The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Book Ten Parts Eight Through Twenty-Two

Inquire of yourself as soon as you wake from sleep whether it will make any difference to you if another does what is just and right. It will make no difference.

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. Here are The Meditations Book Ten, Parts Eight through Twenty-Two.

When you have assumed the names good, modest, true, rational, a man of equanimity, and magnanimous, take care that you do not change these names. If you should lose them, quickly return to them. Remember that the term Rational was intended to signify a discriminating attention to every individual thing, and to be free from negligence. Remember that Equanimity is the voluntary acceptance of the things which are assigned to you by the common nature. Remember 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, you maintain yourself in the possession of these names, without desiring to be called by these names by others, you will be another man and will enter on another life. To continue to be such as you have hitherto been, and to be torn in pieces and defiled in such a life, is the character of a very stupid man, one over-fond of his life. It is like those half-devoured fighters with wild beasts who, though covered with wounds and gore, still entreat to fight again the following day, though they will be exposed in the same state to the same claws and bites. Therefore fix yourself in the possession of these few names. If you are able to abide in them, abide as if you were removed to the islands of the Happy. But – if you perceive that you fall out of them and do not maintain your hold, go courageously into some corner where you will 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 your life, to have gone out of it thus. To remember these names, it will greatly help you if you remember the gods, and that they wish not to be flattered, but wish all reasonable men to be made like themselves. Remember also 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.

My friend, war, astonishment, torpor and slavery will daily wipe out your holy principles. How many things do you imagine without studying nature, and how many do you neglect? It is your duty so to look on and so to do everything, so 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 individual thing is maintained without showing it, but yet not concealed. Then will you enjoy simplicity, and gravity, and the knowledge of every individual 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 you will know those who are able both to give it and take it away.

A spider is proud when he 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 you examine their pride?

Acquire the contemplative way of seeing how all things change into one another, and constantly attend to it, and exercise yourself about this part of philosophy. For nothing is so much adapted to produce magnanimity. Such a man has put off the body. He sees that he must (no one knows when) go away from among men and leave everything here, and gives himself up entirely to doing what is just in all his actions, and in everything else that happens he resigns himself to the universal nature. 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. 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 your power to inquire what ought to be done? If you see clear, go by this way content, without turning back. If you do not see clear, stop and take the best advisers. If any other things oppose you, go on according to your powers with due consideration, keeping to that which appears to be just. It is best to reach this goal. If you do fail, let your 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 yourself as soon as you wake from sleep whether it will make any difference to you if another does what is just and right. It will make no difference.

You have 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. You have 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, and happiness.

To Her who gives all and takes back all, to Nature, the man who is instructed and modest says: “Give what you will, take back what you will.” And he says this not proudly, but obediently, and well pleased with Her.

Little remains to you of life. Live as on a mountain. For it makes no difference whether a man lives there or here, if he lives anywhere in the world or if he lives in civilization. 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 fail to live as a man.

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. Consider that all individual things as to substance are as the seed of a fig, and as to time the turning of a screw.

Look at everything that exists, and observe that it is already in dissolution and in change. Look at everything as it were putrefaction or decay, 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 consider what kind of men they are when they are imperious and arrogant, or angry and scolding from their elevated place. Consider it was a short time ago they were slaves and consider what what they served, and after a little time consider what their condition will be.

What the universal nature brings to each thing is for the good of each thing. And it is for its good at the time when Nature brings it.

“The earth loves the shower.” “The solemn loves the earth and the shower.” The universe loves to make whatever is about to be. I say then to the universe, that I love as you love. It is also said that “everything loves to become what is is.”

Either you live here and have already accustomed yourself to it, or you are going away, and this was your own will. Or you are dying and have discharged your duty. But besides these things there is nothing. Be of good cheer, then.

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
Stiklen’s Orchestra – Pas Sur La Bouche (Disque Pathé 6735 circa 1927)

Episode 1837