Cover of book Meditations: A New Translation (Modern Library)

Meditations: A New Translation (Modern Library)

by: Marcus Aurelius, Gregory Hays

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101 Highlights | 3 Notes
  • It was not merely a subject to write or argue about, but one that was expected to provide a “design for living”—a set of rules to live one’s life by.
  • Stoicism has even been described, not altogether unfairly, as the real religion of upper-class Romans.
  • Roman Stoicism, by contrast, was a practical discipline—not an abstract system of thought, but an attitude to life.
  • Men’s lives are not always consistent with their ideals,
    Note: wow is this true in my case? is this good or bad
  • Arrian’s abridged Encheiridion provides the closest literary parallel to the Meditations itself, not only in its content, but also in its form: a series of relatively short and unrelated entries.
  • This is the doctrine of the three “disciplines”: the disciplines of perception, of action and of the will.
  • The discipline of perception requires that we maintain absolute objectivity of thought:
  • hegemonikon (literally, “that which guides”), which is the intellective part of our consciousness.
  • It is, in other words, not objects and events but the interpretations we place on them that are the problem.
  • This requires not merely passive acquiescence in what happens, but active cooperation with the world, with fate and, above all, with other human beings.
  • “the art of acquiescence.” For if we recognize that all events have been foreseen by the logos and form part of its plan, and that the plan in question is unfailingly good (as it must be), then it follows that we must accept whatever fate has in store for us, however unpleasant it may appear, trusting that, in Alexander Pope’s phrase, “whatever is, is right.”
  • Yet I suspect that if asked what it was that he studied, his answer would have been not “Stoicism” but simply “philosophy.”
  • he was willing to accept truth wherever he found it.
  • They are “spiritual exercises” composed to provide a momentary stay against the stress and confusion of everyday life: a self-help book in the most literal sense.
  • A persistent motif is the need to restrain anger and irritation with other people, to put up with their incompetence or malice, to show them the errors of their ways.
  • The gods care for mortals, he reminds himself, “and you—on the verge of death—you still refuse to care for them.”
  • The Stoicism of the Meditations is fundamentally a defensive philosophy;
  • The recognition that I needed to train and discipline my character.
  • To read attentively—not to be satisfied with “just getting the gist of it.”
  • Not to be constantly correcting people, and in particular not to jump on them whenever they make an error of usage or a grammatical mistake or mispronounce something, but just answer their question or add another example, or debate the issue itself (not their phrasing), or make some other contribution to the discussion—and insert the right expression, unobtrusively.
  • Self-reliance, always. And cheerfulness.
  • Throw away your books; stop letting yourself be distracted.
  • stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.
  • Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions.
  • The present is all that they can give up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have, you cannot lose.
  • the shadow of decay gives them a peculiar beauty.
  • And anyone with a feeling for nature—a deeper sensitivity—will find it all gives pleasure. Even what seems inadvertent. He’ll find the jaws of live animals as beautiful as painted ones or sculptures. He’ll look calmly at the distinct beauty of old age in men, women, and at the loveliness of children. And other things like that will call out to him constantly—things unnoticed by others. Things seen only by those at home with Nature and its works.
    Note: Good advice For a photographer
  • You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts, so that if someone says, “What are you thinking about?” you can respond at once (and truthfully) that you are thinking this or thinking that.
  • Never under compulsion, out of selfishness, without forethought, with misgivings.
  • Cheerfulness. Without requiring other people’s help. Or serenity supplied by others.
  • doors. If you can privilege your own mind, your guiding spirit and your reverence for its powers, that should keep you clear of dramatics, of wailing and gnashing of teeth. You won’t need solitude—or a cast of thousands, either.
  • People try to get away from it all—to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish that you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like.
  • By going within.
  • Renew yourself. But keep it brief and basic. A quick visit should be enough to ward off all
  • So keep this refuge in mind: the back roads of your self. Above all, no strain and no stress. Be straightforward.
  • That sort of person is bound to do that. You might as well resent a fig tree for secreting juice.
  • Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.
  • It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you—inside or out.
  • The tranquillity that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do.
  • 24. “If you seek tranquillity, do less.” Or (more accurately) do what’s essential—what the logos of a social being requires, and in the requisite way.
  • Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better.
  • Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquillity.
  • But we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well. To eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow.
  • Don’t be disturbed. Uncomplicate yourself.
  • You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve.
  • acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness, and all the other qualities that allow a person’s nature to fulfill itself?
  • But nature set a limit on that—as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. You’ve had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota.
  • To shrug it all off and wipe it clean—every annoyance and distraction—and reach utter stillness.
  • Keep walking. Follow your own nature, and follow Nature—along the road they share.
  • Practice the virtues you can show: honesty, gravity, endurance, austerity, resignation, abstinence, patience, sincerity, moderation, seriousness, high-mindedness. Don’t
  • philosophy requires only what your nature already demands.
