence is like a river in ceaseless flow, its actions a constant succession of change, its causes innumerable in their variety: scarcely anything stands still, even what is most immediate. Reflect too on the yawning gulf of past and future time, in which all things vanish. So in all this it must be for anyone to be puffed with ambition, racked in struggle, or indignant at his lot. As if this was anything lasting or likely to trouble him for long.
  • Another does wrong. What is that to me? Let him see to it: he has his own disposition, his own action. I have now what universal nature wishes me to have now, and I do what my own nature wishes me to do now!
  • …I remain a free man and no one will prevent me doing what I wish to do: and my wish is to follow the nature of a rational and social being.
  • What is the mind of true skill and wisdom? It is the mind which knows the beginning and the end, and knows the reason which informs all of existence and governs the whole in appointed cycles through all eternity.
  • You can always ensure the right current to your life if you can first follow the right path – if, that is, your judgments and actions follow the path of reason.
  • Don’t let the impression of other people’s grief carry you away indiscriminately. Help them, yes, as best you can and as the case deserves, even if their grief is for the loss of something indifferent: but do not imagine their loss as any real harm…do not join their folly!
  • “There was a time when I met luck at every turn.” But luck is the good fortune you determine for yourself: and good fortune consists in good inclinations of the soul, good impulses, good actions.
  • The substance of the Whole is passive and malleable, and the reason directing this substance has no cause in itself to do wrong, as there is no wrong in it: nothing it creates is wrongly made, nothing harmed by it. All things have their beginning and their end in accordance with it.
  • If you are doing your proper duty let it not matter to you whether you are cold or warm, whether you are sleepy or well-slept, whether men speak badly or well of you, even whether you are on the point of death or doing something else: because even this, the act in which we die, is one of the acts of life, and so here too it suffices to “make the best move you can”
  • Look within: do not allow the special quality or worth of any thing to pass you by.
  • The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.
  • Let one thing be your joy and comfort: to move on from social act to social act. With your mind on god.
  •             The directing mind is that which wakes itself, adapts itself, makes itself of whatever nature it wishes, and makes all that happens to it appear in the way it wants.
  • When circumstances force you to some sort of distress, quickly return to yourself. Do not stay out of rhythm for longer than you must: you will master the harmony the more by constantly going back to it.
  •             If you had a step-mother and a mother at the same time, you would pay attention to your step-mother but nevertheless your constant recourse would be to your mother. That is now how it is with the court and philosophy. So return to philosophy again and again, and take comfort in her: she will make the other life seem bearable to you, and you bearable in it.
  • How good it is, when you have roast meat or suchlike foods before you, to impress on your mind that this is the dead body of a bird or pig; and again, that the falernian wine is the mere juice of grapes…and in sexual intercourse that it is no more than the friction of a membrane and a spurt of mucus ejected. How good these perceptions are at getting to the heart of the real thing and penetrating through it, so you can see it for what it is! This should be your practice throughout all your life: when things have such a plausible appearance, show them naked, see their shoddiness, strip away their own boastful account of themselves. Vanity is the greatest seducer of reason: when you are most convinced that your work is important, that is when you are most under its spell.
  • Some things are hurrying to come into being, others are hurrying to be gone, and part of that, which is being born is already extinguished. Flows and changes are constantly renewing the world, just as the ceaseless passage of time makes eternity ever young. In this river, then, where there can be no foothold, what should anyone prize of all that races past him?
  • The praise of the masses is the mere rattle of tongues…
  • Reverence of your own mind and the value you give it will make you acceptable to yourself, in harmony with your fellows and consonant with the gods – that is, praising all that they assign and have disposed.
  • …what a way to behave! They refuse to speak well of people who live as their contemporaries and in their company, but they set great store by their own good name among future generations which they have never seen nor ever will see.
  • Do not imagine that, if something is hard for you to achieve, it is therefore impossible for any man: but rather consider anything that is humanly possible and appropriate to lie within your own reach too.
  • If someone can prove me wrong and show me my mistakes in any thought or action, I shall gladly change. I seek the truth, which never harmed anyone: the harm is to persist in one’s own self-deception and ignorance…I do myown duty: the other things do not distract me
  • Since you have reason and they do not, treat dumb animals and generally all things and objects with generosity and decency; treat men, because they do have reason, with social concern; and in all things call on the gods. And do not let it matter to you for how long you will be alive in this work: even three hours spent thus are sufficient!
  • Disgraceful if, in this life where your body does not fail, your soul should fail you first
  • The one harvest of existence on earth is a godly habit of mind and social action
  • Sober up, recall yourself, shake off sleep once more: realize they were mere dreams that troubled you, and now that you are awake again look on these things as you would have looked on a dream.
  • The pain for hand or foot is not contrary to nature, as long as the foot is doing the work of a foot and the hand the work of a hand. So likewise for a man, there is nothing contrary to nature in pain, as long as he is doing the work of a man: and if not contrary to nature for him, not an evil either.
  • He who sees the present has seen all things, both all that has come to pass from everlasting and all that will be for eternity: all things are related and the same.
  • Fir yourself for the matters which have fallen to your lot, and love these people among whom destiny has cast you – but your love must be genuine.
  • If we determine that only what lies in our own power is good or evil, there is no reason left us either to charge a god or to take a hostile stance to a man.
  •             We all work together to the same end, some with conscious attention, other without knowing it – just as Heraclitus says that even people asleep are workers in the factory of all that happens in the world. One person contributes in this way, another in that: and there is room even for the critic who tries to oppose or destroy the production – the world had need for him too. So it remains for you to decide in which category you place yourself. Certainly he who governs the whole will make good use of you and welcome you into some part of the joint workforce: but just make sure that your part is not that of the cheap and vulgar line in the comedy.
  • Does the sun presume to do the work of the rain-god?…is it not that they are different, but work together to the same end?
  • All that happens to the individual is to the benefit of the Whole.
