Translated by George Long
Search The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
1. We ought to consider not only that our life is daily wasting away
and a smaller part of it is left, but another thing also must be taken
into the account, that if a man should live longer, it is quite uncertain
whether the understanding will still continue sufficient for the comprehension
of things, and retain the power of contemplation which strives to
acquire the knowledge of the divine and the human. For if he shall
begin to fall into dotage, perspiration and nutrition and imagination
and appetite, and whatever else there is of the kind, will not fail;
but the power of making use of ourselves, and filling up the measure
of our duty, and clearly separating all appearances, and considering
whether a man should now depart from life, and whatever else of the
kind absolutely requires a disciplined reason, all this is already
extinguished. We must make haste then, not only because we are daily
nearer to death, but also because the conception of things and the
understanding of them cease first.
2.  We ought to observe also that even the things which follow after the
things which are produced according to nature contain something pleasing
and attractive. For instance, when bread is baked some parts are split
at the surface, and these parts which thus open, and have a certain
fashion contrary to the purpose of the baker's art, are beautiful
in a manner, and in a  peculiar way excite a desire for eating. And
again, figs, when they are quite ripe, gape open; and in the ripe
olives the very circumstance of their being near to rottenness adds
a peculiar beauty to the fruit. And the ears of corn bending down,
and the lion's eyebrows, and the foam which flows from the mouth of
wild boars, and many other things- though they are far from being
beautiful, if a man should examine them severally-  still, because
they are consequent upon the things which are formed by nature, help
to adorn them, and they please the mind; so that if a man should have
a feeling and deeper insight with respect to the things which are
produced in the universe, there is hardly one of those which follow
by way of consequence which will not seem to him to be in a manner
disposed so as to give pleasure. And so he will see even the real
gaping jaws of wild beasts with no less pleasure than those which
painters and sculptors show by imitation; and in an old woman and
an old man he will be able to see a certain maturity and comeliness;
and the attractive loveliness of young persons he will be able to
look on with chaste eyes; and many such things will present themselves,
not pleasing to every man, but to him only who has become truly familiar
with nature and her works.
3. Hippocrates after curing many diseases himself fell sick and died.
The Chaldaei foretold the deaths of many, and then fate caught them
too. Alexander, and Pompeius, and Caius Caesar, after so often completely
destroying whole cities, and in battle cutting to pieces many ten
thousands of cavalry and infantry, themselves too at last departed
from life. Heraclitus, after so many speculations on the conflagration
of the universe, was filled with water internally and died smeared
all over with mud. And lice destroyed Democritus; and other lice killed
Socrates. What means all this? Thou hast embarked, thou hast made
the voyage, thou art come to shore; get out. If indeed to another
life, there is no want of gods, not even there. But if to a state
without sensation, thou wilt cease to be held by pains and pleasures,
and to be a slave to the vessel, which is as much inferior as that
which serves it is superior: for the one is intelligence and deity;
the other is earth and corruption.
4.  Do not waste the remainder of thy life in thoughts about others, when thou dost not refer thy thoughts to some object of common utility. For thou losest the opportunity of doing something else when thou hast such thoughts as these, What is such a person doing, and why, and what is he saying, and what is he thinking of, and what is he contriving, and whatever else of the kind makes us wander away from the observation of our own ruling power.
 We ought then to check in the series of our thoughts everything that is without a purpose and useless, but most of all the over-curious feeling and the malignant; and a man should use himself to think of those things only about which if one should suddenly ask, What hast thou now in thy thoughts? With perfect openness thou mightest, immediately answer, This or That; so that from thy words it should be plain that everything in thee is simple and benevolent, and such as befits a social animal, and one that cares not for thoughts about pleasure or sensual enjoyments at all, nor has any rivalry or envy and suspicion, or anything else for which thou wouldst blush if thou shouldst say that thou hadst it in thy mind.
