Translated by George Long
Search The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
32. It is thy duty to order thy life well in every single act; and
is able to hinder thee so that each act shall not do its duty.- But something
external will stand in the way.- Nothing will stand in the way of thy acting
justly and soberly and considerately.- But perhaps some other active power
will be hindered.- Well, but by acquiescing in the hindrance and by being
content to transfer thy efforts to that which is allowed, another opportunity
of action is immediately put before thee in place of that which was hindered,
and one which will adapt itself to this ordering of which we are
34. If thou didst ever see a hand cut off, or a foot, or a head, lying
anywhere apart from the rest of the body, such does a man make himself,
as far as he can, who is not content with what happens, and separates himself
from others, or does anything unsocial. Suppose that thou hast detached
thyself from the natural unity- for thou wast made by nature a part, but
now thou hast cut thyself off- yet here there is this beautiful provision,
that it is in thy power again to unite thyself. God has allowed this to
no other part, after it has been separated and cut asunder, to come together
again. But consider the kindness by which he has distinguished man, for
he has put it in his power not to be separated at all from the universal;
and when he has been separated, he has allowed him to return and to be
united and to resume his place as a part.
35. As the nature of the universal has given to every rational being
all the other powers that it has, so we have received from it this power
also. For as the universal nature converts and fixes in its predestined
place everything which stands in the way and opposes it, and makes such
things a part of itself, so also the rational animal is able to make every
hindrance its own material, and to use it for such purposes as it may have
36. not thy thoughts at once embrace all the various troubles which thou mayest
expect to befall thee: but on every occasion ask thyself, What is there
in this which is intolerable and past bearing? For thou wilt be ashamed
to confess. In the next place remember that neither the future nor the
past pains thee, but only the present. But this is reduced to a very little,
if thou only circumscribest it, and chidest thy mind, if it is unable to
hold out against even this.
37. Does Panthea or Pergamus now sit by the tomb of Verus? Does Chaurias
or Diotimus sit by the tomb of Hadrian? That would be ridiculous. Well,
suppose they did sit there, would the dead be conscious of it? And if the
dead were conscious, would they be pleased? And if they were pleased, would
that make them immortal? Was it not in the order of destiny that these
persons too should first become old women and old men and then die? What
in a bag.
40. thee pain, thou thyself standest in perfect security.- Who is this self?-
The reason.- But I am not reason.- Be it so. Let then the reason itself
not trouble itself. But if any other part of thee suffers, let it have
its own opinion about itself.
41. Hindrance to the perceptions of sense is an evil to the animal nature. Hindrance to the movements (desires) is equally an evil to the animal nature. And something else also is equally an impediment and an evil to the constitution of plants. So then that which is a hindrance to the intelligence is an evil to the intelligent nature.
Apply all these
things then to thyself. Does pain or sensuous pleasure affect thee? The
senses will look to that.- Has any obstacle opposed thee in thy efforts
towards an object? if indeed thou wast making this effort absolutely (unconditionally,
or without any reservation), certainly this obstacle is an evil to thee
considered as a rational animal. But if thou takest into consideration
the usual course of things, thou hast not yet been injured nor even impeded.
The things however which are proper to the understanding no other man is
used to impede, for neither fire, nor iron, nor tyrant, nor abuse, touches
it in any way. When it has been made a sphere, it continues a
43. Different things delight different people. But it is my delight
to keep the ruling faculty sound without turning away either from any man
or from any of the things which happen to men, but looking at and receiving
all with welcome eyes and using everything according to its
44. See that thou secure this present time to thyself: for those who
rather pursue posthumous fame do consider that the men of after time will
be exactly such as these whom they cannot bear now; and both are mortal.
And what is it in any way to thee if these men of after time utter this
or that sound, or have this or that opinion about thee?
45. Take me and cast me where thou wilt; for there I shall keep my
divine part tranquil, that is, content, if it can feel and act conformably
to its proper constitution. Is this change of place sufficient reason why
my soul should be unhappy and worse than it was, depressed, expanded, shrinking,
affrighted? And what wilt thou find which is sufficient reason for
46. Nothing can happen to any man which is not a human accident, nor
to an ox which is not according to the nature of an ox, nor to a vine which
is not according to the nature of a vine, nor to a stone which is not proper
to a stone. If then there happens to each thing both what is usual and
natural, why shouldst thou complain? For the common nature brings nothing
which may not be borne by thee.
47. that disturbs thee, but thy own judgement about it. And it is in thy power
to wipe out this judgement now. But if anything in thy own disposition
gives thee pain, who hinders thee from correcting thy opinion? And even
if thou art pained because thou art not doing some particular thing which
seems to thee to be right, why dost thou not rather act than complain?-
But some insuperable obstacle is in the way?- Do not be grieved then, for
the cause of its not being done depends not on thee.- But it is not worth
while to live if this cannot be done.- Take thy departure then from life
contentedly, just as he dies who is in full activity, and well pleased
too with the things which are obstacles.