  • In this world there is only one thing of value, to live out your life in truth and justice, tolerant of those who are neither true or just.
  • How to understand your own good: the lover of glory takes it to be the reactions of others; the lover of pleasure takes it to be his own passive experience; the intelligent man sees it as his own action.
  • Accustom yourself not to be disregarding of what someone else has to say: as far as possible enter into the mind of the speaker
  • No one will prevent you living in accordance with the principle of your own nature: nothing will happen to you contrary to the principle of universal nature.
  • “I am able to form the judgment I should about this event. If able, why troubled? All that lies outside my own mind is nothing to it.” Learn this, and you stand upright.
  • Bear in mind that a person’s worth is measured by the worth of what he values
  • Is my mind sufficient for this task, or is it not? If it is, I use it for the task as an instrument given me by the nature of the Whole. If it is not, I either cede the work [if it is otherwise my responsibility] to someone better able to accomplish it, or do it as best I can, calling in aid someone who, in cooperation with my own directing mind, can achieve what is at this particular time the need and benefit of the community. Whatever I do, either by myself or with another, should have this sole focus – the common benefit and harmony.
  • Do not let the future trouble you. You will come to it [if that is what you must] possessed of the same reason that you apply now to the present.
  • Standing straight – or held straight.
  • Doing good does not yet delight you as an end in itself; you are still doing it as a mere duty, not yet as a kindness to yourself.
  • Whatever anyone does or says, I must be a good man
  • The directing mind does not disturb itself: for example, it does not frighten itself or lead itself to desire.
  • Of itself the directing mind is without needs, unless it creates a need for itself: in the same way it is untroubled and unhindered, unless it troubles or hinders itself.
  • Is someone afraid of change? Well, what can ever come to be without change? Or what is dearer or closer to the nature of the Whole than change? Can you be fed, unless what you eat changes? Can any other of the benefits of life be achieved without change? Do you not see then that for you to be changed is equal, and equally necessary to the nature of the Whole?
  •             All our bodies [being of one nature with the Whole and cooperating with it as our limbs do with each other] pass through the universal substance as through a swirling stream. How many a chrysppus, a Socrates, an Epictetus has eternity already swallowed! This same thought should strike you about any man at all and any thing.
  • Soon you will have forgotten all things: soon all things will have forgotten you…
  • It is human nature to love even those who trip and fall. This follows if you reflect at the time that all men are brothers; that they go wrong through ignorance, not intent…
  • All that you see will in a moment be changed by the nature which governs the Whole: it will create other things out of this material, and then again others out of that, so that the world is always young.
  • When someone does you wrong, you should consider immediately what judgment of good or evil lead him to wrong you. When you see this, you will pity him, and not feel surprise or anger. You yourself either still share his view of good, or something like it, in which case you should understand and forgive: if, on the other hand, you no longer judge such things as either good or evil, it will be easier for you to be patient with the unsighted
  • Do not dream of possessing of what you do not have: rather, reflect on the greatest blessings in what you do have, and on their account remind yourself how much they would have been missed if they were not there. But at the same time you must be careful not to let your pleasure in them habituate you to dependency, to avoid distress if they are sometimes absent.
  • Stretch your thought to parallel what is being said. Let your mind get inside what is happening and who is doing it.
  • Take your joy in simplicity, in integrity, in indifference to all that lies between virtue and vice.
  • It is shameful that the face should be so obedient, shaping and ordering its expression as the mind dictates, when the mind cannot impose its own shape and order on itself.
  • The truth of the matter is this: whatever position a man has taken up in his own best judgment, or is assigned by his commander, there, it seems to me, he should stay and face the danger, giving no thought to death or anything else before dishonor.
  • …could it not be that anyone who is truly a man should dismiss any concern for a particular length of life, and not simply live for the sake of living? Rather he should leave all this to god and believe what the womenfolk say, that no one ever escapes the day of his fate: his thought should be on this further question, how best to live his life in the time he has to be alive.
  • Where a task can be accomplished in accordance with the reason which gods and men share, there is nothing to be afraid of: because where there is the possibility of benefit from an action which moves along the proper path, following our own constitution, there should be no lurking fear of any harm.
  • Everywhere and all the time it is up to you to honor god in contentment with your present circumstance, to treat the men who are your present company with justice, and to lavish thought on every present impression in your mind, so that nothing slips in past your understanding.
  • Do not look around at the directing minds of other people, but keep looking straight ahead to where nature is leading you – both universal nature, in what happens to you, and your own nature, in what you must do yourself.
  • Imagine you were now dead, or had not lived before this moment. Now view the rest of your life as a bonus, and live it as nature directs.
  • Love only what falls your way and is fated for you. What could suit you more than that?
  •             In every contingency keep in your mind’s eye those who had the same experience before, and reacted with vexation, disbelief, or complaint. So where are they now? Nowhere. Well then, do you want to act like them? Why not leave the moods and shifts of others to the shifting and the shifted, and for yourself concentrate wholly on how to make use of these contingencies? You will then use them well, and they will be raw material in your hands. Only take care and seek your own best good in all that you do. Remember these two things: the action is important, the context is indifferent.
  •   Dig inside yourself. Inside there is a spring of goodness ready to gush at any moment if you keep digging.
  • The body, too, should stay firmly composed, and not fling itself about in either motion or at rest. Just as the mind displays qualities in the face, keeping it intelligent and attractive, something similar should be required of the whole body. But all this should be secured without making an obvious point of it.
  • The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in that it stands ready for what comes and is not thrown by the unforeseen.
  • All the time you should consider who are these people whose endorsements you wish, and what are the minds that direct them. When you look into the sources of their judgment and impulse, you will not blame their unwitting error, nor will you feel the need of their endorsement.
  • Pain is neither unendurable nor unending, as long as you remember its limits and do not exaggerate it in your imagination. Remember too that many things we find disagreeable are the unrecognized analogues of pain – drowsiness, for example, oppressive heat, loss of appetite. So when you find yourself complaining of any of these, say to yourself “you are giving in to pain”.
