THE MEDITATIONS

Of

MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS

Translated by George Long


BOOK II

BEGIN the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the
busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All
these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is
good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is
beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who
does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed,
but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion
of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one
can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor
hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands,
like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act
against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting
against one another to be vexed and to turn away.
  Whatever this is that I am, it is a little flesh and breath, and the
ruling part. Throw away thy books; no longer distract thyself: it is
not allowed; but as if thou wast now dying, despise the flesh; it is
blood and bones and a network, a contexture of nerves, veins, and
arteries. See the breath also, what kind of a thing it is, air, and
not always the same, but every moment sent out and again sucked in.
The third then is the ruling part: consider thus: Thou art an old man;
no longer let this be a slave, no longer be pulled by the strings like
a puppet to unsocial movements, no longer either be dissatisfied
with thy present lot, or shrink from the future.
  All that is from the gods is full of Providence. That which is
from fortune is not separated from nature or without an interweaving
and involution with the things which are ordered by Providence. From
thence all things flow; and there is besides necessity, and that which
is for the advantage of the whole universe, of which thou art a
part. But that is good for every part of nature which the nature of
the whole brings, and what serves to maintain this nature. Now the
universe is preserved, as by the changes of the elements so by the
changes of things compounded of the elements. Let these principles
be enough for thee, let them always be fixed opinions. But cast away
the thirst after books, that thou mayest not die murmuring, but
cheerfully, truly, and from thy heart thankful to the gods.
  Remember how long thou hast been putting off these things, and how
often thou hast received an opportunity from the gods, and yet dost
not use it. Thou must now at last perceive of what universe thou art a
part, and of what administrator of the universe thy existence is an
efflux, and that a limit of time is fixed for thee, which if thou dost
not use for clearing away the clouds from thy mind, it will go and
thou wilt go, and it will never return.
  Every moment think steadily as a Roman and a man to do what thou
hast in hand with perfect and simple dignity, and feeling of
affection, and freedom, and justice; and to give thyself relief from
all other thoughts. And thou wilt give thyself relief, if thou doest
every act of thy life as if it were the last, laying aside all
carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands of reason,
and all hypocrisy, and self-love, and discontent with the portion
which has been given to thee. Thou seest how few the things are, the
which if a man lays hold of, he is able to live a life which flows
in quiet, and is like the existence of the gods; for the gods on their
part will require nothing more from him who observes these things.
  Do wrong to thyself, do wrong to thyself, my soul; but thou wilt
no longer have the opportunity of honouring thyself. Every man's
life is sufficient. But thine is nearly finished, though thy soul
reverences not itself but places thy felicity in the souls of others.
  Do the things external which fall upon thee distract thee? Give
thyself time to learn something new and good, and cease to be
whirled around. But then thou must also avoid being carried about
the other way. For those too are triflers who have wearied
themselves in life by their activity, and yet have no object to
which to direct every movement, and, in a word, all their thoughts.
  Through not observing what is in the mind of another a man has
seldom been seen to be unhappy; but those who do not observe the
movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy.
  This thou must always bear in mind, what is the nature of the whole,
and what is my nature, and how this is related to that, and what
kind of a part it is of what kind of a whole; and that there is no one
who hinders thee from always doing and saying the things which are
according to the nature of which thou art a part.
  Theophrastus, in his comparison of bad acts- such a comparison as
one would make in accordance with the common notions of mankind- says,
like a true philosopher, that the offences which are committed through
desire are more blameable than those which are committed through
anger. For he who is excited by anger seems to turn away from reason
with a certain pain and unconscious contraction; but he who offends
through desire, being overpowered by pleasure, seems to be in a manner
more intemperate and more womanish in his offences. Rightly then,
and in a way worthy of philosophy, he said that the offence which is
committed with pleasure is more blameable than that which is committed
with pain; and on the whole the one is more like a person who has been
first wronged and through pain is compelled to be angry; but the other
is moved by his own impulse to do wrong, being carried towards doing
something by desire.
  Since it is possible that thou mayest depart from life this very
moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly. But to go away
from among men, if there are gods, is not a thing to be afraid of, for
the gods will not involve thee in evil; but if indeed they do not
exist, or if they have no concern about human affairs, what is it to
me to live in a universe devoid of gods or devoid of Providence? But
in truth they do exist, and they do care for human things, and they
have put all the means in man's power to enable him not to fall into
real evils. And as to the rest, if there was anything evil, they would