 For the man who is such and no longer delays being among the number of the best, is like a priest and minister of the gods, using too the deity which is planted within him, which makes the man uncontaminated by pleasure, unharmed by any pain, untouched by any insult, feeling no wrong, a fighter in the noblest fight, one who cannot be overpowered by any passion, dyed deep with justice, accepting with all his soul everything which happens and is assigned to him as his portion; and not often, nor yet without great necessity and for the general interest, imagining what another says, or does, or thinks. For it is only what belongs to himself that he makes the matter for his activity; and he constantly thinks of that which is allotted to himself out of the sum total of things, and he makes his own acts fair, and he is persuaded that his own portion is good. For the lot which is assigned to each man is carried along with him and carries him along with it.
 And he remembers also that every rational
animal is his kinsman, and that to care for all men is according to
man's nature; and a man should hold on to the opinion not of all,
but of those only who confessedly live according to nature. But as
to those who live not so, he always bears in mind what kind of men
they are both at home and from home, both by night and by day, and
what they are, and with what men they live an impure life. Accordingly,
he does not value at all the praise which comes from such men, since
they are not even satisfied with themselves.
5. Labour not unwillingly, nor without regard to the common interest,
nor without due consideration, nor with distraction; nor let studied
ornament set off thy thoughts, and be not either a man of many words,
or busy about too many things. And further, let the deity which is
in thee be the guardian of a living being, manly and of ripe age,
and engaged in matter political, and a Roman, and a ruler, who has
taken his post like a man waiting for the signal which summons him
from life, and ready to go, having need neither of oath nor of any
man's testimony. Be cheerful also, and seek not external help nor
the tranquility which others give. A man then must stand erect, not
be kept erect by others.
6.  If thou findest in human life anything better than justice, truth,
temperance, fortitude, and, in a word, anything better than thy own
mind's self-satisfaction in the things which it enables thee to do
according to right reason, and in the condition that is assigned to
thee without thy own choice; if, I say, thou seest anything better
than this, turn to it with all thy soul, and enjoy that which thou
hast found to be the best. But if nothing appears to be  better than
the deity which is planted in thee, which has subjected to itself
all thy appetites, and carefully examines all the impressions, and,
as Socrates said, has detached itself from the persuasions of sense,
and has submitted itself to the gods, and cares for mankind; if thou
findest everything else smaller and of less value than this, give
place to nothing else, for if thou dost once diverge and incline to
it, thou wilt no longer without distraction be able to give the preference
to that good thing which is thy proper possession and thy own; for
it is not right that  anything of any other kind, such as praise from
the many, or power, or enjoyment of pleasure, should come into competition
with that which is rationally and politically or practically good.
All these things, even though they may seem to adapt themselves to
the better things in a small degree, obtain the superiority all at
once, and carry us away. But do thou, I say, simply and freely choose
the better, and hold to it.- But that which is useful is the better.-
Well then, if it is useful to thee as a rational being, keep to it;
but if it is only useful to thee as an animal, say so, and maintain
thy judgement without arrogance: only take care that thou makest the
inquiry by a sure method.
7. Never value anything as profitable to thyself which shall compel thee
to break thy promise, to lose thy self-respect, to hate any man, to
suspect, to curse, to act the hypocrite, to desire anything which
needs walls and curtains: for he who has preferred to everything intelligence
and daemon and the worship of its excellence, acts no tragic part,
does not groan, will not need either solitude or much company; and,
what is chief of all, he will live without either pursuing or flying
from death; but whether for a longer or a shorter time he shall have
the soul inclosed in the body, he cares not at all: for even if he
must depart immediately, he will go as readily as if he were going
to do anything else which can be done with decency and order; taking
care of this only all through life, that his thoughts turn not away
from anything which belongs to an intelligent animal and a member
of a civil community.
8. In the mind of one who is chastened and purified thou wilt find no
corrupt matter, nor impurity, nor any sore skinned over. Nor is his
life incomplete when fate overtakes him, as one may say of an actor
who leaves the stage before ending and finishing the play. Besides,
there is in him nothing servile, nor affected, nor too closely bound
to other things, nor yet detached from other things, nothing worthy
of blame, nothing which seeks a hiding-place.
