Marcus Aurelius

Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (April 26, 121 Ė March 17, 180) was
Roman Emperor from 161 to his death in 180.  While on campaign between 170 and 180,
Aurelius wrote his Meditations as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement.
He had a logical mind though his notes were representative of Stoic philosophy and spirituality.
Meditations is still revered as a literary monument to a government of service and duty.
Like many of the emperors of Rome he was loved by the people.  Yet, with all his benevolence,
administered justice and reforms he often mistrusted the Christians
whom he subjected to systematic persecution.

  

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Why should anyone be afraid of change?  What can take place without it?  What can be more pleasing or more suitable to universal Nature?  Can you take your bath without the firewood undergoing a change?  Can you eat, without the food undergoing a change?  And can anything useful be done without change?  Don't you see that for you to change is just the same, and is equally necessary for universal Nature?
  
  
Whatever anyone else says or does, I must be true to myself, just as if gold or emerald or the color purple would say, "Whatever anyone may do or say, I must be an emerald and keep my color."

      
Look then at the material objects of life, and consider how trivial and short-lived they are and how often they are owned by scoundrels and thieves.



Even if your heart should burst, the world will carry on just as before.
  
Do not fear death, but welcome it, since it too comes from nature.  For just as we are young and grow old, and flourish and reach maturity, have teeth and a beard and grey hairs, conceive, become pregnant, and bring forth new life, and all the other natural processes that follow the seasons of our existence, so also do we have death.
   A thoughtful person will never take death lightly, impatiently, or scornfully, but will wait for it as one of life's natural processes.
   

Discard everything except these few truths:  we can live only in the present moment, in this brief now; all the rest of our life is dead and buried or shrouded in uncertainty.  Short is the life we lead, and small our patch of earth.

 

 

Why should anyone be afraid of change?  What can take place without it?
What can be more pleasing or more suitable to universal nature?
   Can you take your bath without the firewood undergoing a change?  Can you
eat without the food undergoing a change?  And can anything useful be done
without change?
   Don't you see that for you to change is just the same, and is equally necessary
for universal nature?

  

All things are linked with one another, and this oneness is sacred; there is
nothing that is not interconnected with everything else.  For things are
interdependent, and they combine to form this universal order.  There is
only one universe made up of all things, and one creator who pervades
them; there is one substance and one law, namely, common reason in all
thinking creatures, and all truth is one--if, as we believe, there is only
one path of perfection for all beings who share the same mind.

 

"Sweep me up and send me where you please."  For there I will
retain my spirit, tranquil and content, as long as it can feel and act
in harmony with its own nature.  Is a change of place enough reason
for my soul to become unhappy and worn, for me to become
depressed, humbled, cowering, and afraid?  Can you discover
any reasons for this?

   

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Don't seek to gain anything for yourself that forces you to break your word
or lose self-respect; to hate, suspect, or curse another; or to be insincere
or to desire something that needs to remain secret.
   Look to the people whose main desire is to nurture their minds and their
inner spirits.  They do not fuss, complain, or crave either solitude or a crowd.
And, most important of all, they will live without either striving or avoiding,
and will not care whether their lives are long or short.
   If death comes for them at this very instant, they will go as easily
as if they were doing any other act needing self-respect and calm,
being careful of only this through their lives:  that their thoughts do not
stray into paths incompatible with an intelligent and social being.

   

Since you are an integral part of a social system, let every act
of yours contribute to the harmonization of social life.  Any action
that is not related directly or remotely to this social aim
disturbs your life, and destroys your unity.

   

Always follow these two rules:  first, act only on what your reasoning mind proposes
for the good of humanity, and second, change your opinion if someone shows
you itís wrong.  This change of mind must proceed only from the conviction that itís
both correct and for the common good, but not because it will give you
pleasure and make you popular.

   

Think of the whole being, of which you have a pittance;
and the totality of time, of which a small measure has been set for you;
and of everything that is arranged by destiny, and how tiny your role in it.

   

Anyone who has seen the present day has seen it all, both everything
that has taken place since time began and everything that will be
for all eternity; for all things are of one kind and one form.

   

   

The people itching for immortal fame do not see that everyone
who remembers them will themselves soon die, and the next
generation in its turn, until these memories, transmitted by people
who foolishly admire and then die, will perish.
But even if these people were immortal and your memory stayed alive
forever, what does it matter to you?  What good is praise to
the buried, or even the living, except for some practical use?
You reject Nature's gift today if you cling
to what people may say of you tomorrow.

  

Just consider, my friend, whether a pure spirit and virtue are anything other
than saving your life and being saved.  Perhaps we need to discard the idea
of longevity and cease loving this life, instead committing these things to God and,
believing that no one ever escapes destiny, to consider, with that in mind,
how we may live the best possible life in the time that remains.

 
When you are upset by a person's despicable conduct, immediately ask yourself, "Is it possible for despicable people not to exist?"

"No, it's not possible."

Then don't expect the impossible.  For this person is just one of many depraved people who must exist in the world.

Think the same way about the villain, the cynic, and every fool you meet.  For when you remind yourself that unfortunately such people do exist, you will become more kindly disposed toward them.

Reflect also on what qualities nature has given us to counter every vile act.  For she has given us compassion as an antidote to brutality, and for another affliction some other quality.  And in each case it's possible for you to correct the person who's gone astray; for everyone who errs misses the mark and goes down the wrong path.

Besides, how have you suffered?  You'll find that none of these people have done anything to harm your mind, for everything that is harmful and evil to you has its existence only in the mind.  Why do you find it strange that an uncultivated person acts like an idiot?

Perhaps you should blame yourself since you didn't expect this person to err in such a way.  Your inner voice should have told you it was likely that he or she would commit this error, and yet you didn't pay attention and are now amazed that this person has erred.

But most of all, when you blame someone for being faithless and ungrateful, turn to yourself.  The fault is clearly your own, if you trusted that someone would keep a promise, or offered your own kindness only because you expected to gain by it.

For what more do you want when you have done someone a service?  Shouldn't you be content that you have done the right thing, and not feel you have to be paid for it?

It's as if your eyes demanded a fee for seeing, or your feet for walking.  These parts of your body are formed for a specific purpose, and by working according to their inherent makeup come into their own.  So too we are created by Nature to act benevolently, and when we have done something helpful or in some way conducive to the common interest, we have acted in harmony with out own inherent makeup, and also come into our own.

   
  

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