  • Interrogate yourself, to find out what inhabits your so-called mind and what kind of soul you have now.
  • The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.
  • The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
  • be tolerant with others and strict with yourself. Remember, nothing belongs to you but your flesh and blood—and nothing else is under your control.
  • When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better grasp of the harmony if you keep on going back to it.
  • Perceptions like that—latching onto things and piercing through them, so we see what they really are.
  • We need to excuse what our sparring partners do, and just keep our distance—without suspicion or hatred.
  • If someone asked you how to write your name, would you clench your teeth and spit out the letters one by one? If he lost his temper, would you lose yours as well? Or would you just spell out the individual letters?
  • Remember—your responsibilities can be broken down into individual parts as well. Concentrate on those, and finish the job methodically—without getting stirred up or meeting anger with anger.
  • Take Antoninus as your model, always. His energy in doing what was rational … his steadiness in any situation … his sense of reverence … his calm expression … his gentleness … his modesty … his eagerness to grasp things. And how he never let things go before he was sure he had examined them thoroughly, understood them perfectly … the way he put up with unfair criticism, without returning it … how he couldn’t be hurried … how he wouldn’t listen to informers … how reliable he was as a judge of character, and of actions … not prone to backbiting, or cowardice, or jealousy, or empty rhetoric … content with the basics—in living quarters, bedding, clothes, food, servants … how hard he worked, how much he put up with … his ability to work straight through till dusk—because of his simple diet (he didn’t even need to relieve himself, except at set times) … his constancy and reliability as a friend … his tolerance of people who openly questioned his views and his delight at seeing his ideas improved on … his piety—without a trace of superstition … So that when your time comes, your conscience will be as clear as his.
  • And for a human being to feel stress is normal—if he’s living a normal human life. And if it’s normal, how can it be bad?
  • whatever happens to a single person is for the good of others.
    Note: like nasseem taleb says
  • When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on.
  • You accept the limits placed on your body. Accept those placed on your time.
  • Practice really hearing what people say. Do your best to get inside their minds.
  • What is outside my mind means nothing to it. Absorb that lesson and your feet stand firm.
  • But remembering that our own worth is measured by what we devote our energy to.
  • The mind in itself has no needs, except for those it creates itself.
  • Limit yourself to the present.
  • Instead of avoiding all these distracting assaults—leaving the alarms and flight to others—and concentrating on what you can do with it all? Because you can use it, treat it as raw material. Just pay attention, and resolve to live up to your own expectations. In everything.
  • And keep in mind too that pain often comes in disguise—as drowsiness, fever, loss of appetite.… When you’re bothered by things like that, remind yourself: “I’m giving in to pain.”
  • And this too: you don’t need much to live happily. And just because you’ve abandoned your hopes of becoming a great thinker or scientist, don’t give up on attaining freedom, achieving humility, serving others, obeying God.
  • Perfection of character: to live your last day, every day, without frenzy, or sloth, or pretense.
  • You’ve wandered all over and finally realized that you never found what you were after: how to live.
  • When you have to deal with someone, ask yourself: What does he mean by good and bad?
  • You have to assemble your life yourself—action by action. And be satisfied if each one achieves its goal, as far as it can.
  • —But there are external obstacles.… Not to behaving with justice, self-control, and good sense.
  • a rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.
  • Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole.
  • Stick with the situation at hand, and ask, “Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?” You’ll be embarrassed to answer.
  • 44. Give yourself a gift: the present moment.
  • External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them.
  • Remember that when it withdraws into itself and finds contentment there, the mind is invulnerable.
  • The mind without passions is a fortress. No place is more secure. Once we take refuge there we are safe forever.
  • Stick with first impressions. Don’t extrapolate. And nothing can happen to you.
  • By working to win your freedom. Hour by hour. Through patience, honesty, humility.
  • What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.
  • All things are drawn toward what is like them, if such a thing exists.
  • Whatever happens to you has been waiting to happen since the beginning of time.
  • Epithets for yourself: Upright. Modest. Straightforward. Sane. Cooperative. Disinterested. Try not to exchange them for others.
  • If you maintain your claim to these epithets—without caring if others apply them to you or not—you’ll become a new person, living a new life.
  • Your actions and perceptions need to aim: at accomplishing practical ends at the exercise of thought at maintaining a confidence founded on understanding. An unobtrusive confidence—hidden in plain sight.
  • To follow the logos in all things is to be relaxed and energetic, joyful and serious at once.
  • Only a short time left. Live as if you were alone—out in the wilderness. No difference between here and there: the city that you live in is the world.
  • So too a healthy mind should be prepared for anything.
  • Learn to ask of all actions, “Why are they doing that?” Starting with your own.
  • To live a good life: We have the potential for it. If we can learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference.
  • We need to pay attention to our impulses, making sure they don’t go unmoderated, that they benefit others, that they’re worthy of us.
  • 6. Practice even what seems impossible. The left hand is useless at almost everything, for lack of practice. But it guides the reins better than the right. From practice.
  • 30. Singular, not plural: Sunlight. Though broken up by walls and mountains and a thousand other things.