9. Reverence the faculty which produces opinion [judgment]. On this faculty it entirely
depends whether there shall exist in thy ruling part any opinion [judgment] inconsistent
with nature and the constitution of the rational animal. And this
faculty promises freedom from hasty judgement, and friendship towards
men, and obedience to the gods.
10. Throwing away then all things, hold to these only which are few; and
besides bear in mind that every man lives only this present time,
which is an indivisible point, and that all the rest of his life is
either past or it is uncertain. Short then is the time which every
man lives, and small the nook of the earth where he lives; and short
too the longest posthumous fame, and even this only continued by a
succession of poor human beings, who will very soon die, and who know
not even themselves, much less him who died long ago.
11. To the aids which have been mentioned let this one still be added:- Make for thyself a definition or description of the thing which is presented to thee, so as to see distinctly what kind of a thing it is in its substance, in its nudity, in its complete entirety, and tell thyself its proper name, and the names of the things of which it has been compounded, and into which it will be resolved.
 For nothing is so productive of elevation of mind as to be able to examine methodically and truly every object which is presented to thee in life, and always to look at things so as to see at the same time what kind of universe this is, and what kind of use everything performs in it, and what value everything has with reference to the whole, and what with reference to man, who is a citizen of the highest city, of which all other cities are like families.
[Ask then,] what each thing is, and of what it is composed,
and how long it is the nature of this thing to endure which now makes
an impression on me, and what virtue I have need of with respect to
it, such as gentleness, manliness, truth, fidelity, simplicity, contentment,
and the rest. Wherefore, on every occasion a man should say: this
 comes from God; and this is according to the apportionment and spinning
of the thread of destiny, and such-like coincidence and chance; and
this is from one of the same stock, and a kinsman and partner, one
who knows not however what is according to his nature. But I know;
for this reason I behave towards him according to the natural law
of fellowship with benevolence and justice. At the same time however
in things indifferent I attempt to ascertain the value of each.
12. If thou workest at that which is before thee, following right reason
seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract
thee, but keeping thy divine part pure, as if thou shouldst be bound
to give it back immediately; if thou holdest to this, expecting nothing,
fearing nothing, but satisfied with thy present activity according
to nature, and with heroic truth in every word and sound which thou
utterest, thou wilt live happy. And there is no man who is able to
13. As physicians have always their instruments and knives ready for cases
which suddenly require their skill, so do thou have principles ready
for the understanding of things divine and human, and for doing everything,
even the smallest, with a recollection of the bond which unites the
divine and human to one another. For neither wilt thou do anything
well which pertains to man without at the same time having a reference
to things divine; nor the contrary.
14. No longer wander at hazard; for neither wilt thou read thy own memoirs,
nor the acts of the ancient Romans and Hellenes, and the selections
from books which thou wast reserving for thy old age. Hasten then
to the end which thou hast before thee, and throwing away idle hopes,
come to thy own aid, if thou carest at all for thyself, while it is
in thy power.
15. They know not how many things are signified by the words stealing,
sowing, buying, keeping quiet, seeing what ought to be done; for this
is not effected by the eyes, but by another kind of vision.
16.  Body, soul, intelligence: to the body belong sensations, to the soul appetites, to the intelligence principles. To receive the impressions of forms by means of appearances belongs even to animals; to be pulled by the strings of desire belongs both to wild beasts and to men who have made themselves into women, and to a Phalaris and a Nero: and to have the intelligence that guides to the things which appear suitable belongs also to those who do not believe in the gods, and who betray their country, and do their impure deeds when they have shut the doors.
 If then everything else is common to all that I have mentioned, there remains that which is peculiar to the good man, to be pleased and content with what happens, and with the thread which is spun for him; and not to defile the divinity which is planted in his breast, nor disturb it by a crowd of images, but to preserve it tranquil, following it obediently as a god, neither saying anything contrary to the truth, nor doing anything contrary to justice. And if all men refuse to believe that he lives a simple, modest, and contented life, he is neither angry with any of them, nor does he deviate from the way which leads to the end of life, to which a man ought to come pure, tranquil, ready to depart, and without any compulsion perfectly reconciled to his lot.