(If you just want to skip to the quote passages, scroll down)
The philosophy covered in this text is referred to as, ‘Stoicism’. There was a TRP top post of all time piece about it, “Stoicism 101: A Primer on How to Be”. I recommend you look this over before you begin.
Marcus Aurelius (MA) was a Roman Emperor. Usually when we recall a historical figure of this magnitude, we do it to highlight his military conquests, hardships endured, or honorable death. However, if you do your research on his life’s travels, you’ll find nothing really remarkable from a spectator’s view. Aurelius’ main accomplishment, his great legacy, was his journal, written while on the front lines and on his deathbed.
In the beginning, Gregory Hays (the best translation author, no contest), describes the historical context MA lived in. Some may find it interesting, but I did not care for it, a mere skim. You could skip this part and be perfectly fine. The next section is the first part of MA’s journal, where he describes major figures in his life. I did not care for this either. However, starting from page 17 (the first quote below), it’s astonishing. It is amazing how a man in an era without modern technology, science, and knowledge could still comprehend life at such a deep and accurate level still true to this day. Literally a timeless classic Not knowledge, but wisdom.
I have read it three times in full (minus the context and first chapter). Everyday, I read at least a couple of passages I have highlighted and absorb the material. Never read a philosophy book fast. Slow and deliberate. Let every word sink in. A passage here, a passage there. Finishing the book isn’t the goal. The goal is to internalize the insight. Highlight the key points. After you’ve finished, look the book over every now and then to revisit the lessons.
“I remember the first time I read it I would like put it down every couple minutes and think. A lot of stoicism/ancient philosophy is like that, where it’s just a profound paragraph by itself and you just get gut-punched and have to think about it for a while.” – TaylorSwift_AMA
I’ve looked at my bookshelf recently, staring at intellectual trophies. But then I asked myself, if were keep only a few books, what would they be? What could I live without? I tossed aside all the ones on military, government conspiracy, censored history, autobiographies, fiction, science, fantasy… It came down to a couple books on minimalism, one on business, one on hunter-gatherer history, and…. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. If I had to keep one or two books, one would be always be Meditations.
Quotes and Passages
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly.” – (Pg. 17, #1)
“Remember how long you’ve been putting this off, how many extensions the gods gave you, and you didn’t use them. At some point you have to recognize what world it is that you belong to; what power rules it and from what source you spring; that there is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.” – (Pg. 18, #4)
Ignoring what goes on in other people’s souls–no on ever came to grief that way. But if you won’t keep track of what your own soul’s doing, how can you not be unhappy? – (Pg. 19, #8)
“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think” – (Pg. 20, #11)
“The speed with which all of them vanish–the objects in the world, and the memory of them in time. And the real nature of the things our senses experience, especially those that entice us with pleasure or frighten us with pain or are loudly trumpeted by pride. To understand those things–how stupid, contemptible, grimy, decaying, and dead they are–that’s what our intellectual powers are for. And to understand what those people really amount to, whose opinions and voices constitute fame. And what dying is–and that if you look at it in the abstract and break down your imaginary ideas of it by logical analysis, you realize that it’s nothing but a process of nature, which only children can be afraid of.” – (Pg. 20, #12)
“Even if you’re going to live three thousand more years, or then times that, remember: you cannot lose another life than the one you’re living now, or live another one than the on you’re losing. The longest amounts to the same as the shortest. The present is the same for everyone; its loss is the same for everyone; and it should be clear that a brief instant is all that is lost. For you can’t lose either the past or the future; how could you lose what you don’t have?”
Remember two things
i. that everything has always been the same, and keeps recurring, and it makes no difference whether you see the same things recur in a hundred years or two hundred, or in an infinite period;
ii. that the longest-lived and those who will die soonest lose the same thing. The present is all that they can give up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have, you cannot lose” – (Pg. 21-22, #14)
Duration: momentary. Nature: changeable. Perception: dim. Condition of Body: decaying. Soul: spinning around. Fortune: unpredictable. Lasting Fame: uncertain. Sump: The body and its parts are a river, the soul a dream and mist, life is warfare and a journey from home, lasting reputation is oblivion.
Then what can guide us? Only philosophy.