  • Take care that you never treat the misanthropic as they treat mankind.
  • The way nature has blended into you the compound whole does not prevent you drawing a boundary around yourself and keeping what is your own in your own control. Always remember this: remember too that the happy life depends on very little. And do not think just because you have given up hope of becoming a philosopher or a scientist, you should therefore despair of a free spirit, integrity, social conscience, obedience to god. It is wholly possible to become a “divine man” without anybody’s recognition.
  • Live through your life without pressure and in the utmost contentment, even if all are clamoring what they will against you, even if wild beasts are tearing off the limbs of this poor lump of a body accreted around you. What in all this prevents the mind from preserving itself in tranquility, in true judgment of circumstance and readiness to use any event submitted to it?…because a god or a man can assimilate anything that happens: it will not be new or hard to handle, but familiar and easy.
  • Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense.
  • It is ridiculous not to escape from one’s own vices, which is possible, while trying to escape the vices of others, which is impossible.
  • Whatever the rational and social faculty finds neither intelligent nor to the common good it judges, with good reason, beneath itself.
  • When you have done good and another has benefited, why do you still look, as fools do, for a third thing besides – credit for good works, or a return.
  • No one tires of receiving benefit: and action in accordance with nature is your own benefit. Do not then tire of benefit gained by benefit given.
  • The nature of the Whole set itself to create a universe. So now either everything that comes into being springs from that logical consequence, or else even the primary aims to which the directing mind of the universe sets its own impulse are irrational. Reminding yourself of this will help you face much with greater tranquility.
  • So if you have a true perception of how things lie, abandon any concern for reputation, and be satisfied if you can just live the rest of your life, whatever remains, in the way your nature wishes. You must consider, then, what those wishes are, and then let nothing distract you. You know from experience that in all your wanderings you have nowhere found the good life – not in logic, not in wealth, not in glory, not in indulgence: nowhere. Where then is it to be found? In doing what man’s nature requires. And how does he do this? By having principles to govern his impulses and actions. What are these principles? Those of good and evil – the belief that nothing is good for a human being which does not make him just, self-controlled, brave and free: and nothing evil which does not make him the opposite of these.
  •             Ask yourself this about each action: “how does this sit with me? Shall I regret it? In a short while I am dead and all things are gone. What more do I want, if this present work is that of an intelligent and social being, sharing one law with god?”
  • First, do not be upset: all things follow the nature of the whole, and in a little while you will be no one and nowhere. Next, concentrate on the matter in hand and see it for what it is. Remind yourself of your duty to be a good man and rehearse what man’s nature demands: then do it straight and unswerving, or say what you best think right. Always, though, in kindness, integrity, and sincerity.
  • The work of universal nature is to translate this reality to another, to change things, to take them from here and carry them there. All things are mutations, but there is equality too in their distribution. All is familiar: no cause then for fear of anything new
  • Every living organism is fulfilled when it follows the right path for its own nature. For a rational nature the right path is to withhold assent to anything false or obscure in the impressions made on its mind, to direct its impulses solely to social action, to reserve its desires and aversions to what lies in our power, and to welcome all that is assigned to it by universal nature…whereas man’s nature is part of a nature which is unimpeded, intelligent, and just – in that to each creature it gives fair and appropriate allocations of duration, substance, cause, activity, and experience. But do not look to find a one-to-one correspondence in every case, but rather an overall equivalence – the totality of this to the aggregate of that.
  • Not possible to study. But possible to rein in arrogance; possible to triumph over pleasures and pains; possible to rise above mere glory; possible not to be angry with the unfeeling and the ungrateful, and even, yes, to care for them.
  • Let nobody any more hear you blaming palace life: don’t hear yourself blaming it
  • Regret is a censure of yourself for missing something beneficial. The good must be something beneficial, and of concern to the wholly good person. No wholly good person would regret missing a pleasure. Therefore, pleasure is neither beneficial nor a good.
  • When you are reluctant to get up from your sleep, remind yourself that it is your constitution and man’s nature to perform social acts, whereas sleep is something you share with dumb animals.
  • Constantly test your mental impressions – each one individually, if you can: investigate the cause, identify the emotion, apply the analysis of logic.
  • Whenever you meet someone, ask yourself first this immediate question: “what beliefs does this person hold about the good and bad in life? Because if he believes this or that about pleasure and pain and their constituents, about fame and obscurity, death and life, then I shall not find it surprising or strange if he acts in this way or that way, and I shall remember that he has no choice but to act as he does….it would be absurd to be surrised at a fig-tree bearing figs. Remember that there is as little cause for surprise if the world brings forth fruits such as these when the crop is there.
  • Remember that to change course or accept correction leaves you just as free as you were. The action is your own, driven by your own impulse and judgment, indeed your own intelligence.
  • There is no blame. If you can, put him right: if you can’t, at the least put the matter right. If that too is impossible, what further purpose does blame serve? Nothing should be done without purpose
  • Nature’s aim for everything includes its cessation just as much as its beginning and duration – like someone throwing up a ball. How can it be good for the ball on the way up and bad on the way down, or even when it hits the ground? How can it be good when a bubble forms, and bad when it bursts? A candle is a similar example.
  • Concentrate on the subject or the act in question, on principle or meaning. You deserve what you’re going through. You would rather become good tomorrow than be good today.
  • Doing something? I do it with reference to the benefit of mankind. Something happening to me? I accept it in reference to the gods and the universal source from which all things spring interrelated
  • Man’s joy is to do man’s proper work. And work proper to man is benevolence to his own kind, disdain for the stirrings of the senses, diagnosis of the impressions he can trust, contemplation of universal nature and all things thereby entailed.
  • Three relations. First, to your environment; second, to the divine cause which is the source of all that happens to all men; third, to your fellows and contemporaries
  • …the soul can preserve its own clear sky and calm voyage by not assessing pain as an evil. Every judgment, every impulse, desire and rejection is within the soul, where nothing evil can penetrate.
