THE MEDITATIONS

Of

MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS

Translated by George Long


BOOK X

WILT thou, then, my soul, never be good and simple and one and
naked, more manifest than the body which surrounds thee? Wilt thou
never enjoy an affectionate and contented disposition? Wilt thou never
be full and without a want of any kind, longing for nothing more,
nor desiring anything, either animate or inanimate, for the
enjoyment of pleasures? Nor yet desiring time wherein thou shalt
have longer enjoyment, or place, or pleasant climate, or society of
men with whom thou mayest live in harmony? But wilt thou be
satisfied with thy present condition, and pleased with all that is
about thee, and wilt thou convince thyself that thou hast everything
and that it comes from the gods, that everything is well for thee, and
will be well whatever shall please them, and whatever they shall
give for the conservation of the perfect living being, the good and
just and beautiful, which generates and holds together all things, and
contains and embraces all things which are dissolved for the
production of other like things? Wilt thou never be such that thou
shalt so dwell in community with gods and men as neither to find fault
with them at all, nor to be condemned by them?
  Observe what thy nature requires, so far as thou art governed by
nature only: then do it and accept it, if thy nature, so far as thou
art a living being, shall not be made worse by it.
  And next thou must observe what thy nature requires so far as thou
art a living being. And all this thou mayest allow thyself, if thy
nature, so far as thou art a rational animal, shall not be made
worse by it. But the rational animal is consequently also a
political (social) animal. Use these rules, then, and trouble
thyself about nothing else.
  Everything which happens either happens in such wise as thou art
formed by nature to bear it, or as thou art not formed by nature to
bear it. If, then, it happens to thee in such way as thou art formed
by nature to bear it, do not complain, but bear it as thou art
formed by nature to bear it. But if it happens in such wise as thou
art not formed by nature to bear it, do not complain, for it will
perish after it has consumed thee. Remember, however, that thou art
formed by nature to bear everything, with respect to which it
depends on thy own opinion to make it endurable and tolerable, by
thinking that it is either thy interest or thy duty to do this.
  If a man is mistaken, instruct him kindly and show him his error.
But if thou art not able, blame thyself, or blame not even thyself.
  Whatever may happen to thee, it was prepared for thee from all
eternity; and the implication of causes was from eternity spinning the
thread of thy being, and of that which is incident to it.
  Whether the universe is a concourse of atoms, or nature is a system,
let this first be established, that I am a part of the whole which
is governed by nature; next, I am in a manner intimately related to
the parts which are of the same kind with myself. For remembering
this, inasmuch as I am a part, I shall be discontented with none of
the things which are assigned to me out of the whole; for nothing is
injurious to the part, if it is for the advantage of the whole. For
the whole contains nothing which is not for its advantage; and all
natures indeed have this common principle, but the nature of the
universe has this principle besides, that it cannot be compelled
even by any external cause to generate anything harmful to itself.
By remembering, then, that I am a part of such a whole, I shall be
content with everything that happens. And inasmuch as I am in a manner
intimately related to the parts which are of the same kind with
myself, I shall do nothing unsocial, but I shall rather direct
myself to the things which are of the same kind with myself, and I
shall turn an my efforts to the common interest, and divert them
from the contrary. Now, if these things are done so, life must flow on
happily, just as thou mayest observe that the life of a citizen is
happy, who continues a course of action which is advantageous to his
fellow-citizens, and is content with whatever the state may assign
to him.
  The parts of the whole, everything, I mean, which is naturally
comprehended in the universe, must of necessity perish; but let this
be understood in this sense, that they must undergo change. But if
this is naturally both an evil and a necessity for the parts, the
whole would not continue to exist in a good condition, the parts being
subject to change and constituted so as to perish in various ways. For
whether did nature herself design to do evil to the things which are
parts of herself, and to make them subject to evil and of necessity
fall into evil, or have such results happened without her knowing
it? Both these suppositions, indeed, are incredible. But if a man
should even drop the term Nature (as an efficient power), and should
speak of these things as natural, even then it would be ridiculous
to affirm at the same time that the parts of the whole are in their
nature subject to change, and at the same time to be surprised or
vexed as if something were happening contrary to nature, particularly
as the dissolution of things is into those things of which each thing
is composed. For there is either a dispersion of the elements out of
which everything has been compounded, or a change from the solid to
the earthy and from the airy to the aerial, so that these parts are
taken back into the universal reason, whether this at certain periods
is consumed by fire or renewed by eternal changes. And do not imagine
that the solid and the airy part belong to thee from the time of
generation. For all this received its accretion only yesterday and
the day before, as one may say, from the food and the air which is
inspired. This, then, which has received the accretion, changes, not
that which thy mother brought forth. But suppose that this which thy
mother brought forth implicates thee very much with that other part,
which has the peculiar quality of change, this is nothing in fact in
the way of objection to what is said.
  When thou hast assumed these names, good, modest, true, rational,
a man of equanimity, and magnanimous, take care that thou dost not
change these names; and if thou shouldst lose them, quickly return
to them. And remember that the term Rational was intended to signify a
discriminating attention to every several thing and freedom from
negligence; and that Equanimity is the voluntary acceptance of the
things which are assigned to thee by the common nature; and that
Magnanimity is the elevation of the intelligent part above the
pleasurable or painful sensations of the flesh, and above that poor
thing called fame, and death, and all such things. If, then, thou
