Such as a man’s character is, he immediately shows it in his eyes, just as he who is beloved forthwith reads everything in the eyes of lovers.
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 Book Eleven, Parts Nine through Seventeen.
Because those who try to stand in your way when you are proceeding according to right reason will not be able to turn you aside from your proper action, so neither let them drive you from your benevolent feelings towards them. Be on your guard equally in both matters, not only in the matter of steady judgment and action, but also in the matter of gentleness to those who try to hinder or otherwise trouble you. For this also is a weakness, to be vexed at them, as well as to be diverted from your course of action and to give way through fear. Both are equally deserters from their post: the man who does it through fear, and the man who is alienated from him who is by nature a kinsman and a friend.
There is no nature which is inferior to the arts, for the arts imitate the natures of things. Because this is so, that nature which is the most perfect and the most comprehensive of all natures cannot fall short of the skill of art. All the arts do the inferior things for the sake of the superior. Therefore, the universal nature does so as well. And, indeed, this is the origin of justice, and in justice the other virtues have their foundation. For justice will not be observed if we either care for indifferent things, or are easily deceived and careless and changeable.
If things do not come of their own free will to you, if pursuing and avoiding of things disturbs you, then in a manner you go of your own free will to them. Let then your judgment about them be at rest, and they will remain quiet, and you will not be seen either pursuing or avoiding.
The spherical form of the soul maintains its form when it is neither extended towards any object, nor contracted inwards, nor dispersed nor sinks down, but is illuminated by light, by which it sees the truth—the truth of all things and the truth that is in itself.
Suppose any man shall despise me. Let him look to that himself. But I will look to this, that I be not discovered doing or saying anything deserving of contempt. Shall any man hate me? Let him look to it. But I will be mild and benevolent towards every man, and ready to show even him his mistake, not reproachfully, nor yet as making a display of my endurance, but nobly and honestly, like the great Phocion, unless indeed he only assumed it. My inner thoughts ought to be these. A man ought to be seen by the gods neither dissatisfied with anything nor complaining. No evil is it to you if you are now doing what is agreeable to your own nature, and are satisfied with that which at this moment is suitable to the nature of the universe. You are a human being placed at your post in order so that what is for the common advantage may be done in some way.
Men despise one another and flatter one another. Men wish to raise themselves above one another, and crouch before one another.
How unsound and insincere is he who says, ‘I have determined to deal with you in a fair way!’ What are you doing, man? There is no occasion to say these words. It will soon show itself by acts. The voice ought to be plainly written on the forehead. Such as a man’s character is, he immediately shows it in his eyes, just as he who is beloved forthwith reads everything in the eyes of lovers. The man who is honest and good ought to be exactly like a man who smells strong, so that the bystander as soon as he comes near him must smell whether he choose or not. But this affectation of simplicity is like a crooked stick. Nothing is more disgraceful than a wolfish friendship. Avoid this most of all. The good and simple and benevolent show all these things in the eyes, and there is no mistaking.
As to living in the best way, this power is in your soul, if your soul is indifferent to things which are themselves indifferent. Your soul will be indifferent if it looks on each of these things individually and all together, and if it remembers that not one of them produces in us an opinion about itself, nor comes to us of its own free will. Instead, these things remain immovable. It is we ourselves who produce the judgments about them, and, as we may say, write them in ourselves. It is in our power not to write them, and it being in our power (if perchance these judgments have imperceptibly got admission to our minds), it is in our power to wipe them out. Your soul will be indifferent to these things if it remembers also that such attention will only be for a short time, and then life will be at an end. Besides, what trouble is there at all in doing this? If these things are according to nature, rejoice in them and they will be easy to you. If these things are contrary to nature, seek what is conformable to your own nature, and strive towards this, even if it bring no reputation. Every man is allowed to seek his own good.
Consider from where each thing comes from, and of what it consists, and into what it changes, and what kind of a thing it will be when it has changed, and that it will sustain no harm.
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.
Jack Payne Orchestra – Give Yourself A Pat On The Back (Columbia 5739 1930)
Mel Craig’s Orchestra – In The Garden Of Tomorrow (Edison 10269 1925)