  • Erase the impressions on your mind by constantly saying to yourself: “it is in my power now to keep this soul of min free from any vice or passion, or any other disturbance at all: but seeing all things for what they are, I can treat them on their merits.” Remember this power which nature gives you.
  • When you speak in the senate or to any individual, be straightforward, not pedantic. Use language which rings true.
  • You must compose your life action by action, and be satisfied if each action achieves its own end as best can be: and no one can prevent you from that achievement. “but there will be some external obstacle”. No obstacle, though, to justice, self-control and reason. “But perhaps some other source of action will be obstructed”. Well, gladly accept the obstruction as it is, make a judicious change to meet the given circumstance, and another action will immediately substitute and fit into the composition of your life as discussed.
  • Just consider the grace of god’s favour to man. He has put it in man’s power not to be broken off from the whole in the first place, and also, if he has broken off, to return and grow back again, resume his role as a member.
  • In the same way that nature turns to its own purpose anything obstructive or contrary, placing it in the fated scheme of things and making it part of itself, so the rational being can also convert every obstacle into material for his own use, and use it to further whatever his original purpose was
  • Do not let the panorama of your life oppress you, do not dwell on all the various troubles which may have occurred in the past or may occur in the future. Just ask yourself in each instance of the present: “What is there in this work which I cannot endure or support?” You will be ashamed to make any such confession. Then remind yourself that it is neither the future nor the past which weighs on you, but always the present: and the present burden reduces, if only you can isolate it and accuse your mind of weakness if it cannot hold against something thus stripped bare.
  • If you remove your judgment of anything that seems painful, you yourself stand quite immune to pain. “What self?” Reason. “But I am not just reason”. Granted. So let your reason cause itself no pain, and if some other part of you is in trouble, it can form its own judgment for itself.
  • Now apply all this to yourself. Is pain or pleasure affecting you? That is for the senses. You have formed an impulse and then met some obstruction? If this was an unconditional aim, then, yes, the obstruction harms your rational nature: but if you accept what is common experience, no harm is yet done or hindrance caused. You see, no one else will impede the proper functions of the mind. The mind cannot be touched by fire, steel, tyranny, slander, or anything whatever, once it has become “A perfect round in solitude”
  • Joy varies from person to person. My joy is if I keep my directing mind pure, denying no human being or human circumstance, but looking on all things with kindly eyes, giving welcome or use to each as it deserves.
  • Look. Make yourself a gift of this present time.
  • Pick me up and throw me where you will. Wherever I land I shall keep the god within me happy – satisfied, that is, if attitude and action follow its own constitution.
  • Nothing can happen to any human being outside the experience which is natural to humans – an ox too experiences nothing foreign to the nature of oxen, a vine nothing foreign to a vine, a rock nothing foreign to a rock. So if each thing experiences what is usual and natural for it, why should you complain? Universal nature has brought you nothing you can’t endure.
  • If your distress has some external cause, it is not the thing itself that troubles you, but your own judgment of it – and you can erase this immediately. If it is something in your own attitude that distresses you, no one stops you correcting your view. So too if you are distressed at not achieving some action you think salutary, why not carry on rather than fret? “but there’s an obstacle in the way too solid to move”. No cause for distress, then, since the reason for failure does not lie with you.
  • Remember that your directing mind becomes invincible when it withdraws into its own self-sufficiency, not doing anything it does not wish to do, even if its position is unreasonable. How much more, then, when the judgment it forms is reasoned and deliberate? That is why a mind free from passions is a fortress: people have no stronger place of retreat, and someone taking refuge here is then impregnable. Anyone who has not seen this is short of wisdom: anyone who has seen it and does not take refuge is short of fortune.
  • Do not elaborate to yourself beyond what your initial impressions report. You have been told that so and so is maligning you. That is the report: you have not been told that you are harmed. I see that my little boy is ill. That is what I see: I do not see that he is in danger. So always stay like this within your first impressions and do not add conclusions from your own thoughts – and then that is all. Or rather you can add the conclusion of one acquainted with all that happens in the world.
  • A bitter cucumber? Throw it away. Brambles in the path? Go round them. That is all you need. Without going on to ask. “So why are these things in the world anyway”? that question would be laughable to a student of nature, just as any carpenter or cobbler would laugh at you if you objected to the sight of shavings or off-cuts from their work on the shop floor. Yet they have somewhere to throw their rubbish, whereas the nature of the whole has nothing outside itself. The marvel of its craft is that it sets its own confines and recycles into itself all within them which seems to be decaying, growing old, or losing its use: and then creates a fresh from this same material. This way it requires no substance other than its own, and has no need for a rubbish-dump. So it is complete in its own space, its own material, and its own craftsmanship.
  • Do not be dilatory in action, muddled in communication, or vague in thought. Don’t let your mind settle into depression or elation. Allow some leisure in your life.
  •             “They kill, they cut in pieces, they hunt with curses”. What relevance has this to keeping your mind pure, sane, sober, just? As if a man were to come up to a spring of clear, sweet water and curse it – it would still continue to bubble up water good to drink. He could throw in mud or dung: in no time the spring will break it down, wash it away, and take no color from it. How then can you secure an everlasting spring and not a cistern? By keeping yourself at all times intent on freedom – and staying kind, simple, and decent.
  •             Someone who does not know that there is an ordered universe does not know where he is. Someone who does not know the natural purpose of the universe does not know who he is or what the universe is. Someone who fails in any one of these ways could not tell the purpose of his own existence either. So what do you think of the man who fears or courts the applause of an audience who have no idea where they are and who they are?
  • Take your thought too from the mind which embraces all things. The power of mind spreads everywhere and permeates no less than the air: it is there for all who want to absorb it, just like the air for those who can draw breath.