Which means making sure that the power within stays safe and free from assault, superior to pleasure and pain, doing nothing randomly or dishonestly and with imposture, not dependent on any one else’s doing something or not doing it.” – (Pg. 22-23, #17)
“Hippocrates cured many illnesses–and then fell ill and died. The Chaldaens predicted the deaths of many others; in due course their own hour arrived. Alexander, Pompey, Caesar–who utterly destroyed so many cities, cut down so many thousand foot and horse in battle–they too departed this life. Heraclitus often told us the world would end in fire. But it was moisture that carried him off; he died smeared in cowshit. Democritus was killed by ordinary vermin, Socrates by the human kind.
You boarded, you set sail, you’ve made the passage. Time to disembark. If it’s for another life, well, there’s nowhere without gods on that side either. If to nothingness, then you no longer have to put up with pain and pleasure, or go on dancing attendance on this battered crate, your body-so much inferior to that which serves it.
One is mind and spirit, the other earth and garbage.” – (Pg. 28, #3)
“Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people–unless it affects the common good. It will keep you from doing anything useful. You’ll be too preoccupied with what so-and-so is doing, and why, and what they’re saying, and what they’re thinking, and what they’re up to, and all the other things that throw you off and keep you from focusing on your own mind” – (Pg. 28-29, #4)
“Your ability to control your thoughts–treat it with respect. It’s all that protects your mind from false perceptions–false to your nature, and that of all rational beings. It’s what makes thoughtfulness possible, and affection for other people, and submission to the divine.” – (Pg. 32, #9)
“[…] always to define whatever it is we perceive–to trace its outline–so we can see what it really is: it’s substance. Stripped bare. As a whole. Unmodified. And to call it by its name–the thing itself and its components, to which it will eventually return. “ – (Pg. 32, #11)
“Doctors keep their scalpels and other instruments handy, for emergencies. Keep your philosophy ready too-ready to understand heaven and earth.” – (Pg. 33, #13)
“Or is is your reputation that’s bothering you? But look at how soon we’re all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows it all. The emptiness of all those applauding hands. The people who praise us–how capricious they are, how arbitrary. And the tiny region in which it all takes place. The whole earth a point in space– and most of it uninhabited. How many people there will be to admire you, and who they are.
i. That things have no hold on the soul. They stand there unmoving, outside it. Disturbance comes only from within–from our own perceptions.” – (Pg. 38, #3)
“How does the earth find room for all the bodies buried in it since the beginning of time? They linger for whatever length of time, through change and decomposition, make room for others. So too with the souls that inhabit the air. They linger a little, and then are changed–diffused and kindled into fire, absorbed into the logos from which all things spring, and so make room for new arrivals
But we shouldn’t think in only of the mass of buried bodies. There are the ones consumed, on a daily basis, by us and by other animals. How many are swallowed up like that, entombed in the bodies of those nourished by them…” – (Pg. 42, #21)
“If you seek tranquillity, do less” – (Pg. 42, #24)
“Words once in common use now sound archaic. And the names of the famous dead as well: Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Dentatus…Scipio and Cato…Augustus…Hadrian and Antoninus, and…
Everything fades so quickly, turns into legend, and soon oblivion covers it.” – (Pg. 45, #33)
“Constant awareness that everything is born from change. The knowledge that there is nothing nature loves more than to alter what exists and make new things like it. All that exists is the seed of what will emerge from it. You think the only seeds are the ones that make plants or children? Go deeper” – (Pg. 45, #36)
“Time is a river, a violent current of events, glimpsed once and already carried past us, and another follows and is gone.” – (Pg. 46, #43)
“Suppose that a god announced that you were going to die tomorrow, ‘or the day after.’ Unless you were a complete coward you wouldn’t kick up a fuss about which day it was–what difference does it make? Now recognize that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small.” – (Pg. 47, #47)
“Don’t let yourself forget how many doctors have died, after furrowing their brows over how many deathbeds. How many astrologers, after pompous forecasts about others’ ends. How many philosophers, after endless disquisitions on death and immortality. How many warriors, after inflicting thousands of casualties themselves. How many tyrants, after abusing the power of life and death atrociously, as if they were themselves immortal.
How many whole cities have met their end: Helike, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and countless others.
And all the ones you know yourself, one after another. One who laid out another for burial, and was buried himself, and then the man who buried him–all in the same short space of time.
In short, know this: Human lives are brief and trivial. Yesterday a blob of semen; tomorrow embalming fluid, ash.
To pass through this life as nature demands. To give it up without complaint.
Like an olive that ripens and falls.
