Three Self-Exhortations from Marcus Aurelius

img_1015When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from bad. But I have seen the beauty of the good, and the ugliness of the bad, and I have realized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not of the same family and class, but the same mind, and possessing a share of all that is sacred.

No one can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relatives, or hate them. We were born to work together—like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on someone: these are unnatural. (Book 1.1)

Think back on all those who have been, those you have known and those you haven’t. Now, remind yourself: Where are they? Nowhere, or nobody knows where.

Human beings are like smoke and what has been won’t be again in this infinite cosmos.

Then there is you, here, now. What do you feel compelled to do?  What are you avoiding doing? What is life but an exercise in reason? Keep going, like a strong stomach, like the fire that makes everything thrown into it into flame.

Never allow it to be said of you that you are not simple and good. Prove anyone who says otherwise a liar. That is in your power. Who can prevent you from being simple and good? Only decide that this is how you will live. This is the only manner in which reason allows us to live. (Book X.31-32)

img_0456We are all working together on one project, some with knowledge and design, others without knowing what they are doing, as if they are asleep. It was Heraclitus, I think, who said that everyone takes part in what happens in the universe. But people cooperate in different ways—some work hard, some complain, and some hinder everything. The universe needs all these. And it is up to you to decide which type you are. (Book VI 42)

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  • maggiebea

    Wow! Thank you for this. Who knew Marcus Aurelius would have been so prescient as to write, 1900 years ago, exactly what I needed for today?