  • To my determining will my neighbor’s will is as indifferent as his breath and his body. Sure, we are born above all for the sake of each other: nevertheless the directing mind of each of us has its own sovereignty. Otherwise my neighbours wickedness would be my own harm: and this was not god’s intention, to leave my misfortune up to another.
  • The sun appears to pour itself down, and indeed its light pours in all directions, but the stream does not run out. This pouring is linear extension: that is why its beams are called rays, because they radiate in extended lines. You can see what is if you observe the sun’s light entering a dark room through a narrow opening,. It extends in a straight line and impacts, so to speak, on any solid body in its path which blocks passage through the air on the other side: it settles there and does not slip off or fall.
  •             Something similar will be true of the flow and diffusion of the universal mind – not an exhaustible stream but rather a constant radiation. And there will be nothing forceful or violent in its impact on the obstacles it meets: it will not fall off but will settle there and illuminate what receives it. Anything unreflective will deprive itself of that light.
  • He who fears death fears either unconsciousness or another sort of consciousness. Now if you will no longer be conscious you will not be conscious either of anything bad. If you are to take on a different consciousness, you will be a different being and life will not cease.
  • Men are born for the sake of each other. So either teach or tolerate.
  • Enter into the directing mind of everyone, and let anyone else enter your own.
  • The pursuit of pleasure as a good and the avoidance of pain as an evil constitutes sin. Someone like that must inevitably and frequently blame universal nature for unfair distribution as between bad men and good, since bad men are often deep in pleasures and the possessions which make for pleasure, while the good often meet with pain and the circumstances which cause pain.
  •             Further, anyone who fears pain will also at times be afraid of some future event in the world, and that is immediate sin. And a man who pursues pleasure will not hold back from injustice – an obvious sin. Those who wish to follow nature and share her mind must themselves be indifferent to those pairs of opposites to which universal nature is indifferent. So anyone who is not himself indifferent to pain and pleasure, death and life, fame and obscurity – things which universal nature treats indifferently – is clearly committing a sin.
  • …stop impulse, quench desire: keep your directing mind its own master.
  • …if you can, show them the better way. If you cannot, remember that this is why you have the gift of kindness.
  • Work. Don’t work as a miserable drudge, or in any expectation of pity or admiration. One aim only: action or inaction as civic cause demands.
  • Today I escaped from all bothering circumstances – or rather I threw them out. They were nothing external, but inside me, just my own judgments.
  • Good or ill for the rational social being lies not in feelings but in action: just as also his own virtue or vice shows not in what he feels, but in what he does.
  • Penetrate into their directing minds, and you will see what sort of critics you fear – and what poor critics they are of themselves.
  • You should leave another’s wrong where it lies.
  • If any action of yours, then, does not have direct or indirect relation to the social end, it pulls your life apart and destroys its unity.
  • You have endured innumerable troubles by not leaving your directing mind to do the work it was made for. But enough.
  • When another blames you or hates you, or people voice similar criticisms, go to their souls, penetrate inside and see what sort of people they are. You will realize that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you. But you should still be kind to them.
  • The whole is either a god – then all is well. Or if purposeless – some sort of random arrangement of atoms or molecules – you should not be without purpose yourself.
  • So, man, what does that mean for you? Do what nature requires at this moment. Start straight away, if that is in your power: don’t look over your shoulder to see if people will know. Don’t hope for Plato’s utopian republic, but be content with the smallest step forward, and regard even that result as no mean achievement. How worthless are these little men in the public eye who think their actions have anything to do with philosophy! They are full of snot. And who will change their views? Without a change of view what alternative is there to slavery – men groaning and going through the motions of compliance? I shall follow them, if they saw the will of universal nature and took themselves to her school. But if they simply strutted a dramatic role, no one has condemned me to imitate them. The work of philosophy is simple and modest. Do not seduce me to pompous pride.
  • Take a view from above – look at the thousands of flocks and herds, the thousands of human ceremonies, every sort of voyage in storm or calm, the range of creation, combination, and extinction. Consider too the lives once lived by others long before you, the lives that will be lived after you, the lives lived now among foreign tribes; and how many have never even heard your name, how many will very soon forget it, how many may praise you now but quickly turn to blame, reflect that neither memory nor fame, nor anything else at all, has any importance worth thinking of.
  • What are the directing minds of these people? What are they set on, what governs their likes and values? Train yourself to look at their souls naked. When they think that their blame will hurt or their praise advantage, what a conceit that is!
  • Enough of this miserable way of life, enough of grumbling and aping! Why are you troubled? What is new in this? What is it that drives you mad? The cause? Then face it. Or rather the material? Then face that. Apart from cause and material there is nothing. But you should even now, late though it is, see to your relation to the gods also: make yourself simpler, and better. Three years is as good as a hundred in this quest.
  • …is it not then better to use your own power in freedom rather than show a servile and supine concern for what you cannot control?
  • …one man prays: “how can I sleep with that woman”. Your prayer is: “how can I lose the desire to sleep with her?”. Another prays: “ how can I be rid of that man?”. You pray: “ How can I stop wanting to be rid of him?” Another: “How can I save my little child?” you: “How can I learn not to fear his loss?” and so on. Give all your prayers this turn, and observe what happens.
  • In general, you can always re-educate one who has lost his way: and anyone who does wrong has missed his proper aim and gone astray.
  •             And what harm have you suffered? You will find that none of these who excite your anger has done anything capable of affecting your mind for the worse: and it is only in your mind that damage or harm can be done to you, they have no other existence.
  •             Anyway, where is the harm or surprise in the ignorant behaving as the ignorant do? Think about it. Should you not rather blame yourself, for not anticipating that this man would make this error? Your reason gave you the resource to reckon this mistake likely from this man, yet you forgot and are now surprised that he went wrong.
  • What more do you want, man, from a kind act? Is it not enough that you have done something consonant with your own nature – do you now put a price on it? As if the eye demanded a return for seeing, or the feet for walking. Just as these were made for a particular purpose, and fulfil their proper nature by acting in accordance with their own constitution, so man was made to do good: and whenever he’s does something good or otherwise contributory to the common interest, he has done what he was designed for, and inherits his own.