48. Remember that the ruling faculty is invincible, when self-collected
it is satisfied with itself, if it does nothing which it does not choose
to do, even if it resist from mere obstinacy. What then will it be when
it forms a judgement about anything aided by reason and deliberately? Therefore
the mind which is free from passions is a citadel, for man has nothing
more secure to which he can fly for, refuge and for the future be inexpugnable.
He then who has not seen this is an ignorant man; but he who has seen it
and does not fly to this refuge is unhappy.
49. Say nothing more to thyself than what the first appearances report.
Suppose that it has been reported to thee that a certain person speaks
ill of thee. This has been reported; but that thou hast been injured, that
has not been reported. I see that my child is sick. I do see; but that
he is in danger, I do not see. Thus then always abide by the first appearances,
and add nothing thyself from within, and then nothing happens to thee.
Or rather add something, like a man who knows everything that happens in
50. A cucumber is bitter.- Throw it away.- There are briars in the
road.- Turn aside from them.- This is enough. Do not add, And why were
such things made in the world? For thou wilt be ridiculed by a man who
and shoemaker if thou didst find fault because thou seest in their workshop
shavings and cuttings from the things which they make. And yet they have
places into which they can throw these shavings and cuttings, and the universal
nature has no external space; but the wondrous part of her art is that
though she has circumscribed herself, everything within her which appears
to decay and to grow old and to be useless she changes into herself, and
again makes other new things from these very same, so that she requires
neither substance from without nor wants a place into which she may cast
that which decays. She is content then with her own space, and her own
matter and her own art.
51. Neither in thy actions be sluggish nor in thy conversation without
method, nor wandering in thy thoughts, nor let there be in thy soul inward
contention nor external effusion, nor in life be so busy as to have no
Suppose that men kill thee, cut thee in pieces, curse thee. What
then can these things do to prevent thy mind from remaining pure, wise,
sober, just? For instance, if a man should stand by a limpid pure spring,
and curse it, the spring never ceases sending up potable water; and if
he should cast clay into it or filth, it will speedily disperse them and
wash them out, and will not be at all polluted. How then shalt thou possess
a perpetual fountain and not a mere well? By forming thyself hourly to
freedom conjoined with contentment, simplicity and modesty.
52. He who does not know what the world is, does not know where he
is. And he who does not know for what purpose the world exists, does not
know who he is, nor what the world is. But he who has failed in any one
of these things could not even say for what purpose he exists himself.
What then dost thou think of him who avoids or seeks the praise of those
who applaud, of men who know not either where they are or who they
53. Dost thou wish to be praised by a man who curses himself thrice
every hour? Wouldst thou wish to please a man who does not please himself?
Does a man please himself who repents of nearly everything that he
54. No longer let thy breathing only act in concert with the air which
surrounds thee, but let thy intelligence also now be in harmony with the
intelligence which embraces all things. For the intelligent power is no
less diffused in all parts and pervades all things for him who is willing
to draw it to him than the aerial power for him who is able to respire
55. Generally, wickedness does no harm at all to the universe; and
particularly, the wickedness of one man does no harm to another. It is
only harmful to him who has it in his power to be released from it, as
soon as he shall choose.
56. To my own free will the free will of my neighbour is just as indifferent
as his poor breath and flesh. For though we are made especially for the
sake of one another, still the ruling power of each of us has its own office,
for otherwise my neighbour's wickedness would be my harm, which God has
not willed in order that my unhappiness may not depend on
57. The sun appears to be poured down, and in all directions indeed it is diffused, yet it is not effused. For this diffusion is extension: Accordingly its rays are called Extensions [aktines] because they are extended [apo tou ekteinesthai]. But one may judge what kind of a thing a ray is, if he looks at the sun's light passing through a narrow opening into a darkened room, for it is extended in a right line, and as it were is divided when it meets with any solid body which stands in the way and intercepts the air beyond; but there the light remains fixed and does not glide or fall off.
Such then ought to be the out-pouring and diffusion of the understanding,
and it should in no way be an effusion, but an extension, and it should
make no violent or impetuous collision with the obstacles which are in
its way; nor yet fall down, but be fixed and enlighten that which receives
it. For a body will deprive itself of the illumination, if it does not
58. He who fears death either fears the loss of sensation or a different
kind of sensation. But if thou shalt have no sensation, neither wilt thou
feel any harm; and if thou shalt acquire another kind of sensation, thou
wilt be a different kind of living being and thou wilt not cease to
61. Enter into every man's ruling faculty; and also let every other man enter into thine.