maintainest thyself in the possession of these names, without desiring
to be called by these names by others, thou wilt be another person and
wilt enter on another life. For to continue to be such as thou hast
hitherto been, and to be tom in pieces and defiled in such a life,
is the character of a very stupid man and one overfond of his life,
and like those half-devoured fighters with wild beasts, who though
covered with wounds and gore, still intreat to be kept to the
following day, though they will be exposed in the same state to the
same claws and bites. Therefore fix thyself in the possession of these
few names: and if thou art able to abide in them, abide as if thou
wast removed to certain islands of the Happy. But if thou shalt
perceive that thou fallest out of them and dost not maintain thy hold,
go courageously into some nook where thou shalt maintain them, or even
depart at once from life, not in passion, but with simplicity and
freedom and modesty, after doing this one laudable thing at least in
thy life, to have gone out of it thus. In order, however, to the
remembrance of these names, it will greatly help thee, if thou
rememberest the gods, and that they wish not to be flattered, but wish
all reasonable beings to be made like themselves; and if thou
rememberest that what does the work of a fig-tree is a fig-tree, and
that what does the work of a dog is a dog, and that what does the work
of a bee is a bee, and that what does the work of a man is a man.
  Mimi, war, astonishment, torpor, slavery, will daily wipe out
those holy principles of thine. How many things without studying
nature dost thou imagine, and how many dost thou neglect? But it is
thy duty so to look on and so to do everything, that at the same
time the power of dealing with circumstances is perfected, and the
contemplative faculty is exercised, and the confidence which comes
from the knowledge of each several thing is maintained without showing
it, but yet not concealed. For when wilt thou enjoy simplicity, when
gravity, and when the knowledge of every several thing, both what it
is in substance, and what place it has in the universe, and how long
it is formed to exist and of what things it is compounded, and to whom
it can belong, and who are able both to give it and take it away?
  A spider is proud when it has caught a fly, and another when he
has caught a poor hare, and another when he has taken a little fish in
a net, and another when he has taken wild boars, and another when he
has taken bears, and another when he has taken Sarmatians. Are not
these robbers, if thou examinest their opinions?
  Acquire the contemplative way of seeing how all things change into
one another, and constantly attend to it, and exercise thyself about
this part of philosophy. For nothing is so much adapted to produce
magnanimity. Such a man has put off the body, and as he sees that he
must, no one knows how soon, go away from among men and leave
everything here, he gives himself up entirely to just doing in all his
actions, and in everything else that happens he resigns himself to the
universal nature. But as to what any man shall say or think about
him or do against him, he never even thinks of it, being himself
contented with these two things, with acting justly in what he now
does, and being satisfied with what is now assigned to him; and he
lays aside all distracting and busy pursuits, and desires nothing else
than to accomplish the straight course through the law, and by
accomplishing the straight course to follow God.
  What need is there of suspicious fear, since it is in thy power to
inquire what ought to be done? And if thou seest clear, go by this way
content, without turning back: but if thou dost not see clear, stop
and take the best advisers. But if any other things oppose thee, go on
according to thy powers with due consideration, keeping to that
which appears to be just. For it is best to reach this object, and
if thou dost fail, let thy failure be in attempting this. He who
follows reason in all things is both tranquil and active at the same
time, and also cheerful and collected.
  Inquire of thyself as soon as thou wakest from sleep, whether it
will make any difference to thee, if another does what is just and
right. It will make no difference.
  Thou hast not forgotten, I suppose, that those who assume arrogant
airs in bestowing their praise or blame on others, are such as they
are at bed and at board, and thou hast not forgotten what they do, and
what they avoid and what they pursue, and how they steal and how
they rob, not with hands and feet, but with their most valuable
part, by means of which there is produced, when a man chooses,
fidelity, modesty, truth, law, a good daemon (happiness)?
  To her who gives and takes back all, to nature, the man who is
instructed and modest says, Give what thou wilt; take back what thou
wilt. And he says this not proudly, but obediently and well pleased
with her.
  Short is the little which remains to thee of life. Live as on a
mountain. For it makes no difference whether a man lives there or
here, if he lives everywhere in the world as in a state (political
community). Let men see, let them know a real man who lives
according to nature. If they cannot endure him, let them kill him. For
that is better than to live thus as men do.
  No longer talk at all about the kind of man that a good man ought to
be, but be such.
  Constantly contemplate the whole of time and the whole of substance,
and consider that all individual things as to substance are a grain of
a fig, and as to time, the turning of a gimlet.
  Look at everything that exists, and observe that it is already in
dissolution and in change, and as it were putrefaction or
dispersion, or that everything is so constituted by nature as to die.
  Consider what men are when they are eating, sleeping, generating,
easing themselves and so forth. Then what kind of men they are when
they are imperious and arrogant, or angry and scolding from their
elevated place. But a short time ago to how many they were slaves
and for what things; and after a little time consider in what a
condition they will be.
  That is for the good of each thing, which the universal nature
brings to each. And it is for its good at the time when nature
brings it.
  "The earth loves the shower"; and "the solemn aether loves": and the
universe loves to make whatever is about to be. I say then to the
universe, that I love as thou lovest. And is not this too said, that
"this or that loves (is wont) to be produced"?
  Either thou livest here and hast already accustomed thyself to it,
or thou art going away, and this was thy own will; or thou art dying
and hast discharged thy duty. But besides these things there is
nothing. Be of good cheer, then.
  Let this always be plain to thee, that this piece of land is like