  • My soul, will you ever be good, simple, individual, bare, brighter than the body that covers you? Will you ever taste the disposition to love and affection? Will you ever be complete and free of need, missing nothing, desiring nothing live or lifeless for the enjoyment of pleasure? Or time for longer enjoyment, or amenity of place, space, and climate? Or good company? No, will you not rather be satisfied with your present state and take pleasure in all that is presently yours? Will you not convince yourself that all your experience comes from the gods, that all is well and all will be well for you, all that the gods see fit to give you, now and hereafter, in the maintenance of that perfect being which is good and just and beautiful, which generates all things, sustains and contains all things, embraces all things as they dissolve into the generation of others like them? Will you ever be such as to share the society of gods and men without any criticism of them or condemnation by them?
  • Observe what your physical nature requires, as one subject to the condition of mere life. Then do it and welcome it, as long as your nature as an animate being will not be impaired. And rational directly implies social. Follow these rules, and no further fuss.
  • All that happens is an event either within your natural ability to bear it or not. So if it is an even within that ability, do not complain, but bear it as you were born to. If outside your ability, do not complain either: it will take you away before you have the chance for complaint. Remember, though, that you are by nature born to bear all that your own judgment can decide bearable, or tolerate in action, if you represent it to yourself as benefit or duty.
  • Whatever happens to you was being prepared for you from everlasting, and the mesh of causes was ever spinning from eternity both your own existence and the incidence of this particular happening.
  • Whether atoms or a natural order, the first premise must be that I am part of the Whole which is governed by nature: the second, that I have some close relationship with the other kindred parts. With these premises in mind, in so far as I am a part I shall not resent anything assigned by the whole. Nothing which benefits the whole can be harmful to the part, and the whole contains nothing which is not to its benefit. All organic natures have this in common, but the nature of the universe has this additional attribute, that no external cause can force it to create anything harmful to itself.
  •             So remembering that I am part of a whole so constituted will leave me happy with all that happens to me. And insofar as I have some close relationship with the other kindred parts, I shall do nothing unsocial, but rather look to the good of my kin and have every impulse directed to the common benefit and diverted from its opposite. All this in operation guarantees that life will flow well, just as you would judge a citizen’s life in proper flow when he moves on through acts which benefit his fellow citizens, and welcomes all that his city assigns him.
  • Claim your entitlement to these epithets – good, decent, truthful, in mind clear, cooperative, and independent – and take care then not to swap them for other names…so if you keep yourself true to these titles, not just grubbing for this acclamation from others, you will be a new man and enter a new life.
  •             To continue the same man as you have been up to now, to be torn apart and defiled in this life you live, is just senseless self-preservation like that of half-eaten gladiators who lead to be kept alive for the next day, when they will meet again those same claws and teeth.
  •             Launch yourself, then, on these few claims. If you can stay within them, stay there like a man translated to some paradise, the islands of the blessed. But if you feel yourself falling away and losing control, retire in good heart to some corner where you will regain control – or else make a complete exit from life, not in anger, but simply, freely, with integrity, making this leaving of it at least one achievement in your life.
  •             A great help to keeping these claims to virtue fresh in your mind will be to keep your mind on the gods, remembering that what they want is not servile flattery but the development of all rational beings into their own image: they want the fig tree to do the proper work of a fig tree, the dog of a dog, the bee of a bee – and man the proper work of man.
  • …when will you take your pleasure in simplicity? When in dignity? When in the knowledge of each individual thing – what is its essential nature, its place in the world, its natural span of existence, what are its components, to whom can it belong, who can give it and take it away?
  • Adopt a systematic study of the way all things change into one another: pay constant attention to this aspect of nature and train yourself in it. Nothing is so conducive to greatness of mind. One so trained has divested himself of his body: recognizing that in almost no time he will have to leave all this behind and depart from the world of men, he has devoted his entire self to justice in his own actions and to the nature of the Whole in all things external. He does not even give a thought to what others will say or suppose about him, or do against him, but is content to meet these two condition – his own integrity in each present action, and glad acceptance of his present lot. He has abandoned all other pre-occupations and ambitions, and his only desire is to walk the straight path according to law, and in doing so, to follow in the path of god.
  • …if you cannot see the way, hold back and consult your best advisers…
  • …a man following reason in all things combines relaxation with initiative, spark with composure.
  • As soon as you wake from sleep ask yourself: will it make any difference to you if others criticize what is in fact just and true?” No, it will not. You have surely not forgotten what these people who whinny in praise or blame of others are like in their bed and at their board, the sort of things they do and avoid or pursue, their cheating and stealing, not with hands and feet, but with the most precious part of themselves, the part where – if allowed- there grows trust, decency, truth, law, the spirit of goodness.
  • Nature gives all and takes all back. To her the man educated into humility says: “give what you will; take back what you will”. And he says this in no spirit of defiance, but simply as her loyal subject.
  • The time you have left short. Live it as if you were on a mountain. Here or there makes no difference, if wherever you live you take the world as your city. Let men see, let them observe a true man living in accordance with nature. If they cannot bear him, let them kill him – a better fate than a life like theirs.
  • No more roundabout discussion of what makes a good man. Be one!
  • What universal nature brings to each is brought to his benefit. The benefit stands at the time of its bringing.
  • Either you live on here, used to it now; or you retire, your own decision to leave; or you die, your service done. No other choice. Be cheerful, then.
  • What is my directing mind to me? What am I turning it into now, what use am I making of it?
  • …pain, anger, or fear denote refusal of some past, present, or future order from the Whole, the governor of all things.
  • Consider each individual thing you do and ask yourself whether to lose it through death makes death itself any cause for fear.
  • Whenever you take offense at the wrong done by another, move on at once to consider what similar wrong you are committing – it could be setting value on money, or pleasure, or reputation, and so on through the categories. This reflection will quickly damp your anger, aided by the further thought that the man is acting under compulsion – what else can he do? Or, if you can, remove the cause of his compulsion.