Praising its mother, thanking the tree it grew on.” – (Pg. 47-48, #48)
“To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around it” – (Pg. 48-49, #9)
“–It’s unfortunate that this has happened.
No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it–not shattered by the present or frightened of the future. It could have happened to anyone. But not everyone could have remained unharmed by it. Why treat the one as a misfortune rather than the other as fortunate? Can you really call something a misfortune that doesn’t violate human nature? Or do you think something that’s not against nature’s will can violate it? But you know what its will is. Does what’s happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness, and all the other qualities that allow a person’s nature to fulfill itself?
So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.” – (Pg. 48, #49a)
“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work–as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for–the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is *this* what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’
–But it’s nicer here…
SO you were born to feel ‘nice’? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants, and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?
–But we have to sleep sometime…
Agreed. BUt nature set a limit on that–as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. You’ve had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota.
You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.
Is helping others less valuable to you? Not worth your effort? – (Pg. 53, #1)
“Some people, when they do someone a favor, are always looking for a chance to call it in. And some aren’t, but they’re still aware of it–still regard it as a debt. But others don’t even do that. They’re like a vine that produces grapes without looking for anything in return.
A horse at the end of the race…
A dog when the hunt is over…
A bee with its honey stored…
And a human being after helping others.
They don’t make a fuss about it. They just go on to something else, as the vine looks forward to bearing fruit again in season.
We should be like that. Acting almost unconsciously.
–Yes. Except conscious of it. Because it’s characteristic of social beings that they see themselves as acting socially. And expect their neighbors to see it too!
That’s true. But you’re misunderstanding me. You’ll wind up like the people I mentioned before, misled by plausible reasoning. But if if you make an effort to understand what I’m saying, then you won’t need to worry about neglecting your social duty.” – (Pg. 55, #6)
“Just as you overhear people saying that ‘the doctor prescribed such-and-such for him’ (like riding, or cold baths, or walking barefoot…), say this: ‘Nature has prescribed illness for him.’ Or Blindness. Or the loss of a limb. Or whatever. There ‘prescribe’ means something like ‘ordered, so as to further his recovery.’ And so too here. What happens to each of us is ordered. It furthers our destiny. And when we describe things as ‘taking place,’ we’re talking like builders, who say that blocks in a wall or a pyramid ‘take their place’ in the structure, and fit together in a harmonious pattern.
For there is a single harmony. Just as the world forms a single body comprising all bodies, so fate forms a single purpose, comprising all purposes. Even complete illiterates acknowledge it when they say that something ‘brought on’ this or that. Brought on, yes. Or prescribed it. And in that case, let’s accept it–as we accept what the doctor prescribes. It may not always be pleasant, but we embrace it–because we want to get well. Look at the accomplishment of nature’s plans in that light–the way you look at your own health–and accept what happens (even if it seems hard to accept). Accept it because of what it leads to: the good health of the world, and the well-being and prosperity of Zeus himself, who would not have brought this on anyone unless it brought benefit to the world as a whole. No nature would do that–bring something about that wasn’t beneficial to what it governed.
So there are two reasons to embrace what happens. One is that it’s happening to *you*. it was prescribe for you, and it pertains to you. The thread was spun long ago, by the oldest cause of all.
The other reason is that what happens to an individual is a cause of well-being in what directs the world–of its well-being, its fulfillment, of its very existence, even. Because the whole is damaged if you cut away anything–anything at all–from its continuity and its coherence. Not only its parts, but its purposes. And that’s what you’re doing when you complain: hacking and destroying.” – (Pg. 55-56, #8)
“The impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way.” – (Pg. 60, #20)
“Keep in mind how fast things pass by an are gone–those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the ‘what’ is in constant flux, the ‘why’ has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us–a chasm whose depths we cannot see.
So it would take an idiot to feel self-importance or distress. Or any indignation, either. As if the things that irritate us lasted.” – (Pg. 61, #23)
Matter. How tiny your share of it.
Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it.
Fate. how small a role you play in it.” – (Pg. 61, #24)
“The world’s intelligence is not selfish.
It created lower things for the sake of higher ones, and attuned the higher ones to one another. Look how it subordinates, how it connects, how it assigns eah thing what each deserves, and brings the better things into alignment.” – (Pg. 62-63, #30)
“Like seeing roasted meat and other dishes in front of you and suddenly realizing: This is a dead fish. A dead bird. A dead pig. Or that his noble vintage is grape juice, and the purple robes are sheep wool dyed with shellfish blood. Or making love–something rubbing against your penis, a brief seizure and a little cloudy liquid.
