The Meditations Book Three, Parts Five Through Eleven

In the mind of one who is chastened and purified you will find no corrupt matter, nor impurity, nor any sore skinned over.

OPENING
I am A Man of Letters. I’ve been reading lately, and I have found some words I would like to share. Today, The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. His father was named Marcus Annius Verus, and his mother was named Domitia Lucilla. Here are The Meditations Book Three, Parts Five through Eleven.

Do not labor unwillingly, nor without regard to the common interest, nor without due consideration, nor with distraction. Do not let studied ornament set off your thoughts, and do not be either a man of many words, or busy about too many things. Let the Deity which is in you be the guardian of a living being, manly and of ripe age, and engaged in matter political, and a Roman, and a ruler, who has taken his post like a man waiting for the signal which summons him from life, and ready to go, having need neither of oath nor of any man’s testimony. Be cheerful, and do not seek external help nor the tranquillity which others give. A man must stand erect, not be kept erect by others.

If you find in human life anything better than justice, truth, temperance, fortitude, and, in a word, anything better than your own mind’s self-satisfaction in the things which it enables you to do according to right reason, and in the condition that is assigned to you without your own choice; if, I say, you see anything better than this, turn to it with all your soul, and enjoy that which you have found to be the best. But if nothing appears to be better than the Deity which is planted in you, which has subjected to itself all your appetites, and carefully examines all the impressions, and (as Socrates said) has detached itself from the persuasions of sense, and has submitted itself to the Gods, and cares for mankind; if you find everything else smaller and of less value than this, give place to nothing else, for if you even one time diverge and incline to it, you will no longer without distraction be able to give the preference to that good thing which is your proper possession and your own. It is not right that anything of any other kind, such as praise from the many, or power, or enjoyment of pleasure, should come into competition with that which is rationally and practically good. All these things, even though they may seem to adapt themselves [to the better things] in some small degree, take over all at once and carry us away. I say, simply and freely choose the better, and hold to it. If someone says that which is useful is the better, well then, if it is useful to you as a rational being, keep to it. But if it is only useful to you as an animal, say so, and maintain your judgment without arrogance. Take care that you make your inquiry by a sure method.

Never value anything as profitable to yourself which will compel you to break your promise, to lose your self-respect, to hate any man, to suspect, to curse, to act the hypocrite, to desire anything which needs walls and curtains. He who has preferred to everything else his own intelligence and daemon and the worship of its excellence acts no tragic part, he does not groan, he will not need either solitude or much company. Best of all, he will live without either pursuing or flying from [death]. Whether for a longer or a shorter time he has his soul enclosed in his body, he cares not at all. Even if he must depart immediately, he will go as readily as if he were going to do anything else which can be done with decency and order. He takes care of only this all through life, that his thoughts do not turn away from anything which belongs to an intelligent animal and a member of a civil community.

In the mind of one who is chastened and purified you will find no corrupt matter, nor impurity, nor any sore skinned over. Nor is his life incomplete when fate overtakes him, as one may say of an actor who leaves the stage before ending and finishing the play. There is in him nothing servile, nor affected, nor too closely bound [to other things], nor detached [from other things], nothing worthy of blame, nothing which seeks a hiding-place.

Reverence the faculty which produces opinion. On this faculty it entirely depends whether there will exist in your ruling part any opinion inconsistent with Nature and the constitution of the rational animal. This faculty promises freedom from hasty judgment, and friendship towards men, and obedience to the Gods.

Throwing away then all things, hold to these only which are few. Bear in mind that every man lives only this present time, which is an indivisible point, and that all the rest of his life is either past or it is uncertain. Short is the time which every man lives, and small the nook of the earth where he lives. Short is the longest posthumous fame, and even this only continued by a succession of poor human beings, who will very soon die, and who know not even themselves, much less him who died long ago.

To the aids which have been mentioned let this one be added: Make for yourself a definition or description of the thing which are presented to you, so as to see distinctly what kind of a thing it is in its substance, in its nudity, in its complete entirety, and tell yourself its proper name, and the names of the things of which it has been compounded, and into which it will be resolved. Nothing is so productive of elevation of mind as to be able to examine methodically and truly every object which is presented to you in life, and always to look at things so as to see at the same time what kind of universe this is, and what kind of use everything performs in it, and what value everything has with reference to the whole, and what value with reference to man. Man, who is a citizen of the highest city, of which all other cities are like families. Examine what each thing is, and of what it is composed, and how long it is the nature of this thing to endure which now makes an impression on you, and what virtue you have need of with respect to it, such as gentleness, manliness, truth, fidelity, simplicity, contentment, and the rest. On every occasion a man should say ‘this comes from Nature, and this is according to the apportionment and spinning of the thread of destiny, and such-like coincidence and chance. This is from one of the same stock, and a kinsman and partner; however, one who knows not what is according to his Nature. But I know my Nature, and for this reason I behave towards him according to the Natural law of fellowship with benevolence and justice. At the same time, however, in things indifferent I attempt to ascertain the value of each.’

Thank you for listening. For more information about the words I have read and the music to follow, please visit A Man of Letters. amoletters.com.

Until I return, I am… A Man of Letters.

MUSIC
Brunswick Studio Orchestra – After You’ve Gone

Episode 1815