  • What material situation, what role are you seeking to escape? What is all this other than an exercise for that reason which has looked at all of life with close and scientific inquiry? Stay on, then, until you have assimilated all this too, just as a strong stomach assimilates all food, or a bright fire turns all that you throw on it into flame and light.
  • Let no one have the chance to accuse you with any truth, of not being sincere or a good man: make sure that anyone taking this view of you is a liar. This is wholly up to you – who is there to prevent you being good and sincere? You must just decide to live no longer if you won’t have these qualities. And reason too abandons the man who won’t.
  • In any given material circumstance what can be done or said to the soundest effect? Whatever that is, it is in your power to do it or say it – and make no pretense of “obstacles in the way”. You will never cease moaning until you experience the same pleasure in making an appropriately human response to any circumstance you meet or face as the hedonist does in his indulgence – a response that is, in keeping with man’s constitution. Because you should regard as enjoyment any action you can take in accord with your own nature; and you can do that anywhere.
  • All things are short-lived. This is their common lot – but you pursue likes and dislikes as if all was fixed for eternity. In a little while you too will close your eyes, and soon there will be others mourning the man who buries you.
  • The healthy eye must look at all there is to be seen, and not say “I only want pale colours”” – this is a symptom of disease. The healthy ear and nose must be ready for all sounds and smells, and the healthy stomach must accept all food in the same way that a mill accepts all it was made to grind. And so the healthy mind too must be ready for all eventualities. The mind which says “my children must live” or “there must be a popular acclaim for all I do”, is the eye demanding pale or the teeth demanding pap.
  • As far as you can, get into the habit of asking yourself in relation to any action taken by another: “what is his point of reference here?” but begin with yourself – examine yourself first
  • The properties of the rational soul. It looks on itself, it shapes itself, it makes itself however it wishes to be, it gathers for itself the fruit it bears…it achieves its own end wherever the limit of life is set…so it can say “I am in possession of my own”.
  • You will think little of the entertainment of song or dance or all-in wrestling if you deconstruct the melodic line of a song into its individual notes and ask yourself of each of them: “is this something that overpowers me?” you will recoil from that admission. So too with a comparable analysis of dance by each movement and pose, and the same again with wrestling. Generally, then, with the exception of virtue and its workings , remember to go straight to the component parts of anything, and through that analysis come to despise the thing itself. And the same method should be applied to the whole of life.
  • Have I done something for the common good? Then I too have benefited. Have this thought always ready to hand: and no stopping .
  • What is your profession? Being a good man.
  • Share their stock, but not their doctrines.
  • Just as those who try to block your progress along the straight path of reason will not be able to divert you from principled action, so you must not let them knock you out of your good towards them. Rather you should watch yourself equally on both fronts, keeping not only a stability of judgment and action but also a mild response to those who try to stop you or are otherwise disaffected. To be angry with them is no less a weakness than to abandon your course of action and capitulate in panic. Both amount equally to desertion of duty – either being frightened into retreat, or setting yourself at odds with your natural kinsmen and friends.
  • The external things whose pursuit or avoidance troubles you do not force themselves on you, but in a way you yourself go out to them. However that may be, keep your judgment of them calm and they too will stay still – then you will not be seen either to pursue or avoid.
  • The soul is a sphere which retains the integrity of its own form if it does not bulge or contract for anything does not flare or subside, but keeps the constant light by which it sees the truth of all things and the truth in itself.
  • Someone despises me? That is his concern. But I will see to it that I am not found guilty of any word or action deserving contempt. Will he hate me? That is his concern. But I will be kind and well-intentioned to all, and ready to show this very person what he is failing to see – not in any criticism or display of tolerance but with genuine good will, like the famous phocion. This should be the quality of our inner thoughts, which are open to the god’s eyes: they should see a man not disposed to any complaint and free of self-pity. And what harm can you suffer, if you yourself at this present moment are acting in kind with your own nature and accepting what suits the present purpose of universal nature – a man at full stretch for the achievement, this way or that, of the common good?
  • The rotten pretense of the man who says “I prefer to be honest with you!” what are you on about, man? No need for this preface – the reality will show. It should be written on your forehead, immediately clear in the tone of your voice and the light of your eyes, just as the loved one can immediately read all in the glance of his lovers…there is nothing more degrading than the friendship of wolves: avoid that above all. The good, honest, kindly man has it in his eyes, and you cannot mistake him.
  • Live through life in the best way you can. The power to do so is in a man’s own soul, if he is indifferent to things indifferent. And he will be indifferent if he looks at these things both as a whole and analyzed into their parts, and remembers that none of them imposes a judgment of itself or forces itself on us. The things themselves are inert: it is we who procreate judgments about them and, as it were, imprint them on our minds – but there is no need for imprinting at all, and any accidental print can immediately be erased. Remember too that our attention to these things can only last a little while, and then life will be at an end. And what, anyway, is the difficulty in them? If they are in accord with nature, welcome them and you will find them easy. If they are contrary to nature, look for what accords with your own nature and go straight for that, even if it brings you no glory. Anyone can be forgiven for seeking his own proper good.
  • First:   How do I regard my relation to them, and the fact the we were all born for each other: and, turning the argument, that I was born to be their leader.
  • Second:What sort of people they are at the table, in bed, and so on. Most of all, what sort of behaviour their opinions impose on them, and their complacent pride in acting as they do.
  • Third:  If what they do is right, no cause for complaint. If wrong, this is clearly out of ignorance and not their wish.
  • Fourth: You yourself have many faults and are no different from them. If you do refrain from some wrongs you still have the proclivity to them, even if your restraint from wrongs like theirs is due to the fear of pursuit of public opinion, or some other.
  • Fifth: You are not even sure that they are doing wrong. Many things are done as part of a larger plan, and generally one need to know a great deal before one can pronounce with certainty on another’s actions.
