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Meditations: A New Translation by Marcus Aurelius

A reflection of his life, the product of his own thoughts and his own experiences… likely never intended to be viewed by others, but I’m overjoyed that it was. It’s easy to take some of the writings outside of their intended context, so other Stoic writings such as Enchiridion of Epictetus, and Seneca’s Letters From A Stoic should also be read alongside.

I found Gregory Hays’ translation to be most readable and digestible after trying several others, and it will be the one I most strongly recommend.

Read this book, it will change your life!

My Highlights and Notes

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.

It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own. If a god appeared to us—or a wise human being, even—and prohibited us from concealing our thoughts or imagining anything without immediately shouting it out, we wouldn’t make it through a single day. That’s how much we value other people’s opinions—instead of our own.

Each of us needs what nature gives us, when nature gives it.

If they’ve made a mistake, correct them gently and show them where they went wrong. If you can’t do that, then the blame lies with you. Or no one.

All that you see will soon have vanished, and those who see it vanish will vanish themselves, and the ones who reached old age have no advantage over the untimely dead.

When you face someone’s insults, hatred, whatever … look at his soul. Get inside him. Look at what sort of person he is. You’ll find you don’t need to strain to impress him.

Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.

External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now. If the problem is something in your own character, who’s stopping you from setting your mind straight? And if it’s that you’re not doing something you think you should be, why not just do it? —But there are insuperable obstacles. Then it’s not a problem. The cause of your inaction lies outside you. —But how can I go on living with that undone? Then depart, with a good conscience, as if you’d done it, embracing the obstacles too.

This is what you deserve. You could be good today. But instead you choose tomorrow.

Practice really hearing what people say. Do your best to get inside their minds.

You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you. Things can’t shape our decisions by themselves.

Whatever happens to you is for the good of the world. That would be enough right there. But if you look closely you’ll generally notice something else as well: whatever happens to a single person is for the good of others. (Good in the ordinary sense—as the world defines it.)

It’s normal to feel pain in your hands and feet, if you’re using your feet as feet and your hands as hands. 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?

If anyone can refute me—show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective—I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.

We need to excuse what our sparring partners do, and just keep our distance—without suspicion or hatred.

Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone—those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the “what” is in constant flux, the “why” has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us—a chasm whose depths we cannot see.

The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.

So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.

Time is a river, a violent current of events, glimpsed once and already carried past us, and another follows and is gone.

“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. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?”

The tranquillity that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do.

Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.

“The world is nothing but change. Our life is only perception.”

Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see.

Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people—unless it affects the common good. It will keep you from doing anything useful. You’ll be too preoccupied with what so-and-so is doing, and why, and what they’re saying, and what they’re thinking, and what they’re up to, and all the other things that throw you off and keep you from focusing on your own mind.

The present is all that they can give up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have, you cannot lose.

You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.

Concentrate every minute like a Roman—like a man—on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can—if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.

Stop allowing your mind to be a slave, to be jerked about by selfish impulses, to kick against fate and the present, and to mistrust the future.

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 him: these are obstructions.

Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone—those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the “what” is in constant flux, the “why” has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us—a chasm whose depths we cannot see.

It is, in other words, not objects and events but the interpretations we place on them that are the problem. Our duty is therefore to exercise stringent control over the faculty of perception, with the aim of protecting our mind from error.

Details

My Rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 9780812968255

Date Finished: 2018-07-04

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