have provided for this also, that it should be altogether in a man's
power not to fall into it. Now that which does not make a man worse,
how can it make a man's life worse? But neither through ignorance, nor
having the knowledge, but not the power to guard against or correct
these things, is it possible that the nature of the universe has
overlooked them; nor is it possible that it has made so great a
mistake, either through want of power or want of skill, that good
and evil should happen indiscriminately to the good and the bad. But
death certainly, and life, honour and dishonour, pain and pleasure,
all these things equally happen to good men and bad, being things
which make us neither better nor worse. Therefore they are neither
good nor evil.
  How quickly all things disappear, in the universe the bodies
themselves, but in time the remembrance of them; what is the nature of
all sensible things, and particularly those which attract with the
bait of pleasure or terrify by pain, or are noised abroad by vapoury
fame; how worthless, and contemptible, and sordid, and perishable, and
dead they are- all this it is the part of the intellectual faculty to
observe. To observe too who these are whose opinions and voices give
reputation; what death is, and the fact that, if a man looks at it
in itself, and by the abstractive power of reflection resolves into
their parts all the things which present themselves to the imagination
in it, he will then consider it to be nothing else than an operation
of nature; and if any one is afraid of an operation of nature, he is a
child. This, however, is not only an operation of nature, but it is
also a thing which conduces to the purposes of nature. To observe
too how man comes near to the deity, and by what part of him, and when
this part of man is so disposed.
  Nothing is more wretched than a man who traverses everything in a
round, and pries into the things beneath the earth, as the poet says,
and seeks by conjecture what is in the minds of his neighbours,
without perceiving that it is sufficient to attend to the daemon
within him, and to reverence it sincerely. And reverence of the daemon
consists in keeping it pure from passion and thoughtlessness, and
dissatisfaction with what comes from gods and men. For the things from
the gods merit veneration for their excellence; and the things from
men should be dear to us by reason of kinship; and sometimes even, in
a manner, they move our pity by reason of men's ignorance of good and
bad; this defect being not less than that which deprives us of the
power of distinguishing things that are white and black.
  Though thou shouldst be going to live three thousand years, and as
many times ten thousand years, still remember that no man loses any
other life than this which he now lives, nor lives any other than this
which he now loses. The longest and shortest are thus brought to the
same. For the present is the same to all, though that which perishes
is not the same; and so that which is lost appears to be a mere
moment. For a man cannot lose either the past or the future: for
what a man has not, how can any one take this from him? These two
things then thou must bear in mind; the one, that all things from
eternity are of like forms and come round in a circle, and that it
makes no difference whether a man shall see the same things during a
hundred years or two hundred, or an infinite time; and the second,
that the longest liver and he who will die soonest lose just the same.
For the present is the only thing of which a man can be deprived, if
it is true that this is the only thing which he has, and that a man
cannot lose a thing if he has it not.
  Remember that all is opinion. For what was said by the Cynic Monimus
is manifest: and manifest too is the use of what was said, if a man
receives what may be got out of it as far as it is true.
  The soul of man does violence to itself, first of all, when it
becomes an abscess and, as it were, a tumour on the universe, so far
as it can. For to be vexed at anything which happens is a separation
of ourselves from nature, in some part of which the natures of all
other things are contained. In the next place, the soul does
violence to itself when it turns away from any man, or even moves
towards him with the intention of injuring, such as are the souls of
those who are angry. In the third place, the soul does violence to
itself when it is overpowered by pleasure or by pain. Fourthly, when
it plays a part, and does or says anything insincerely and untruly.
Fifthly, when it allows any act of its own and any movement to be
without an aim, and does anything thoughtlessly and without
considering what it is, it being right that even the smallest things
be done with reference to an end; and the end of rational animals is
to follow the reason and the law of the most ancient city and polity.
  Of human life the time is a point, and the substance is in a flux,
and the perception dull, and the composition of the whole body subject
to putrefaction, and the soul a whirl, and fortune hard to divine, and
fame a thing devoid of judgement. And, to say all in a word,
everything which belongs to the body is a stream, and what belongs
to the soul is a dream and vapour, and life is a warfare and a
stranger's sojourn, and after-fame is oblivion. What then is that
which is able to conduct a man? One thing and only one, philosophy.
But this consists in keeping the daemon within a man free from
violence and unharmed, superior to pains and pleasures, doing
nothing without purpose, nor yet falsely and with hypocrisy, not
feeling the need of another man's doing or not doing anything; and
besides, accepting all that happens, and all that is allotted, as
coming from thence, wherever it is, from whence he himself came;
and, finally, waiting for death with a cheerful mind, as being nothing
else than a dissolution of the elements of which every living being is
compounded. But if there is no harm to the elements themselves in each
continually changing into another, why should a man have any
apprehension about the change and dissolution of all the elements? For
it is according to nature, and nothing is evil which is according to
nature.
  This in Carnuntum.

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