Strive to live only what is really your life, that is, the present. Do this, then you will be able to pass that portion of life which remains for you up to the time of your death free from perturbations, nobly, and obedient to the god that is within you.
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. Here are The Meditations Book Eleven, Part Twenty-Two through Book Twelve, Part Four.
Think of the country mouse and of the town mouse, and of the alarm and trepidation of the town mouse.
Socrates used to call the opinions of the many by the name of Lamiae—bugbears to frighten children.
The Lacedaemonians at their public spectacles used to set seats in the shade for strangers, but themselves sat down anywhere.
Socrates excused himself to Perdiccas for not going to him, saying, ‘It is because I would not perish by the worst of all ends; that is, I would not receive a favor and then be unable to return it.’
In the writings of the Ephesians there was this precept, constantly to think of some one of the men of former times who practiced virtue.
The Pythagoreans bid us in the morning look to the heavens that we may be reminded of those bodies which continually do the same things and in the same manner perform their work, and also be reminded of their purity and nudity. For there is no veil over a star.
Consider what a man Socrates was when he dressed himself in a skin, after Xanthippe had taken his cloak and gone out, and what Socrates said to his friends who were ashamed of him and drew back from him when they saw him dressed thus.
Neither in writing nor in reading will you be able to lay down rules for others before you will have first learned to obey rules yourself. Much more is this so in life.
A slave you are: free speech is not for thee.
The Odyssey says: “And my heart laughed within.”
Hesiod said: “And virtue they will curse, speaking harsh words.”
To look for the fig in winter is a madman’s act: such is he who looks for his child when it is no longer allowed.
When a man kisses his child, said Epictetus, he should whisper to himself, “To-morrow perchance you will die.”—But those are words of bad omen.—”No word is a word of bad omen,” said Epictetus, “which expresses any work of nature; or if it is so, it is also a word of bad omen to speak of the ears of corn being reaped.”
The unripe grape, the ripe bunch, the dried grape all are changes, not into nothing, but into something which exists not yet.
No man can rob us of our free will.
Epictetus also said a man must discover an art or rules with respect to giving his assent; and in respect to his movements he must be careful that they be made with regard to circumstances, that they be consistent with social interests, that they have regard to the value of the object. As to sensual desire, he should altogether keep away from it. As to avoidance, he should not show it with respect to any of the things which are not in our power.
The dispute then, he said, is not about any common matter, but about being mad or not.
Socrates used to say, “What do you want, souls of rational men or irrational?” Souls of rational men. “Of what rational men, sound or unsound?” Sound. “Why then do you not seek for them?” Because we have them. “Why then do you fight and quarrel?”
All those things at which you wish to arrive by a circuitous road you can have now, if you do not refuse them to yourself. This means that you will take no notice of all the past, and trust the future to providence, and direct the present only conformably to piety and justice. Conformably to piety, that you may be content with the lot which is assigned to you, for Nature designed it for you and you for it. Conformably to justice, that you may always speak the truth freely and without disguise, and do the things which are agreeable to law and according to the worth of each. And let neither another man’s wickedness hinder you, nor influence nor voice, nor yet the sensations of the poor flesh which has grown about you, for the passive part will look to this. Whatever the time may be when you will be near to your departure, neglecting everything else you will respect only your ruling faculty and the divinity within you. If you will be afraid not because you must some time cease to live, but if you will fear never to have begun to live according to Nature, then you will be a man worthy of the universe which have produced you, and you will cease to be a stranger in your native land, and to wonder at things which happen daily as if they were something unexpected, and not to be dependent on external things.
God sees the minds of all men bared of the material vesture and rind and impurities. For with His intellectual part alone He touches the intelligence only which has flowed and been derived from Himself into these bodies. If you yourself do this, you will rid yourself of much trouble. He who regards not the poor flesh which envelops him surely will not trouble himself by looking after raiment and dwelling and fame and such like externals and show.
You are composed of three things: a little body, a little breath, and intelligence. Of these the first two are yours so far as it is your duty to take care of them, but the third alone is properly yours. Separate from yourself (that is, from your understanding) whatever others do or say, and whatever you have done or said yourself, and whatever future things trouble you because they may happen, and whatever in the body which envelops you or in life which is by nature associated with the body, and whatever is attached to you independent of your will, and whatever the external circumfluent vortex whirls round, so that the intellectual power exempt from the things of fate can live pure and free by itself, doing what is just and accepting what happens and saying the truth. Separate, I say, from this ruling faculty the things which are attached to it by the impressions of sense, and the things of time to come and of time that is past, and will make yourself like Empedocles’ sphere, “All round and in its joyous rest reposing.” Strive to live only what is really your life, that is, the present. Do this, then you will be able to pass that portion of life which remains for you up to the time of your death free from perturbations, nobly, and obedient to the god that is within you.
I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others. If then a god or a wise teacher should present Himself to a man and bid him to think of nothing and to design nothing which he would not express as soon as he conceived it, He could not endure it even for a single day. So much more respect have we to what our neighbors think of us than to what we shall think of ourselves.
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.
Leon Nash Orchestra – Hi Ho Lack a Day / What Have We Got to Lose (Crown 3467 March 23 1933)