Perceptions like that–latching onto things and piercing through them, so we see what they really are. That’s what we need to do all the time–all through our lives when things lay claim to our trust–to lay them bare and see how pointless they are, to strip away the legend that encrusts them.” – (Pg. 70-71, #13)
“Some things are rushing into existence, others out of it. Some of what now exists is already gone. Change and flux constantly remake the world, just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity.
We find ourselves in a river. Which of the things around us should we alue when none of them can offer a firm foothold?
Like an attachment to a sparrow: we glimpse it and it’s gone.”(Pg. 71, #15)
“The way people behave. They refuse to admire their contemporaries, the people whose lives they share. NO, but to be admired by Posterity–people they’ve never met and never will–that’s what they set their hearts on. You might as well be upset at not being a hero to your great-grandfather.” – (Pg. 73, #18)
“I do what is mine to do; the rest doesn’t disturb me. The rest is inanimate, or has no logos, or it wanders at random and has lost the road.” – (Pg. 74, #22)
“Fight to be the person philosophy tried to make you.” – (Pg. 75, #30)
“Asia and Europe: distant recesses of the universe.
The ocean: a drop of water.
Mount Athos: a molehill.
The present: a split second in eternity.
Minuscule transitory, insignificant.” – (Pg. 77, #36)
“If you’ve seen the present then you’ve seen everything–as it’s been since the beginning, as it will be forever. The same substance, the same form. All of it.” – (Pg. 77, #37)
“Implements, tools, equipment. If they do what they were designed for, then they work. Even if the person who designed them is miles away.
But with naturally occurring things, the force that designed them is present within them and remains there. Which is why we owe it special reverence, with the recognition that if you live and act as it dictates, then everything in you is intelligently ordered. Just as everything in the world is.” – (Pg. 78, #40)
“When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on. Nothing is an encouraging as when virtues are visibly embodied in the people around us, when we’re practically showered with them.
It’s good to keep this in mind.” – (Pg. 80, #48)
“Frightened of change? But what can exist without it? What’s closer to nature’s heart? Can you take a hot bath and leave the firewood as it was? Eat food without transforming it Can any vital process take place without something being changed?
Can’t you see It’s just the same with you–and just as vital to nature” – (Pg. 88, #18
“When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it. If you understand that, you’ll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger” – (Pg. 89, #26)
“Treat what you don’t have as nonexistent. Look at what you have, the things you value most, and think of how much you’d crave them if you didn’t have them. But be careful. Don’t feel such satisfaction that you start to overvalue them–that i would upset you to lose them.” – (Pg. 89, #27)
“Disgraceful that the mind should control the face, should be able to shape and mold it as it pleases, but not shape and mold itself.” – (Pg. 91, #37)
“And why should we feel anger at the world?
As if the world would notice!” – (Pg. 91, #38)
“Now, the main thing we were made for is to work with others. Secondly, to resist our body’s urges. Because things driven by logos–by thought–have the capacity for detachment–to resist impulses and sensations, both of which are merely corporeal. Thought seeks to be their master, not their subject. And so it should: they were created for its use” – (Pg. 94, #55)
“You’ve given aid and they’ve received it. And yet, like an idiot, you keep holding out for more: to be credited with a Good Deed, to be repaid in kind. Why?” – (Pg. 97, #73)
“If you accept the obstacle and work with what you’re given, an alternative will present itself–another piece of what you’re trying to assemble.” – (Pg. 107, #32)
“–But there are insuperable obstacles.
Then it’s not a problem. the cause of your inaction lies outside you.” – (Pg. 110, #47)
“The cucumber is bitter? Then throw it out.
There are brambles in the path? Then go around them.
That’s all you need to know. Nothing more. Don’t demand to know ‘why such things exist.’ Anyone who understands the world will laugh at you, just as a carpenter would if you seemed shocked at finding sawdust in his workshop, or a shoemaker at scraps of leather left over from work.