any other; and that all things here are the same with things on top of
a mountain, or on the sea-shore, or wherever thou choosest to be.
For thou wilt find just what Plato says, Dwelling within the walls
of a city as in a shepherd's fold on a mountain.
  What is my ruling faculty now to me? And of what nature am I now
making it? And for what purpose am I now using it? Is it void of
understanding? Is it loosed and rent asunder from social life? Is it
melted into and mixed with the poor flesh so as to move together
with it?
  He who flies from his master is a runaway; but the law is master,
and he who breaks the law is a runaway. And he also who is grieved
or angry or afraid, is dissatisfied because something has been or is
or shall be of the things which are appointed by him who rules all
things, and he is Law, and assigns to every man what is fit. He then
who fears or is grieved or is angry is a runaway.
  A man deposits seed in a womb and goes away, and then another
cause takes it, and labours on it and makes a child. What a thing from
such a material! Again, the child passes food down through the throat,
and then another cause takes it and makes perception and motion, and
in fine life and strength and other things; how many and how strange I
Observe then the things which are produced in such a hidden way, and
see the power just as we see the power which carries things
downwards and upwards, not with the eyes, but still no less plainly.
  Constantly consider how all things such as they now are, in time
past also were; and consider that they will be the same again. And
place before thy eyes entire dramas and stages of the same form,
whatever thou hast learned from thy experience or from older
history; for example, the whole court of Hadrian, and the whole
court of Antoninus, and the whole court of Philip, Alexander, Croesus;
for all those were such dramas as we see now, only with different
actors.
  Imagine every man who is grieved at anything or discontented to be
like a pig which is sacrificed and kicks and screams.
  Like this pig also is he who on his bed in silence laments the bonds
in which we are held. And consider that only to the rational animal is
it given to follow voluntarily what happens; but simply to follow is a
necessity imposed on all.
  Severally on the occasion of everything that thou doest, pause and
ask thyself, if death is a dreadful thing because it deprives thee
of this.
  When thou art offended at any man's fault, forthwith turn to thyself
and reflect in what like manner thou dost err thyself; for example, in
thinking that money is a good thing, or pleasure, or a bit of
reputation, and the like. For by attending to this thou wilt quickly
forget thy anger, if this consideration also is added, that the man is
compelled: for what else could he do? or, if thou art able, take
away from him the compulsion.
  When thou hast seen Satyron the Socratic, think of either Eutyches
or Hymen, and when thou hast seen Euphrates, think of Eutychion or
Silvanus, and when thou hast seen Alciphron think of Tropaeophorus,
and when thou hast seen Xenophon think of Crito or Severus, and when
thou hast looked on thyself, think of any other Caesar, and in the
case of every one do in like manner. Then let this thought be in thy
mind, Where then are those men? Nowhere, or nobody knows where. For
thus continuously thou wilt look at human things as smoke and
nothing at all; especially if thou reflectest at the same time that
what has once changed will never exist again in the infinite
duration of time. But thou, in what a brief space of time is thy
existence? And why art thou not content to pass through this short
time in an orderly way? What matter and opportunity for thy activity
art thou avoiding? For what else are all these things, except
exercises for the reason, when it has viewed carefully and by
examination into their nature the things which happen in life?
Persevere then until thou shalt have made these things thy own, as the
stomach which is strengthened makes all things its own, as the blazing
fire makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown
into it.
  Let it not be in any man's power to say truly of thee that thou
art not simple or that thou are not good; but let him be a liar
whoever shall think anything of this kind about thee; and this is
altogether in thy power. For who is he that shall hinder thee from
being good and simple? Do thou only determine to live no longer,
unless thou shalt be such. For neither does reason allow thee to live,
if thou art not such.
  What is that which as to this material (our life) can be done or
said in the way most conformable to reason. For whatever this may
be, it is in thy power to do it or to say it, and do not make
excuses that thou art hindered. Thou wilt not cease to lament till thy
mind is in such a condition that, what luxury is to those who enjoy
pleasure, such shall be to thee, in the matter which is subjected
and presented to thee, the doing of the things which are conformable
to man's constitution; for a man ought to consider as an enjoyment
everything which it is in his power to do according to his own nature.
And it is in his power everywhere. Now, it is not given to a
cylinder to move everywhere by its own motion, nor yet to water nor to
fire, nor to anything else which is governed by nature or an
irrational soul, for the things which check them and stand in the
way are many. But intelligence and reason are able to go through
everything that opposes them, and in such manner as they are formed by
nature and as they choose. Place before thy eyes this facility with
which the reason will be carried through all things, as fire
upwards, as a stone downwards, as a cylinder down an inclined surface,
and seek for nothing further. For all other obstacles either affect
the body only which is a dead thing; or, except through opinion and
the yielding of the reason itself, they do not crush nor do any harm
of any kind; for if they did, he who felt it would immediately
become bad. Now, in the case of all things which have a certain
constitution, whatever harm may happen to any of them, that which is
so affected becomes consequently worse; but in the like case, a man
becomes both better, if one may say so, and more worthy of praise by
making a right use of these accidents. And finally remember that
nothing harms him who is really a citizen, which does not harm the
state; nor yet does anything harm the state, which does not harm law
(order); and of these things which are called misfortunes not one
harms law. What then does not harm law does not harm either state or
citizen.
  To him who is penetrated by true principles even the briefest
precept is sufficient, and any common precept, to remind him that he
should be free from grief and fear. For example-

