Meditations by Marcus Aurelius


How much trouble he avoids who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only to what he does himself, that it may be just and pure.

For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquillity. 

All is opinion.

He examined all things separately, as if he had abundance of time.

What then can guide a man? One thing and only one, philosophy. But this consists in keeping the daimon within a man free from silence and unharmed, superior to pains and pleasures, not feeling the need of another man’s doing or not doing anything; and besides, accepting all that happens, and all that is allotted, as coming from the same source, wherever it is, from which he himself came; and, finally, waiting for death with a cheerful mind, as being nothing else than a dissolution of the elements of which every living being is compounded. 

Be cheerful also, and do not seek external help or the tranquility that others give. A man then must stand erect, not be kept erect by others.

Never value anything as profitable that compels 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 that needs walls and curtains.

On every occasion a man should be able to say: this comes from God.

As physicians have always their instruments and knives ready for cases that suddenly require their skill, so do you have principles ready for the understanding of things divine and human, and for doing everything, even the smallest, with a recollection of the bond that uniques the divine and human to each other. For neither can you do anything well that pertains to man without at the same time having a reference to things divine; nor the contrary. 

Hasten then to your appointed end and, throwing away idle hopes, come to your own aid, if you care at all for yourself, while it is in your power.

Body, soul, intelligence: to the body belong sensations, to the soul appetites, to the intelligence principles. 

Let no act be done without a purpose, nor otherwise then according to the perfect principles of art. 

For there is no retreat that is quieter or freer from trouble than a man’s own soul, especially when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquility; and tranquillity is nothing else than the good ordering of the mind. Constantly then give to yourself this retreat, and renew yourself; and let your principles be brief and fundamental, which as soon as you recur to them, will be sufficient to cleanse the soul completely, and to send you back free from all discontent with the things to which you return.

Remember to retire into this little territory of your own, and above all do not distract or strain yourself, but be free, and look at things as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal. But among the things readiest to hand to which you should turn, let there be these two: One is that things do not touch the soul, for they are external and remain immovable; so our perturbations come only from our inner opinions. The other is that all the things you see around you change immediately and will no longer be; and constantly bear in mind how many of the se changes you have already witnessed. The universe is transformation; life is opinion.

Note that everything that happens, happens justly, and if you observe carefully, you will find it to be so, not only with respect to the continuity of the series of things, but with respect to what is just, as if it were done by one who assigns to each things its value. Observe then as you have begun; and whatever you do, do it in connection with goodness, in the sense in which a man is properly understood to be good. Keep to this in every action.

How much trouble he avoids who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only to what he does himself, that it may be just and pure; or as Agathon says, look not round at the depraved morals of others, but run straight along the line without deviating from it.

He who has a vehement desire for posthumous fame does not consider that every other of those who remember him will himself also die very soon; then again also they who have succeeded them, until the whole remembrance shall have been extinguished as it is transmitted through men who foolishly admire and perish. But suppose that those who will remember are even immortal, and that the remembrance will be immortal, what then is this to you? And I say not what is it to the dead, but what is it to the living? What is praise except indeed so far as it has a certain utility? For you now reject unseasonably the gift of nature, clinging to something else. . . . 

Everything is only for a day, both that which remembers and that which is remembered. 

Consider if you have hitherto behaved to all in such a way that this way be said of you: Never has he wronged a man in deed or word.

Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if you will ever dig.

Pain is neither intolerable nor everlasting if you bear in mind that it has its limits, and if you add nothing to it in imagination.

The perfection of moral character consists in this, in passing every day as if it were the last, and in being neither violently excited nor torpid nor playing the hypocrite.

Do not be perturbed, for all things are according to the nature of the universal; and in a little time you will be nobody and nowhere. 

You have leisure or ability to check arrogance: you have leisure to be superior to pleasure and pain: you have leisure to be superior to love of fame, and not to be vexed at stupid and ungrateful people, nay even to care for them.

Repentance is a kind of self-reproof for having neglected something useful. 

Whatever man you meet with, immediately say to yourself: What opinions has this man about good and bad?

Everything exists for some end.

Receive wealth or prosperity without arrogance; and be ready to let it go.

Do not disturb yourself by thinking of the whole of your life. Do not let your thoughts at once embrace all the various troubles that you may expect to befall you: but on every occasion ask yourself, What is there in this that is intolerable and past bearing? For you will be ashamed to confess. In the next place remember that neither the future nor the past pains you, but only the present. But this is reduced to a very little, if you only circumscribe it and chide your mind, if it is unable to hold out against even this. 

When you are offended with any man’s shameless conduct, immediately ask yourself, Is it possible, then, that shameless men should not be in the world? It is not possible. Do not, then, require what is impossible. For this man also is one of those shameless men who must of necessity be in the world. Let the same consideration be present to your mind in the case of the knave and the faithless man, and of every man who does wring in any way. For at the same time that you remind yourself that it is impossible that such men should not exist, you will become more kindly disposed toward everyone individually. It is also useful to perceive, as soon as the occasion arises, what virtue nature has given to man to oppose to every wrongful act. For as an antidote against the stupid man, she has given mildness, and against another kind of man some other power. And in all cases it is possible for you to correct by teaching the man who has gone astray; for every man who errs misses his object and has gone astray. Besides, wherein have you been injured? For you will find that no one among those against who you are irritated has done anything by which your mind could be made worse; but that which is evil to you and harmful has its foundation only in the mind. Where is the harm or strangeness in the boor acting like a boor? See whether you are not yourself the more to blame in not expecting that he would err in such a way. For you had means given you by your reason to suppose that it was likely that he would commit their error, and yet you have forgotten and are amazing that he has erred. But most of all, when you blame a man as faithless or ungrateful, turn to yourself. For the fault is manifestly your own, whether you trusted that a man who had such a disposition would keep his promise, or when conferring your kindness you did not confer it absolutely, nor yet in such a way as to have received full recompense simply from having done it. For what more do you want when you have done a man a service? Are you not content that you have done something conformable to your nature? Do you seek to be paid for it? It is as if the eye were to demand a recompense for seeing, or the feet for walking. For as these members are formed for a particular purpose, and by working according to their separate constitutions obtain what is their own, so also as man is formed by nature to acts of benevolence; when he has done anything benevolent or in any other way conducive to the common interest, he has acted conformably to his constitution, and he gets what is his own.