Of course, they have a place to dispose of these; nature has no door to sweep things out of. But the wonderful thing about its workmanship is how, face with that limitation, it takes everything within it that seems broken, old and useless, transforms it into itself, and makes new things from it. So that it doesn’t need material from any outside source, or anywhere to dispose of what’s left over. It relies on itself for all it needs: space, material, and labor.” – (Pg. 11-112, #50)
“Other people’s wills are as independent of mine as their breath and bodies. We may exist for the sake of one another, but our will rules its own domain. Otherwise the harm they do would cause harm to me. Which is not what God intended–for my happiness to rest with someone else.” – (Pg. 113, #56)
“WE speak of the sun’s light as ‘pouring down on us,’ as ‘pouring over use’ in all directions. Yet it’s never poured out. Because it doesn’t really pour; it extends.
To see the nature of a sunbeam, look at light as it falss through a narrow opening into a dark room. It extends in a straight line, striking any solid object that stands in its way and blocks the space beyond it. There it remains–not vanishing, or falling away.
That’s what the outpouring–the diffusion–of though should be like: not emptied out, but extended. And not striking at obstacles with fury and violence, or falling away before them, but holding its ground illumination what receives it.
What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.” – (Pg. 113, #57)
“And to pursue pleasure as good, and flee from pain as evil–that too is blasphemous. Someone who does that is bound to find himself constantly reproaching nature–complaining that it doesn’t treat the good and bad as they deserve, but often lets the bad enjoy pleasure and the things that produce it, and makes the good suffer pain, and the things that produce pain. And moreoever, to fear pain is to fear something that’s bound to happen, the world being what it is–and that again is blasphemy. While if you pursue pleasure, you can hardly avoid wrongdoing–which is manifestly blasphemous.” – (Pg. 117, #1)
“Don’t look down on death, but welcome it. It too is one of the things required by nature. Like youth and old age. Like growth and maturity. Like a new set of teeth, a beard, the first gray hair. Like sex and pregnancy and childbirth. LIke all the other physical changes at each stage of life, our dissolution is no different.
So this is how a though ful person should await death: not with indifference, not with impatience, not with disdain, but simply viewing it as on of the things that happen to us. NOw you anticipate the child’s emergence from its mother’s womb; that’s how you should await the hour when your soul will emerge from its compartment.” – (Pg. 118, #3)
“Concrete objects can pull free from the earth more easily than humans can escape humanity.” – (Pg. 120, #9)
“Today I escape from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions–not outside.” – (Pg. 121, #13)
“To see them from above: the thousands of animal herds, the rituals, the voyages on calm or stormy seas, the different ways we come into the world, share it with one another, and leave it. Consider the lives led once by others, long ago, the lives to be led by others after you, the lives led even now, in foreign lands. How many people don’t even know your name. How many will soon have forgotten it. How many offer you praise now–and tomorrow, perhaps contempt.
That to be remembered is worthless. Like fame. Like everything.” – (Pg. 124, #30)
“Epicurus: ‘During my illness, my conversations were not about my physical state; I did not waste my visitors’ time with things of that sort, but went on discussing philosophy, and concentrated on one point in particular: how the mind can participate in the sensations of the body and yet maintain its serenity, and focus on its own well-being. Nor did I let my doctors strut about like grandees. I went on living my life the way it should be lived.’
Like that. In illness–or any other situation.
Not to let go of philosophy, no matter what happens; not to bandy words with crackpots and philistines–good rules for any philosopher.
Concentrate on what you’re doing, and what you’re doing it with.” – (Pg. 127, #41)
“Whatever happens to you has been waiting to happen since the beginning of time. The twining strands of fate wove both of them together: your own existence and the things that happen to you.” – (Pg. 132, #5)
“Bear in mind that everything that exists is already fraying at the edges, and in transition, subject to fragmentation and to rot. Or that everything was born to die.” – (Pg. 137, #18)
“How they act when they eat and sleep and mate and defecate and all the rest. Then when they order and exult, or rage and thunder from on high. And yet, just consider the things they submitted to a moment ago, and the reasons for it–and the things they’ll submit to again before very long.” – (Pg. 137, #19)
“STop whatever you’re doing for a moment and ask yourself: Am I afraid of death because I won’t be able to do *this* anymore?” – (Pg. 139, #29)
“So keep at it, until it’s fully digested. As a strong stomach digests whatever it eats. As a blazing fire takes whatever you throw on it, and makes it light and flame.” – (Pg. 140, #31)
“Remember that what pulls the strings is within–hidden from us.