  Leaves, some the wind scatters on the ground-
  So is the race of men.

Leaves, also, are thy children; and leaves, too, are they who cry
out as if they were worthy of credit and bestow their praise, or on
the contrary curse, or secretly blame and sneer; and leaves, in like
manner, are those who shall receive and transmit a man's fame to
aftertimes. For all such things as these "are produced in the season
of spring," as the poet says; then the wind casts them down; then
the forest produces other leaves in their places. But a brief
existence is common to all things, and yet thou avoidest and
pursuest all things as if they would be eternal. A little time, and
thou shalt close thy eyes; and him who has attended thee to thy
grave another soon will lament.
  The healthy eye ought to see all visible things and not to say, I
wish for green things; for this is the condition of a diseased eye.
And the healthy hearing and smelling ought to be ready to perceive all
that can be heard and smelled. And the healthy stomach ought to be
with respect to all food just as the mill with respect to all things
which it is formed to grind. And accordingly the healthy understanding
ought to be prepared for everything which happens; but that which
says, Let my dear children live, and let all men praise whatever I may
do, is an eye which seeks for green things, or teeth which seek for
soft things.
  There is no man so fortunate that there shall not be by him when
he is dying some who are pleased with what is going to happen. Suppose
that he was a good and wise man, will there not be at last some one to
say to himself, Let us at last breathe freely being relieved from this
schoolmaster? It is true that he was harsh to none of us, but I
perceived that he tacitly condemns us.- This is what is said of a
good man. But in our own case how many other things are there for
which there are many who wish to get rid of us. Thou wilt consider
this then when thou art dying, and thou wilt depart more contentedly
by reflecting thus: I am going away from such a life, in which even my
associates in behalf of whom I have striven so much, prayed, and
cared, themselves wish me to depart, hoping perchance to get some
little advantage by it. Why then should a man cling to a longer stay
here? Do not however for this reason go away less kindly disposed to
them, but preserving thy own character, and friendly and benevolent
and mild, and on the other hand not as if thou wast torn away; but
as when a man dies a quiet death, the poor soul is easily separated
from the body, such also ought thy departure from men to be, for
nature united thee to them and associated thee. But does she now
dissolve the union? Well, I am separated as from kinsmen, not
however dragged resisting, but without compulsion; for this too is one
of the things according to nature.
  Accustom thyself as much as possible on the occasion of anything
being done by any person to inquire with thyself, For what object is
this man doing this? But begin with thyself, and examine thyself
first.
  Remember that this which pulls the strings is the thing which is
hidden within: this is the power of persuasion, this is life, this, if
one may so say, is man. In contemplating thyself never include the
vessel which surrounds thee and these instruments which are attached
about it. For they are like to an axe, differing only in this that
they grow to the body. For indeed there is no more use in these
parts without the cause which moves and checks them than in the
weaver's shuttle, and the writer's pen and the driver's whip.

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