  • Sixth:  When you are high in indignation and perhaps losing patience, remember that human life is a mere fragment of time and shortly we are all in our graves.
  • Seventh:       It is not their actions which trouble us – because these lie in their own directing minds – but our judgments of them. Well, remove these judgments, make up your mind to dismiss your assessment of some supposed outrage, and your anger is gone. And how to remove them? By reflecting that no moral harm is caused you.
  • Eighth: The greater grief comes from the consequent anger and pain, rather than the original causes of our anger and pain.
  • Ninth: Kindness is invincible – if it is sincere, not fawning or pretense. What an the most aggressive man do to you if you continue to be kind to him?
  • Your advice must not be ironic or critical. It should be affectionate, with no hurt feelings, not a lecture or a demonstration to impress others, but the way you would to someone by himself irrespective of company
  • In writing and reading you must learn before you can teach. Yet more so in life.
  • Only a mad man looks for figs in winter; just as a mad to hope for a child when the time of this gift is past.
  • No thief can steal your will.
  • We must discover an art of assent, and in the whole field of our impulses take care to ensure that each impulse is conditional, has a social purpose, and is proportionate to the value of its goal. We must keep absolutely clear of personal motivation, and at the same time show no disinclination to anything outside our immediate control.
  • So this is not a contest for a trivial prize: at issue is madness or sanity.
  • All that you pray to reach at some point in the circuit of your life can be yours now – if you are generous enough to yourself. That is, if you leave behind all that is in the past, entrust the future to providence, and direct the present solely to reverence and justice. To reverence so that you come to love your given lot: it was nature that brought it to you and you to it. To justice, so that you are open and direct in word and action, speaking the truth, observing law and proportion in all you do. You should let nothing stand in your way – not the iniquity of others, not what anyone else thinks or says, still less any sensation of this poor flesh that has accreted round you: the afflicted part must see to its own concern.
  • God sees all our directing minds stripped of their material vessels, their husks and their dross. His contact is only between his own intelligence and what has flowed from him into these channels of ours. If you train yourself to do the same, you will be rid of what so much distracts you.
  • There are three things in your composition: body, breath, and mind. The first two are yours to the extent that you must take care of them, but only the third is in the full sense your own.
  • I have often wondered how it is that everyone loves himself more than anyone else, but rates his own judgment of himself below that of others. Anyway, if a god or some wise tutor appeared at his side and told him to entertain no internal thought or intention which he won’t immediately broadcast outside, he would not tolerate this regime for  a single day. So it is that we have more respect for what our neighbours will think of us than we have for ourselves.
  • Practice even what you have despaired of mastering. For lack of practice the left hand is awkward for most tasks, but has a stronger grip on the bridle than the right – it is practiced in this.
  • The model for the application of your principles is the boxer rather than the gladiator. The gladiator puts down or takes up the sword he uses, but the boxer always has his hands and needs only to clench them into fists.
  • Do not blame men either: all their wrongs are unwilled. No one, then, should be blamed.
  • How absurd – and a complete stranger to the world – is the man surprised at any aspect of his experience in life!
  • Make yourself worthy of divine assistance
  • Presented with the impression that someone has done wrong, how do I know that this was a wrong? And if it was indeed a wrong, how do I know that he was not already condemning himself, which is the equivalent of tearing his own face?
  •          Wanting the bad man no to do wrong is like wanting the fig-tree not to produce rennet in its figs, babies not to cry, horses not to neigh, or any other inevitable fact of nature. What else can he do with a state of mind like his? So if you are really keen, cure his state.
  • If it is not right, don’t do it; if it is not true, don’t say it.
  • Realize at long last that you have within you something stronger and more numinous than those agents of emotion which make you a mere puppet on their strings
  • Any one individual activity which comes to an end at the appropriate time suffers no harm from its cessation: nor has the agent suffered any harm simply because this particular action has ceased. In the same way, then, if the total of all his actions which constitutes a man’s life come to an end at the appropriate time, it suffers no harm from the mere fact of cessation: nor is the agent who brings this series of actions to a timely end exposed to any harm. The time and the term are assigned by nature – sometimes man’s own nature, as in old age, but in any case by the nature of the Whole, which through the constant changing of its constituent parts keep the whole world ever young and fresh.
  • Jettison the judgment, and you are saved. And who is there to prevent this jettison?
  • When you fret at any circumstance, you have forgotten a number of things. You have forgotten that all comes about in accordance with the nature of the Whole; that any wrong done lies with others; further, that everything which happens was also in the past, will be the same again in the future, and is happening now across the world; that a human being has a close kinship with the entire human race – not a bond of blood or seed, but a community of mind. And you have forgotten this too, that every man’s mind is god and has flowed from that source; that nothing is own property, but even our child, our body, our very soul have come from that source; that all is as thinking makes it so; that each of us lives only the present moment, and the present moment is all we lose.
  • Think how worthless all this striving is: how much wiser to use the material given you to make yourself in all simplicity just, self-controlled, obedient to the gods. The pride that prides itself on freedom from pride is the hardest of all to bear.
  • One light of the sun, even though its path is broken by walls, mountains, innumerable other obstacles. One common substance, even though it is broken up into innumerable forms of individual bodies. One animate soul, even though it is broken up into innumerable species with specific individualities. One intelligent soul, even though it appears divided…but the mind has this unique property: it reaches out to others of its own kind and joins with them, so the feeling of fellowship is not broken.
  • What more do you want? To live on? Or is it to continue sensation and impulse? To wax and then to wane? To make use of your voice, your mind? What in all this strikes you as good cause for regret? But if every one of these objects is contemptible, go on then to the final aim, which is to follow reason and to follow god. To value these other things, to fret at their loss which death will bring, militates against this aim.
  • How does your directing mind employ itself? This is the whole issue. All else, of your own choice or not, is just corpse and smoke.
May you continue to cultivate the joy of giving, by first cultivating yourself.
AC