Is speech, is life, is the person. Don’t conceive of the rest as part of it–the skin that contains it, and the accompanying organs. Which are tools–like a carpenter’s axe, except that they’re attached to us from birth , and are no more use without what moves and holds them still than the weaver’s shuttle, the writer’s pencil, the driver’s whip.” – (Pg. 143, #38)
“A straightforward, honest person should be like someone who stinks: when you’re in the same room with him, you know it.” – (Pg. 151, #15)
“A branch cut away from the branch beside it is simultaneously cut away from the whole tree. So too a human being separated from another is cut loose from the whole community.
The branch is cut off by someone else. But people cut themselves off–through hatred, through rejection–and don’t realize that they’re cutting themselves off from the whole civic enterprise.
Except that we also have a gift, given to us by Zeus, who founded this community of ours. We can reattach ourselves and become once more components of the whole.
But if the rupture is too often repeated, it makes the severed part hard to reconnect, and to restore. You can see the difference between the branch that’s been there since the beginning, remaining on the tree and growing with it, and the one that’s been cut off and grafted back.
‘One trunk, two minds.’ as the gardeners put it.” – (Pg. 149-150, #8)
“The natural can never be inferior to the artificial; art imitates nature, not the reverse.” – (Pg. 150, #10)
“To live a good life;
WE have the potential for it. If we can learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference. This is how we learn: by looking at each thing, both the parts and the whole. Keeping in mind that none of them can dictate how we perceive it. They don’t impose themselves on us. They hover before us, unmoving. It is we who generate the judgments–inscribing them on ourselves. And we don’t have to. We could leave the page blank–and if a mark slips through, erase it instantly.” – (Pg. 152, #16)
“” – ()
“That to expet bad people not to injure others is crazy. […]. And to let them behave like that to other people but expect them to exempt you is arrogant.” – (Pg. 154, #18-x.)
“Your spirit and the fire contained within you are drawn by their nature upward. But they comply with the world’s designs and submit to being mingled here below. And the elements of eath and water in you are drawn by their nature downward. But are forced to rise, and take up a position not their own. So even the elements obey the world–when ordered and compelled–and man their stations until the signal to abandon them arrives.
So why should your intellect be the only dissenter–the only one complaining about its posting? It’s not as if anything is being forced on it. Only what its own nature requires. And yet it refuses to comply, and sets off in the opposite direction […]” – (Pg. 155, #20)
“If you don’t have a consistent goal in life, you can’t live it in a consistent way.
Unhelpful, unless you specify a goal.
There is no common benchmark for all the things that people think are good–except for a few, the ones that affect us all. So the goal should be a common one–a civic one. If you direct all your energies toward that, your actions will be consistent. And so will you.” – (Pg. 155-156, #21)
“Socrates used to call popular beliefs “the monsters under the bed”–only useful for frightening children with.” – (Pg. 156, #23)
“Your three components: body, breath, mind. Two are yours in trust; to the third alone you have clear title.” – (Pg. 162, #3)
“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.” – (Pg.162, #4)
“The student as boxer, not fencer.
The fencer’s weapon is picked up and put down again.
The boxer’s is part of him. All he has to do is clench his fist.” – (Pg. 163, #9)
“A given action that stops when it’s supposed to is none the worse for stopping. Nor the person engaged in it either. So too with the succession of actions we call “life.” If it ends when it’s supposed to, it’s none the worse for that. And the person who comes to the end of the line has no cause for complaint. Th” – (Pg. 166, #23)
“Singular, not plural:
Sunlight. Though broken up by walls and mountains and a thousand other things.
Substance. Though split into a thousand forms, variously shaped.
Life. Though distributed among a thousand different natures with their individual limitations.” – (Pg. 168, #30)
“The fraction of infinity, of that vast abyss of time, allotted to each of us. Absorbed in an instant into eternity.
The fraction of all substance, and all spirit.
The fraction of the whole earth you crawl about on.
Keep all that in mind, and don’t treat anything as important except doing what your nature demands, and accepting what Nature sends you.” – (Pg. 169, #32)
“You’ve lived as a citizen in a great city. Five years or a hundred–what’s the difference? The laws make no distinction.
And to be sent away from it, not by a tyrant or a dishonest judge, but by Nature, who first invited you in–why is that so terrible?
Like the impresario ringing down the curtain on an actor:
‘but I’ve only gotten through three acts…!’
Yes. This will be a drama in three acts, the length fixed by the power that directed your creation, and now directs your dissolution. Neither was yours to determine.
So make your exit with grace–the same grace show to you.” – (Pg. 170, #36)